Friday, April 18, 2008

Text of the Malaysian Bar President Bar's speech....

"....In this process of positive change, we have not forgotten, and we believe, credit should be given to you, Mr. Prime Minister that since 2004, it was you who loosened the tight grip on our fundamental freedoms, you who created more democratic space and you who encouraged dialogue and difference of opinion. It is only in such an environment that a nation can come of age and grow in strength...." - Ambiga Sreenevasan, Malaysian Bar President

I really do not know where the President of the Malaysian Bar has been hyanging out -

- for she has forgotten the suppression of public protest have become worst during Abdullah's premiership when they started using 'tear gas' - before it was just the water-cannons.

- the arrest and detention of 4 lawyers and 1 other, associated with HINDRAF, under the ISA , with an immediate issuance of detention order by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, even without waiting for the 60-day period of investigation.

- the breaking down of numerous temples, places of worship..

- the rejection of the Bar Council's application to have their customary Human Rights Day march..

- the banning of the daily in Tamil language - the "Makkal Osai"

- the action being currently taken against the Pakatan Rakyat leaders over the holding of their function in Kampung Baru..

- the media "black-outs" or 'minimal coverage' of even fuel-hike and price-hike protests by the RAKYAT

- the agreement to set up the IPCMC and this we do not even have that commission. (The government had the audacity of rejecting the recommendation of 2 Royal Commissions, the Bar and civil society by coming out by trying to come out with some other body who will NOT be able to fulfil the reason for the IPCMC)

- and recently again the issuance of further 2-year detention orders to some arrested under the ISA for 6 years...

- the refusal to even disclose information about executions about to be done, being done, etc...

- the renewed suppression of people of other faiths using the word "ALLAH"

- the seizing of religious books of faiths other than Islam that contain caricatures/drawing/images of the prophet other that prophet Muhammad

and the list goes on and on...

HENCE - no credit should be given to this Prime Minister - whose disappointing performance was clearly reflected in the outcome of the recent General Elections..

And that is why, I ask where the Bar President have been -- for her to openly and publicly credit this PM..

After the event...I hope that this PM has again made some new promises -- but judging from his past record, I would not be out there celebrating anything yet until I see something concrete ...

Ambiga Sreenevasan is a good person BUT she must be more cautious not to be seen to be giving credit where credit is not due ---

Text of the Malaysian Bar President Bar's speech
at that Dinner funded by the government, hosted jointly by the Bar Council and the Malaysian Government

Contributed by Ambiga Sreenevasan
Friday, 18 April 2008 09:45am

Ambiga Sreenevasan

1. In 1988, when Tan Sri Wan Hamzah, Tan Sri Azmi and the late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader were suspended and Tun Salleh, the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and Dato’ George Seah were dismissed, it seemed as if a seismic shift had broken the equilibrium of power between the Executive and the Judiciary. The removal of three of the most senior Judges of the High Court left us with the sense that the Judiciary had been bent to the will of the Executive.

2. To the Bar, these Judges who had been removed are heroes in the battle to uphold the dignity, integrity and independence of the judiciary. Heroes who paid a heavy price.

3. But there ought never to have been a battle. There ought never to have been a price to pay. We had a Judiciary that was painstakingly nurtured and developed by all those that came before. For the first time these Honourable Judges faced the challenge of their lives. And they lived up to that challenge. I am reminded of a saying, “It is the hour of trial that makes men great, not the hour of triumph.”

4. In 1988, the Bar recognised the greatness of what these Judges did by numerous Resolutions and other declarations of admiration. Now, 20 years later, we hope for due recognition of their brave acts by the nation, so that the public conscience may be assuaged by the righting of a wrong.

5. It is therefore only proper that on your behalf, I acknowledge these judges who withstood their hour of trial with fortitude and dignity. In that battle, they are the victors - Tun Salleh, Dato’ George Seah, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah, Tan Sri Azmi, Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader.

6. We are pleased to acknowledge the presence of Tun Salleh and his family, the family of Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Tan Sri Eusoffe, Tan Sri Azmi. Unfortunately Tan Sri Wan Hamzah was unable to be present.

7. The highlight of tonight’s dinner is the Keynote Address by the Prime Minister entitled “Delivering Justice, Renewing Trust”. Such a speech to be delivered in the presence of these judges has much meaning. The promise of judicial reform ushers in a new era for the administration of justice. These moves are in step with the worldwide shift towards strengthening institutions and in particular the critical institution of the Judiciary. They are in step with the greater call for transparency and accountability. Most of all, they are in step with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Malaysia.

8. In this process of positive change, we have not forgotten, and we believe, credit should be given to you, Mr. Prime Minister that since 2004, it was you who loosened the tight grip on our fundamental freedoms, you who created more democratic space and you who encouraged dialogue and difference of opinion. It is only in such an environment that a nation can come of age and grow in strength. That credit is yours. We have also not forgotten that last year at the Malaysian Law Conference you promised to meet us, the Bar and you kept your promise when you indeed met us subsequently to address our concerns. Now you and your administration are being responsive to the views of the people, and demonstrating the resolve, courage and vision to bring in much needed reform in the administration of justice. All this augurs well for a Malaysia that is poised to take its rightful place amongst the developed and functioning democracies of this world.

9. In this connection we are pleased that one of our members has been appointed a Cabinet Minister in charge of legal matters namely Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who has stepped up to the plate in the national interests. He has wasted no time in moving forward the promised changes. We say to him that so far, we like what we are hearing from him.

10. The Judicial Appointments Commission may not attract universal acceptance. This is understandable and all concerns should be addressed. Recent events have taught us that the current system does not work, and is no longer acceptable to the Malaysian public. Those objecting to it must therefore suborn their fears of a new system to the larger interests of the nation.

11. The concept of consultation with the Bar in the judicial appointments process is not new. It existed before but was done on an informal basis. The role of the Bar was always given weight in this process as they were the views of the professionals who appeared before the courts on a daily basis.

12. The question of being beholden to any appointing authority, whether under the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission or the present system, does not arise as Judges know that they discharge their responsibilities impartially, independent of who the appointing authority is, guided only by their oath of office, and their conscience.

13. In this quest for reform, the legal profession must and will play its part. We continually endeavour to strengthen the profession from within to improve our standards and our professionalism. We will never shy away from criticism and are sensitive to the public’s views.

14. Another proposed reform is the restoration of Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution to its original wording. The amendment in 1988 was seen by many as an attempt to negate the doctrine of separation of powers and to limit the jurisdiction and power of the Judiciary. We welcome the proposal to restore the original wording of Article 121(1). It will be an expression of the Legislature’s and the Executive’s understanding that judicial power vests, and must vest, in the Judiciary.

15. We are delighted to have with us tonight the leader of Pakatan Rakyat Yang Berhormat Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, leaders of the Barisan Nasional component parties and leaders of the Pakatan Rakyat component parties as well as so many civil society groups, all of whom are here at short notice. This demonstrates that we are a nation united when there is a move towards positive change in the public interest, a move towards correcting an injustice and when we do something simply because it is the right thing to do.

16. We have other issues of course that we would like to engage your administration on Mr. Prime Minister. One of them is that of the ISA detainees, and here we appeal to you, Mr. Prime Minister, to please look at their cases again, and revisit the decision made. We hope Dato’ Seri will be open to discussing this issue further with us.

17. I conclude by saying that the time for change is now. Evidently, you see that Mr. Prime Minister. The Bar supports this move. In any event, we would like to see our Minister in charge of law kept busy. Ladies and gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.

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