The American Bar Association has written to the Malaysian prime minister to voice its opposition to a proposal to appoint two government nominees to the Bar Council.
Its president Linda Klein in a letter to Najib Razak last week, said there was no justification for mandating government appointments.
“It is unclear what legitimate purpose the government is seeking to fulfill, by mandating government appointment of bar leadership,” she said in the letter dated Sept 23.
The letter has since been published on the Malaysian Bar website.
She said such appointments would inherently undermine the independence of the Bar.
“The proposed law would therefore create an unjustified infringement upon the right of association of members of the legal profession as enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution, international law and required by the UN Basic Principles,” she said.
She said international law only permitted restrictions on the right to freedom of association.
Klein also expressed concern that the amendments under the Legal Profession Act (LPA) would allow the Minister in charge of Malaysian legal affairs to determine the electoral rules and regulations of the Bar.
“Giving control over electoral rules and regulations to a member of the executive branch could be seen as exerting improper influence over this self-governing body,” she added.
She urged Putrajaya to reconsider introducing these amendments in Parliament and instead, hold discussions with the Bar.
The government, in proposing to amend the LPA, also wants to revamp the entire election process.
It also seeks to impose punitive quorum requirements of 25 per cent of total membership for annual general meetings.
V Anbalagan@FMT Reporters Online