Nazri’s proposal ‘flabbergasts’ the Bar

The minister’s proposal to set up a law academy to serve as an alternative to the Bar draws flak, and the government is told not to shoot the messenger.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Flabbergasted! This is how the Malaysian Bar feels towards the law academy mooted by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Deparment Nazri Abdul Aziz.

The minister, a member of the Bar himself, had said that the academy could be an alternative to the Bar and called on its leadership – the Bar Council – to dissolve itself.

However, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee voiced his opposition and vowed that the Bar would not be discouraged in serving its role to safeguard the rule of law and fundamental liberties.

“The Malaysian Bar is opposed to this suggestion, which appears similar to the proposal that the government had mooted, and subsequently withdrawn, twice in the past,” he said in a statement.

Regrettably, he added, the latest proposal appeared to be in reaction to the Bar’s stand on the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, which had put it on a collision course with the powers-that-be.

In its final report and during its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last week, the Bar condemned the excessive force used by the police during the rally.

The lawyers also demanded a public apology from Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar.

This drew flak from various government leaders, with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad even suggesting that the Bar be tasked with handling security during the next violent protest.

Lim said Nazri’s announcement lent credence to the perception that such proposals were revived whenever the government felt threatened by an independent Bar which did not countenance the abuse of power by the institutions of the state and spoke in defence of the public.

“The Bar, in doing so, is fulfilling its duty under Section 42(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act 1976, namely, ‘to uphold the cause of justice… uninfluenced by fear and favour’,” he added.

‘Don’t attack the messenger’

In view of this, Lim said the government should not attack the messenger but act on the message contained in the Bar’s final report and the EGM resolution instead.

“The test of a mature and democratic society is the manner in which it treats the weakest amongst it. On April 28, when the mighty weight of the police was unleashed without restraint onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur, many innocent participants were undeservedly harmed,” he added.

Lim vowed that the Bar would continue to speak out and seek justice for the affected participants and to require transparency and accountability from the law enforcement agencies, which continue to commit the same transgressions already highlighted in four previous Suhakam public inquiries.