The Malaysian Bar's decision to not attend the official opening of the Judicial Year 2018 this morning is unprofessional, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said.
In a statement, Azalina said that it also showed that the Bar does not respect the judiciary.
"The event has been held annually since 2010 and it has become a tradition for everyone in the legal fraternity to attend it. The reason given by the Malaysian Bar for not attending the event is completely baseless.
"This is because this year, not only they (the Bar) were not given a chance to speak, but the attorney-general was too, but he still attended the event. In fact, (representatives from) the Sabah Law Society and the Advocates Association of Sarawak were also in attendance.
"The Malaysian Bar, which is supposed to represent some 17,000 legal practitioners in Peninsular Malaysia, should practise high professionalism, and not be bound any personal agendas.
"The Bar should set a good example to the legal fraternity in the peninsula, as their absence (at the event) paints a bad image of the organisation," she said.
Azalina then lauded Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif (photo) for leading the government's charge in bringing about various transformations in the country's judiciary, as well as ensuring the rakyat get the best access to justice.
In his speech at the Malaysian Bar's dinner last night, its president George Varughese said the change in format, to only allow Justice Raus to deliver his speech today, was tantamount to muzzling the Bar.
Justice Raus also told reporters today that he changed the format (in cutting down the number of speeches from three to only one) because the Bar was insistent on bringing up the appointments involving him and Court of Appeal President Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, despite they having passed the constitutional retirement age of 66 years and six months.