Friday, April 08, 2016

Government should reject proposal to make Attorney General chair of Bar Council?

Making the Attorney General Chairman of the Malaysian Bar? Well, here we have it another expression by a person wanting to 'silence the Bar' - or rather stop the Malaysian Bar from upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour...

Over the years, the Malaysian Bar has grown stronger - not just the Bar Council(being the Executive Committee) but the Malaysian Bar as a whole which currently members are about 16,000-17,000 practicing lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia. All lawyers in practicing in West Malaysia are members of the Malaysian Bar. And they have been strong and fearless, even coming out in thousands for protests, the last being the Walk to call for repeal of the Sedition Act in 2014, which saw about 2,000 turn out for the walk to Parliament.

Just recently, the Malaysian Bar passed a Resolution on the Attorney General, and the police called in the 3 movers of the motion and the the Bar Secretary for investigation under the Sedition Act. In my opinion, it was an interference and a violation of the Freedom of Association. The right of a member of any society, not just the Bar, to put forward a motion for discussion at the Annual General Meeting should not be interfered. Members can and should be able to put in any motion, including a motion of no confidence against the President, and the police and/or the government must not interfere with this right and this Freedom of Association.

In recent times, Malaysia has acted 'badly' trying to curtail freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and even press freedom. They have been even targeting users of social media, online media sites, blogs, etc...It is OK if you praise the government - but not OK if you highlight wrongdoings or even just merely express your dissatisfaction or a different opinion. 

So, now are we looking at a new strategy - this time by making AG the President of the Malaysian Bar? To be fair, this was merely raised by a Member of Parliament - and relevant Minister, I believe said she will look into it. To date, I do not believe that this BN government has committed to doing anything to make the Attorney General the Malaysian Bar law. Now, the Bar Council members are elected by the members, and then the Bar Council members, amongst themselves, choose the President and the Office Bearers. One can only be a Bar President for just 2 consecutive terms - that is 2 years...(one term is for 1 year).. 


Malaysia: Government should reject proposal to make Attorney General chair of Bar Council
 Thursday, 07 April 2016 08:00pm
ImageApril 7, 2016

The Malaysian government should reject a proposal to make the Attorney General automatically the chair of the Bar Council of Malaysia, the ICJ said today.

The Malaysian Bar must remain independent and the government should not entertain this or any other measure that would compromise this independence, the ICJ says.

Yesterday, during the debate session at the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House of the Malaysian Parliament), parliamentarian Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur suggested that the Attorney General should be automatically appointed as the chairman of the Bar Council of Malaysia.

Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur made the suggestion while criticizing the Bar Council for its role in demanding greater government accountability.

“This latest proposal is just the most recent attempt by the government to silence all opposition and to weaken the rule of law,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.

“First the government weakened the independence of the judiciary, and now it is going after the lawyers who are standing up for justice and accountability,” she added.

Responding to the suggestion, Law Minister Nancy Shukri said that the government will look into this, noting that amendments need to be made to the Legal Profession Act 1976 for this measure to be adopted.

“International standards on the independence of lawyers state very clearly that governments should not interfere with the work of professional associations of lawyers like the Malaysia Bar,” said Gil.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers stipulate that lawyers have the right “to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training, and protect their professional integrity,” the ICJ reminds.

Furthermore, the Basic Principles distinctly state that “the executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference.”

“An independent and self-regulated bar association is important to safeguard the professional interests and integrity of lawyers in Malaysia,” Gil said.

“It acquires specific importance especially now in Malaysia where there have been questions regarding the way justice is being administered in the country,” she added.

The Malaysia Bar is an essential agent in the administration of justice and hence, the lawyers belonging to it play a key role in supporting and calling for law and justice sector reform in the country, the ICJ further says.


Emerlynne Gil, Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, t: +66 840923575 ; e: emerlynne.gil(a)


The Malaysia Bar passed a motion last month during its 70th Annual General Assembly calling for the resignation of Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali because he summarily ended the investigation of alleged corruption by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Prime Minister appointed Attorney-General Apandi on 27 July 2015, in the midst of the corruption investigation.

Attorney General Apandi subsequently cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of any criminal wrongdoing and instructed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to close the investigations.

According to the ICJ, the motion passed by the Malaysia Bar calling for the resignation of the Attorney General was within its mandate as an independent professional association of lawyers, seeking as it did to draw attention to how administration of justice is being jeopardized right now.

The UN Basic Principles specifically recognize the right of lawyers to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights.

The UN Human Rights Council has unanimously affirmed that “an independent legal profession” is among the “essential prerequisites for the protection of human rights, the rule of law, good governance and democracy, and for ensuring that there is no discrimination in the administration of justice”. Such independence should be respected in all circumstances.

Steven Thiru: Bid to make AG head of Bar a desperate bid to silence lawyers 
07 April 2016 08:16pm;
Image©Malay Mail (Used by permission)

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — A lawmaker’s suggestion for the Attorney General to automatically head the Malaysian Bar was a blatant move to quell its criticisms, president Steven Thiru said today.

He also said Silam MP Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur, who made the suggestion in Parliament yesterday, was irresponsible for seeking to subvert the Bar’s mandate to uphold the rule of law and justice, for political capital.

“Further, the proposal that the Attorney General be automatically appointed as the President of the Malaysian Bar appears to be an undisguised attempt to curtail the independence of the Malaysian Bar, and would be perceived as a desperate measure to silence the Bar,” he said in a statement today.

Steven added that the Bar will vigorously defend against any such attempt to put it under the control of the Executive or curtail its independence.

He also explained that it would be illogical for the AG to be made the president of the Malaysian Bar, as both positions serve disparate and opposed purposes.

“The suggestion to fuse the two positions is without basis, and therefore perverse. It reveals a remarkable ignorance of the distinctive and separate roles of the Attorney General and the President of the Malaysian Bar,” he concluded.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said Putrajaya will consider Datu Nasrun’s proposal, but said the matter needed in-depth study and legal amendments.

The Barisan Nasional MP had accused the Bar Council of being political over the adoption of a motion calling for AG Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali to resign over his decisions in cases involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), former 1MDB unit SRC International, and the transfer of RM2.6 billion into the prime minister’s personal accounts.

The three lawyers who proposed the motion are now being investigated for sedition.

Aside from the motion adopted during its recent annual general meeting, the Malaysian Bar also filed for a judicial review on the AG’s decision to clear the prime minister in the cases of SRC International and the RM2.6 billion deposited in the latter’s accounts ahead of Election 2013.-Malaysian Bar Website

*** I will post the full Media Statement of the President of the Malaysian Bar, when it becomes available

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