Ex-judge shares how he used to let off steam by playing with toy soldiers

PUTRAJAYA: Retired Federal Court judge Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha may have been at the heart of some of the country's most prominent legal battles but he did not feel the pressure - thanks to his toy soldiers and coin collections.

Professing to be still a kid at heart, Tan said he believed in de-stressing himself by playing with his collections.

"I have a large collection of toy soldiers. I think playing games is a good way to let off steam. It's because while playing games, you just lose yourself and whatever tension is all gone.

"Even when I was a young lawyer, I used to go to the amusement parks on Saturday afternoons to de-stress myself. It's a wonderful way to de-stress myself," he told reporters at his office in the Palace of Justice here recently.

In fact, Tan, who clocked out for the last time on Friday after 21 years in the judiciary, said one "must have the love for the job".

"Sometimes, it is a labour of love or, rather all the time, it should be labour of love," he said.

Tan, whose tenure was extended for six months in May, said it might take a judge days to write his judgment, adding that lawyers would often only submit what they believed were the salient points.

"The points raised may not be enough for the judge and he has to laboriously go through the files - folio by folio - and in the appellate courts, the bundles can be as thick as 10,000 pages.

"Judges are like artists because sometimes, you cannot paint, and sometimes, you can find all the right colours. But you have to plough. You still got to push through.

"I always tell my officers that writing a judgment is like building a road in a jungle. You just plough through and continue," he said.

Among the judgments he had penned were those involving the crooked bridge project with businessman Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and the recent verdict on former Selangor mentri besar Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo which saw his conviction and 12-month jail sentence upheld.

Tan had begun his legal career as an advocate and solicitor in 1975 before being appointed as the High Court of Malaya judicial commissioner in 1994 and its judge in 1996.

In 2009, he was made a Court of Appeal judge, then, the Federal Court judge from 2012 until his retirement.

Between August 2011 and Sept 30 this year, he was also the managing judge in Perak.

Tan said the judiciary was doing its very best to improve and it had done a lot in expediting the delivery of judgments and reducing the backlog of cases.

Asked on the critics hitting out against the judges, he said: "Put it this way - judges are not in an enviable position. We cannot answer back and we cannot enter into the public arena."

To a question if he thinks the Malaysian judiciary is independent, Tan said: "Of course."