President says glad Bar not being replaced, wants end to attacks
KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee welcomed today Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that Putrajaya is not looking to replace the existing Malaysian Bar, and called for an end to attacks against the legal profession’s regulator.
“The Malaysian Bar welcomes the clarification made by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government is not proposing to establish an alternative body to take over the functions of the Bar Council,” its president said in a statement today.
“We trust that this puts an end to the recent attacks on the position of the Malaysian Bar and the role of the Bar Council,” he said.
Lim and the council he leads came under heavy fire from Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians after the Bar resolved during its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) earlier this month to condemn what it alleged was excessive use of police force against demonstrators at the Bersih 3.0 electoral reforms rally.
Umno minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad even labelled the council a “political party” and voiced support for proposals to form a second Malaysian Bar as an alternative for lawyers.
Muhyiddin has said the federal government had no plans yet to form an alternative to the Bar as it is governed by the Legal Professions Act. Prior to this, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz agreed to look into forming a second Bar on top of a suggestion to set up a law academy.
“The question (of forming an alternative) arose because of the behaviour of the Bar Council,” he told a news conference on May 17.
The DPM said the Bar Council had given the impression it was biased, adding that the burden was now on the council to prove its impartiality.
Lim continued to defend today the 36-member Bar Council, saying it has always taken seriously its responsibilities to uphold justice without vested interests or fear or favour.
“We are neither anti-government nor pro-opposition, but merely doing what we should and must do: Upholding the cause of justice,” he said.
The lawyer pointed out that upholding the rule of law “does not mean that we must not criticise or go against existing laws”.
“That is too simplistic. There are good laws, and bad laws, and society must distinguish between the two,” he said.
Lim said there was no true freedom and rule of law unless there is an independent Bar ready and willing to defend rights that are guaranteed in society.
During the April 28 protest in the capital city, riot police had used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters, many of whom have since alleged that the armed personnel had also assaulted them.
The council, as a part of its EGM resolution, had also demanded apologies from the police and home minister for the alleged use of indiscriminate force to disperse otherwise peaceful protesters.
But neither the government nor the police have since issued apologies. Aside from Nazri and Dr Mahathir, several anti-Bersih proponents had called the council biased towards the opposition.