Bar Council retracts snub, agrees to meet Hanif panel

(The Malaysian Insider) – The Bar Council has relented from its resolve to snub Putrajaya’s Bersih investigative panel, saying today its “policy of engagement” meant it would agree to a meeting.

However, council chairman Lim Chee Wee noted that the Bar continues to take the view that the panel is “flawed” due to the membership of Tun Hanif Omar as its chairman and its alleged lack of a legal framework.

“The Bar is prepared to meet the panel because of its policy of engagement. We await the official request from the panel,” Lim (picture) wrote in an emailed statement to The Malaysian Insider.

“So long as the panel makes a request for a meeting, whether in writing or verbally, we will meet them.

“Our policy of engagement means we will meet anyone and everyone who wants to know more about the work of the Bar,” he added.

But he did not reveal if the meeting with the panel would involve the council’s direct participation in its investigation into allegations of police violence during the Bersih 3.0 rally.

Lim said that “at the minimum”, the council would merely explain its final report to the panel.

“The extent of disclosure and assistance beyond that will be discussed and deliberated upon by council shortly,” he added.

The Bar Council deployed a team of 78 monitors during the April 28 rally for free and fair elections and had prepared its own comprehensive report on the event.

In the council’s report, it had found that the police had use excessive aggression and had not exercised restraint when attempting to disperse protesters who had earlier gathered for what was meant to be a peaceful event.

The council had also called for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last month where it passed a resolution condemning the police brutality and to demand apologies from the home minister and Inspector-General of Police for the alleged acts of police aggression, towards the public and members of the media.

Following the rally, Putrajaya formed its own six-man panel to look into similar allegations but the council, along with rally organisers Bersih 2.0, had said it would not assist in the panel’s investigations.

They had reasoned that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), a statutory body, was conducting a similar investigation and duplicating the process would be pointless.

Above all, however, both Bersih 2.0 and the council had said they would not participate in the panel’s investigation as they disagreed with Hanif’s appointment as chairman despite the latter’s vocal anti-Bersih views.

Shortly after the rally, Hanif had alleged that communist sympathisers had participated in the event, agreeing with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that the demonstration was an attempt to oust the present government.

But despite this, Hanif said yesterday that the panel would arrange a meeting with the Bar Council, adding that this would be for “the good of the country”.