Bar Council to challenge MACC’s move to investigate corrupt judges

(FMT) – Six former Malaysian Bar presidents are calling on the current office bearers to hold a “walk for justice” in a bid to voice out against “intimidation” towards the judiciary.

In a petition, the former presidents – Mah Weng Kwai, Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Lim Chee Wee and Steven Thiru said “it is time for the Bar to once again rise and fearlessly defend the institution of the judiciary”.

“We, the undersigned members of the Bar, urge the Bar Council to organise a walk urgently to send a clear message to those that seek to interfere with the judiciary that this intimidation cannot be countenanced as it is a blatant violation of the rule of law,” they said.

Ambiga had previously mentioned briefly on Twitter about the plan to hold a walk.

When contacted by FMT, Mah, who is also a former judge, confirmed the “walk for justice” call by the former presidents, but said no title had been given to the proposed event so far.

In 2007, 2,000 Bar members led by Ambiga walked from the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya, to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to urge the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into a judge-fixing scandal.

An RCI was subsequently set up by the government, and it held that action be taken against former lawyer VK Lingam, then chief justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, former chief justice Eusoff Chin, tycoon Vincent Tan, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

It was revealed in the inquiry that Lingam was engaged in a telephone conversation with Fairuz in 2001 to appoint superior court judges who would be aligned to the establishment.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) recently said that it had opened an investigation paper following a report lodged on an unexplained sum of more than RM1 million in the bank account of Court of Appeal judge Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who convicted former prime minister Najib Razak in his RM42 million SRC International case.

However, the anti-corruption agency did not say whether a full investigation would follow.

Fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who published an article about the investigation, also linked the money to Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, the businessman said to be the mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal.

Nazlan has since lodged a police report over the allegations, saying they were “false, baseless and malicious” and aimed at undermining his credibility as a judge.

Current Bar president Karen Cheah had also criticised the authorities for launching a probe against a sitting judge, saying “constitutional procedure should be followed instead”.

She added that any investigation by MACC could create “an unsavoury precedent” and have an adverse effect in the future in similar circumstances against the judiciary or individual judges.