Next govt must curtail Bar Council’s politicking, says Zaid

Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim has called on the government to amend the laws governing the legal profession to prevent lawyers from using the Bar Council to engage in political activity.

(FMT) – “As (former Singapore prime minister) Lee Kuan Yew once said, those who want to engage in politics should enter the political arena. Do not use professional bodies (for such purposes),” Zaid said in a video posted on Facebook.

He was reacting to a press statement issued by Bar president Karen Cheah on Tuesday.

Cheah had confirmed that the Bar Council declined an invitation extended by a task force set up by the government to take part in an inquiry into the contents of a book written by former Pakatan Harapan (PH) attorney-general (AG) Tommy Thomas.

The 800-page report was finalised and presented to the Cabinet last month. It was declassified by the government and released to the public on Friday.

In its report, the task force identified potential criminal offences and wrongdoing by Thomas and former PH prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, including in relation to the appointment of judges.

“Once again, the Bar Council is showing its political stripes,” Zaid said.

“They are questioning the validity of the report by the special task force, claiming that, having been set up by the government and not pursuant to a royal commission, the task force’s impartiality was doubtful.”

He said Cheah’s criticism of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s decision to declassify the report was reflective of politicking on the part of the Bar Council.

“This is the attitude of the Bar Council, which should be in favour of transparency. They ought to support declassification, but will not do so due to their political stance,” he said.

“This is why I suggest that the next government – which hopefully will be a Barisan Nasional government – comes down hard on the Bar Council. Enough of them using that body as a political vehicle.”

Zaid, who is a member of the Bar, called out the council for hiding behind its statutory duty to further the cause of justice.

“For the sake of those three words, they think they can comment on anything, object to anything,” he said.

“That is the guise under which they stray time and again into the political arena.

“There are many other matters that the Bar Council ought to address, particularly, improving the professionalism, quality and welfare of its members, which they have failed to give due attention to.”

He said professional bodies ought to play their part in uniting our society, not use their platforms to engage in divisive politics.