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'Is bid to rein in Malaysian Bar a retaliatory action by AG?'

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Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) today questioned if the planned amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 is attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali's way of retaliating against the Malaysian Bar for criticising him.

The think tank's chief executive director, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, said the proposed amendments, which would, among others, introduce government representatives in the Bar, did not appear to be a cabinet initiative.

He cited as proof Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz's criticism against the amendments.

"By speaking up, Nazri indicates that this was not a cabinet decision, which means it must have been the action of one agency only.

"Nazri is right in saying that the government does not need to clamp down on groups that are critical of them. I find it interesting that Nazri actually said this point.

"Don't forget that the move to amend the Legal Profession Act 1976 was made immediately after the Malaysian Bar openly criticised the attorney-general," said Wan Saiful in a statement.

On March 19, the Malaysian Bar passed a resolution calling for Apandi's resignation.

This was after Apandi cleared Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of wrongdoing over the RM2.6 billion in his personal bank account, on grounds that it was a donation from a member of the Arab royal family.

Apandi also cleared Najib of receiving money from state-owned SRC International on grounds that the prime minister thought the deposits were also part of the "Arab donation".

Wan Saiful urged the cabinet to heed Nazri's stance and to bin the planned amendments.

"The amendment to the Legal Profession Act will severely impact the Bar Council's ability to operate effectively by requiring a higher quorum for the Malaysian Bar's general meetings from 500 to 4,000 members.

"It will also institutionalise interference because the government can appoint two representatives into the Bar Council and the law minister can change rules and regulations in the Bar Council's elections," said Wan Saiful.

Wan Saiful added that it is normal for different institutions to be critical of each other in matured democracies.

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