Fearing effect on public, group wants sedition probe on lawyers called off

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said the office of the Attorney-General and his powers are outlined in the Federal Constitution and that like any member of public office, the latter’s conduct is subject to public scrutiny and criticism. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said the office of the Attorney-General and his powers are outlined in the Federal Constitution and that like any member of public office, the latter’s conduct is subject to public scrutiny and criticism. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — A lawyers group today urged the police to cease their sedition investigation on three legal practitioners over their motion at the Malaysian Bar annual general meeting (AGM) on Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

The group, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), said in a statement that such an investigation would have serious ramifications on the public as it is the right and duty of a lawyer to uphold justice without fear and favour.

“The public will be adversely affected if lawyers under harassment and intimidation, begin to fear criminal charges or threats to their safety and security for speaking out.

“It is only when one has to face the full force of the law or any abuse of power that one will truly appreciate the need for a fearless and independent Bar,” LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said.

It was reported earlier today that the police have called in for questioning this Thursday three lawyers who had proposed a motion a the Bar AGM calling for Apandi’s resignation over his handling of the cases involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), former 1MDB unit SRC International and the transfer of RM2.6 billion into the prime minister’s personal accounts.

The motion was approved at the Malaysian Bar AGM on March 19, with over 700 members of the peninsula legal body voting in favour.

Apandi had on January 26 told a press conference that he found that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak did not commit any criminal offence in the cases of SRC International and the RM2.6 billion transfer, which he said was a donation from the Saudi royalty.

Paulsen described the police probe as an attack on the independence of the Malaysian Bar.

He pointed out the office of the AG and his powers are outlined in the Federal Constitution and that like any member of public office, the latter’s conduct is subject to public scrutiny and criticism.

He added that the authorities have a duty to ensure that international standards on the role of lawyers are complied with and cited as example Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990).

The article, according to Paulsen, states that governments “shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) … (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.”

“We therefore call upon the authorities to recognise and respect the important functions played by the Malaysian Bar and cease immediately the criminal investigation against these lawyers,” he said.