In a surprising turn of affairs, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said expressed today her disagreement with the government’s move for direct intervention in the legal fraternity’s affairs.
However, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department emphasised that it was only her personal view during a debate on the government’s proposal to amend the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976 to allow for direct intervention into the management of the Malaysian Bar.
“To me personally, I am of the same opinion as you. Rightfully, the professional bodies in the country, regardless if it’s the Malaysian Bar, medical bodies, or engineering and many others, my personal view is that there is no need and it is not right to have a direct government intervention.
“As with the norm, professional bodies in the country must be regulated by its own members,” Azalina said in the Dewan Rakyat this afternoon in response to a query from Subang MP and lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah on the issue.
The Pengerang MP was firm that her view should not be taken to represent the Cabinet’s opinion.
“I cannot give you a guarantee now. I have to get consensus of the Cabinet ministers,” she replied to Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh Deo who asked Azalina for a government assurance on the issue.
“As a former advocate, solicitor and a Shariah lawyer, personally, I believe on the grounds that there cannot be a direct intervention,” she added.
The government has tabled a Bill proposing that the minister in charge of legal affairs appoint two government representatives to the Bar Council, to change the Bar Council’s election process and composition, and to increase the required quorum for the Bar’s general meetings.
The proposal for the LPA amendments had included giving the minister in charge of legal affairs the power to make rules and regulations on the conduct of the Bar Council elections.
The proposal was met with fierce backlash from the law community as well as former de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, pro-moderation groups such as the G25 as well as ex-presidents of the Malaysian Bar, who expressed concern that the proposal to amend the LPA would empower Putrajaya to meddle with the running of the country’s biggest legal fraternity.