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Tengku Maimun’s Life Story: The Country’s First Female And 16th Chief Justice

Tengku Maimun’s Life Story: The Country’s First Female And 16th Chief Justice

Tengku Maimun and four other Federal Court Judges presiding over Najib’s final appeal are hailed by Malaysians as the nation’s saviours.

Fernando Fong

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Tuesday (23 August) became history for Malaysians when the Chief Justice, Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, sent former Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to prison.

Heading a five-judge panel, she affirmed Najib’s conviction and sentence in the SRC International corruption case.

The much-awaited case, since it began to be tried in 2019, ended with Najib being sentenced to 12 years in prison and a fine of RM120 million.

Following the decision issued by the Malaysian legal system, the people’s attention was also focused on the figure of the Chief Justice.

Her name was probably the most popular among netizens on social media.

Who Is Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat?

Born in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, on 2 July 1959, Tengku Maimun continued her studies in law at the University of Malaya and graduated with honours in 1982.

A mother of four, Tengku Maimun began her legal career as a legal officer at the South Kelantan Development Board (KESEDAR) in 1982.

Two years after that, Tengku Maimun served as a legal officer at the Seremban Municipal Council, Negeri Sembilan.

In 1986, she joined the Judicial and Legal Service as an Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman in the Drafting Division of the Attorney General’s Department.

Among Tengku Maimun’s other duties in the field of Malaysian law.

  1. Member Magistrate at Port Dickson Court.
  2. Federal Attorney at the Kuala Terengganu Legal Aid Bureau.
  3. Senior Assistant Registrar at the Seremban High Court.
  4. Deputy Registrar at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
  5. Special Officer to the Honorable Chief Justice of Malaya & Chief Justice.
  6. The Judge of the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur is also a Special Officer to His Excellency the Chief Justice.
  7. The Registrar of the High Court of Malaya is also the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia, which is her final position in the country’s Judicial and Legal Service.

At 46, Tengku Maimun was appointed as the Judicial Commissioner of the High Court of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur and was promoted a year later as a Judge of the High Court of Malaya.

On 8 January 2013, she was later appointed as a Judge of the Court of Appeal, the second highest court in the Malaysian judicial system.

And then, on 2 May 2019, Tengku Maimun made history again when she became the first female Chief Justice in Malaysia.

Throughout her contribution and career in law, she has been awarded various royal titles and the Seri Setia Mahkota with the title ‘Tun’, as reported by Berita Harian.

Cases Under The Management Of Tengku Maimun

Among the high-profile cases handled by Tengku Maimun is the death of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaaribuu in 2006.

She also handled a sedition case which involved the famous politician and lawyer, the late Karpal Singh.

Tengku Maimun was the sole judge who disagreed that the deceased should be convicted despite attempts to intervene in the judiciary at that time.

As for the SRC International case, Tengku Maimun was part of the seven judges of the Federal Court who unanimously agreed to allow the first trial of Najib (on the misappropriation of 1Malaysia Development Berhad funds) to begin.

The other judges are:

  1. Chief Justice Of Sabah And Sarawak Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim
  • Born on 3 July 1959 in Sibu, Sarawak
  • Appointed as a Magistrate in Miri, Sarawak on 1 August 1983.
  • Appointed as a Federal Court Judge on 26 November 2018.
  • Elevated as the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak on 20 February 2020.
  • Married Datin Fadzillah Datuk Kamaruddin and has three children.

2. Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan

  • Born on 23 August 1959 in Penang.
  • Holds a bachelor’s degree in Science from the University of London and a law diploma from Westminster University.
  • The first Malaysian Indian woman in the nation’s highest court.
  • Became a Court of Appeal judge on 12 September 2014.
  • One of the four new judges elevated to the Federal Court from the Court of Appeal in a swearing-in ceremony here at the Palace of Justice in November 2018, alongside several judges, including Mohamad Zabidin.
  • In 1984, the Middle Temple of the United Kingdom admitted her to the English Bar as a solicitor.

3. Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan

  • Appointed as a Judicial Commissioner in 2009 and then served at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
  • Elevated as a High Court Judge in 2010 and then served at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
  • Served as a Construction High Court Judge at the Kuala Lumpur High Court (Construction) in 2013.
  • Elevated as a Court of Appeal Judge on 21 March 2016 until 24 March 2020.

4. Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah

  • Appointed as a Judicial Commissioner on 1 August 2004.
  • Elevated as a High Court Judge on 28 July 2006.
  • Appointed Federal Court Judge on 4 February 2022, taking his oath of office and allegiance before Tengku Maimun.
  • Acquitted Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Sodomy II in January 2012.
  • Set aside the conviction and RM4,000 fine for sedition of activist Haris Fathillah Mohamed Ibrahim in October 2019.

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