Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said suggested today that the proposed Legal Profession Act (LPA) amendments should tackle issues of funding received by the Bar Council.
She said the scrutiny is needed to ensure that the body upholds justice without external interference, after the Bar Council admitted that it has received a grant from magnate George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) for its independent research.
“In recent development, I am also of the view that it is high time for the proposed Legal Profession Act (LPA) amendments to explore issues pertaining to the grant, gift, property or moneys received by the Bar Council.
“This is to ensure that the Bar Council achieves its ultimate purpose to uphold the justice without any personal interest involved and interference from external parties,” Azalina said in a statement.
Last week, chairman of the Bar Council Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam said it received a sum of RM53,757.13 (US$15,000) from OSF in January 2015 as a grant for the research study on migrant workers in Malaysia.
The police are now investigating the Bar Council under Section 124C of the Penal Code for allegedly attempting to undermine parliamentary democracy because of the grant.
The government is seeking to table 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.
Azalina, who is now in charge of legal affairs, also expressed her worry at what she called a recent spike of various parties purportedly receiving grants from the foundation, but conceded that the move may not break any laws.
“It may not be legally wrong to receive funds or grants from foreign donors as there are no restrictions or special rules regarding foreign funding. At present moment, the only obligation is to report suspicious transactions to the relevant authority,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department also suggested the Societies Act 1966 be redefined by inserting the reporting procedure on donations received.
“The same law should also provide a room to regulate the registration of coalition of NGOs such as Bersih to prevent any possible misuse,” she added, referring to polls reform group Bersih 2.0.
Source : The Malay Mail Online