Tan Sri Richard Malanjum: First Chief Judge from East Malaysia!


There are times when fairy tales do come true. And nope, it ain’t about having about having 14 tiaras at home to live your Disney princess’ dream.

We are talking about the latest appointment of the new Chief Justice.

Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, the first Sabahan to be appointed as the highest ranked judge in Malaysia, was sworn in on Thursday night.

While, that’s great and all, who really is Tan Sri Richard Malanjum?

Well, here are some facts and interesting cases about our new Chief Justice.

Name: YAA Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum

Birthday: October 13, 1952

Age: 65

FYI, Article 125 of the Federal Constitution states that the mandatory age of retirement for Chief Justice is 66 years old, subject to an extension of 6 months with the approval of Yang di-Pertuan Agong

Place of birth: Tuaran, Sabah

Wife: Marina Tiu

Children: Jessica, Edgar, and Carl


Alma mater:

  • La Salle Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu
  • MARA Institute of Technology (now Universiti Teknologi MARA)


  • His Lordship served the Education Department, Department of Agriculture, Television and Radio Department as a clerk when he first entered the working world.
  • He also worked as the welfare officer for the State Welfare Department in Sabah.
  • His Lordship was admitted to the English Bar of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn” in London in 1976.
  • Then continued to serve the Sabah State Attorney General’s Chambers as a Deputy Public Prosecutor and Senior Legal Counsel.
  • In 1977, His Lordship was admitted as a Solicitor in Sabah.
  • Tan Sri Richard Malanjum was also admitted to the Australian Capital Territory Bar in 1991.
  • His Lordship joined the private practice in Kota Kinabalu from 1981 – 1992.
  • Tan Sri Richard Malanjum was then appointed as a Judicial Commissioner in March 1992.
  • In 1993, His Lordship was elevated as a High Court Judge in Kuching Sarawak.
  • His Lordship was appointed as Judge of the Court of Appeal Malaysia in August 2002.
  • In June 2005, His Lordship was appointed as Federal Court judge of Malaysia at the age of 52. His Lordship
  • 2006, His Lordship was appointed as Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

Landmark cases

  1. Lina Joy 

    (click here to see the full judgment)

The case was about Lina Joy, whose conversion from Islam to Christianity which was legally recognised by the law; but could not change the religion on her identity card due to the lack of confirmation from the Syariah Court.

The majority ruled that the National Registration Department had the right to refuse any changes of religion if there was no confirmation of renunciation of Islam from the Syariah Court and the Islamic religious department authorities.

The NRD said they could only remove the word “Islam” from Lina’s identity card if she was declared as an apostate by the Syariah Court.

Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, on the other hand, delivered a dissenting judgment by saying it would be discriminatory and unconstitutional for the NRD to reject Lina’s application.

His Lordship said to ask the appellate to apply for the apostasy certificate is equivalent to asking her to self-incriminate.

Also, the Syariah Court has no statutory power to adjudicate on the issue of apostasy. His Lordship further said that it would set an unhealthy trend for the country if the religious authorities could draw implied power as a source of jurisdiction.

2. The Herald’s ‘Allah’ Case

(click here to see the full judgment)

Picture source: Malay Mail

In short, the Herald’s publisher obtained their annual publication permit for the Bahasa version issued by the Home Ministry; but the Ministry imposed a condition that the word “Allah” could not be used.

The publisher, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, filed a judicial review against the Home Ministry in 2009. They won at the High Court but the Court of Appeal later reversed the landmark decision by Justice Lau Bee Lan.

In the Federal Court, the bench with a majority of 4-3 refused to grant leave of appeal to the publisher.

However, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum was one of the dissenting judges.

His Lordship said the decision of the Court would have a major impact on the society because the non-Muslims were effectively banned from using the word “Allah” in their publications.

Although the Home Ministry had the discretion to impose conditions when granting the permit of publication, the Court had the power to intervene and decide in the present issue.

“Isu-isu yang dikemukakan untuk pertimbangan adalahberkepentingan awam dalam maksud s. 96(a) AMK. Satukeputusan terhadap isu-isu di mana mahkamah ini menyemakkembali penghakiman Mahkamah Rayuan bagi menentukankebetulannya dari segala aspek tentunya amat penting danamat bermanfaat kepada awam.”

3. Indira Gandhi

(click here to see the full judgment)

Tan Sri Richard Malanjum also sat on the bench for Indira Gandhi A/P Mutho v Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak and 2 Others, and 2 Other Appeals [2018] MYFC 3.

In the case, the Federal Court delivered a landmark judgement on the conversion of the child to Islam.

The Court said that consent of BOTH parents are required for the religious authorities to issue the certificate of conversion even in cases where one parent has embraced the religion of Islam.

Image result for indira gandhi child conversion
Picture source: http://www.newsbharati.com/Encyc/2018/2/8/Children-Unilateral-conversion-.html

4. The murder of Sosilawati

(click here to see the full judgment)

Image result for sosilawati murder
Picture source: Free Malaysia Today

Tan Sri Richard Malanjum was on the panel for the appeal against the conviction and sentence of the accused persons in the brutal murder of the cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya.

The deceased met her lawyer to ask him to expedite payment for two post-dated cheques worth RM4 million in proceeds for the sale of her land handled by his legal firm. However, she was killed by the lawyer and his three aides in his farm in Banting.

The former Chief Justice, Tun Arifin Zakaria upheld the decision of the Shah Alam High Court and passed the death sentence on the lawyer and the other two men who were involved in the killing. Another man was acquitted.

It was the second time when the Court convicted the accused persons based on circumstantial evidence (the first case was Sunny Ang in 1965).

By the looks of it, our new Chief Justice definitely has the experiences to back him up.

We look forward to his service.

But for now, what are your thoughts on his appointment?