The widespread support for the Malaysian Bar and the importance of its independence are very encouraging, said Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru.
The Bar will continue to resist any attempt to interfere with its independence, he vowed in a statement.
“This is in adherence to our calling to act without fear or favour.”
He disclosed that more than 17 international and national bar associations and law organisations oppose the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act (LPA).
“This includes the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak (AAS) and the Sabah Law Association (SLA).”
The Bar has so far also received expressions of solidarity from over 55 local civil society organisations.
The Bar Council has embarked on a nationwide consultation exercise on the LPA, through public forums organised by the State Bar Committees, said the Bar chief.
These forums have been held in Johor, Kelantan, Malacca, Pahang, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu.
Thiru pledged that similar forums would be held in Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan and Perlis soon.
Apparently, members of the Bar and members of the public have overwhelmingly expressed their objections to the proposed amendments.
Thiru was taking his cue from comments by Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) Chief Executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan in the media.
“The views expressed by Nazri Aziz and Wan Saiful are consistent with our stand,” said Thiru. “We appreciate their support.”
He has no doubts that contrary to the stated purpose, the proposed amendments were designed to curtail the independence of the Malaysian Bar and interfere in its internal management.
It is the members of the Malaysian Bar who should decide on the electoral process for the Bar Council, he stressed.
Further, he pointed out, the existing practice of Bar Council members electing the president, vice-president and secretary, and appointing the treasurer — who collectively constitute the office bearers of the Malaysian Bar — was also widely accepted in many key jurisdictions, such as Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
“An excessively high quorum will render general meetings of the Malaysian Bar almost impossible,” he warned.
The Bar Council would not be able to take office, he cautioned, “and the administration of the Malaysian Bar would be paralysed”.
Elsewhere, he said, the Malaysian Bar would also be impeded in discharging its statutory functions, which encompass professional practice, the interest of its members and public interest matters.
“In a modern democracy, the importance of an independent Bar should not be undervalued,” said Thiru. “It’s about upholding the rule of law.”
The Malaysian Bar’s role was critical to the judiciary, he summed up.
“This involves the administration of justice and the rights of citizens.”
All this, he said, would promote both domestic and foreign investor confidence.
FMT Reporters Online