Lawyers to demonstrate? Clean up your own backyard first, Zaid tells Malaysian Bar

(Focus Malaysia) – YESTERDAY, the Malaysian Bar announced that it will organise a peaceful protest amid allegations of judicial interference following the investigation against Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali recently.

Bar president Karen Cheah said the resolution was passed by over 600 members present at the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) that was held at Wisma MCA, Kuala Lumpur.

“The Malaysian Bar shall take immediate and necessary steps to organise and lead a peaceful protest at a time and venue as the Bar Council deems suitable.

“We will be carrying out some of the steps contained in this resolution, including having a walk,” Free Malaysia Today reported her as saying.

The arrangements for the protest, including the time and date, will be decided in a meeting scheduled tomorrow.

However, former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim disagreed with the Malaysian Bar’s decision and called them out for their apparent hypocrisy and seemingly getting their priorities wrong.

“I’m disappointed with the Malaysian Bar. There is no judicial interference. It’s an imaginary one,” he claimed, in near-seven-minute video posted on Facebook.

Last month, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin alleged that Nazlan had an “unexplained wealth” in his account and urged the authorities to investigate the matter.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) launched a probe on the veteran judge after a report was lodged. In turn, Nazlan himself had lodged a police report over Raja Petra’s article.

Following the attacks against Nazlan, Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat fired a salvo against several quarters for launching baseless attacks against judges in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the courts.

“Citizens and politicians, to a certain extent, are free to criticise the judiciary. However, that does not mean that it is open for citizens or politicians to level unfounded and scurrilous attacks against the judiciary or a particular judge to further their own means.

“What has happened in the past few days involving slander against judges and the judiciary, in my view, is quite excessive,” she was reported as saying.

MACC had since completed the investigation and had handed over the papers to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for further action.

Hurling brickbats at the Malaysian Bar, Zaid asked why the former did not mull a demonstration after then-chief justice Tun Md Raus Shariff and then-Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin resigned abruptly following a meeting with then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2018.

“What did the Malaysian Bar do back then? Did they protest? Or was it okay because it coincided with their political standing back then?

“If you want to become apolitical, which they should, then you cannot pick and choose when to demonstrate.

“Besides, it is not like the Malaysian Bar has no other issues at hand to deal with,” he mentioned.

Lawyers having pay, quality issues

For example, the former PKR leader urged the lawyer’s group to address the plight of chambering students, who are not getting paid for their legal work.

The issue, he added, was easy to resolve as the Malaysia Bar could just instruct law firms to pay those doing chambering a minimum wage between RM1,500 and RM2,000.

“This problem has been persisting since the 1970s when I did my chambering. We could not even afford bus fares back then. However, I was fortunate because I got paid three months later.

“Regardless, this is a problem that needs to be resolved with seriousness and urgency. The plight of our young lawyers is real,” Zaid stressed.

The legal profession, he added, was also plagued by issue of new lawyers being released into the system; with varying types of qualifications.

“We have the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) group, non-CLP group and others coming out every year. This inconsistency in qualification is creating a lot of problems in the legal profession and affecting quality control.

“What is the Malaysian Bar doing about this? If we don’t address these issues now, we could soon face a severe damage on the legal profession that may be irreversible in the future

“So, I hope the Malaysian Bar reflect on these matters and solve the problems facing the profession first,” Zaid concluded.