KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 ― Pakatan Harapan lawmakers have come out to defend the three lawyers who moved the motion seeking Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali’s resignation during the recent Malaysian Bar annual general meeting (AGM), saying they had not broken any law by putting the Attorney-General under scrutiny.
The lawmakers pointed out that as a public official, Apandi should be accustomed to and should expect his decisions to come under such scrutiny and criticism.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said it was unacceptable that the three lawyers were now being investigated for sedition when all they did was cast a spotlight on Apandi’s handling of several high-profile controversies.
“I think it’s shocking and outrageous and it seems to be part of the descent into darkness in the country that I think it’s the first time any resolution on the rule of law at the Bar Council is subject of criminal charge or investigation.
“The Bar Council is rightly concerned about the administration of justice and the AG should be meeting with them to have an open dialogue and dispel any concerns rather than allowing an investigation under a criminal charge,” the Gelang Patah MP said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.
Parti Amanah Negara’s (Amanah) Khalid Samad agreed with Lim, saying that the AG, as a public official, can be openly criticised.
“It is within the right of every citizen to give their opinion... it is not asking for the King to resign.
“You can ask the president or the prime minister or the IGP (Inspector-General of Police) or the AG to resign…. it's all completely within the right of the ordinary citizen,” the Shah Alam MP told Malay Mail Online.
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar questioned the use of the law on sedition against the trio, saying it would only impede lawyers from fulfilling their duties.
“This move will certainly bring the Malaysian government to a damning new low in the affront against common sense and human rights,” the Lembah Pantai MP said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.
DAP’s Zairil Khir Johari said the latest sedition probe is yet another attempt by the authorities to use the pre-independence legislation as a tool to indiscriminately quell dissent.
“Clearly the Sedition Act has become the most abused law in Malaysia now. Especially with the recent amendments, it looks like it has become a tool for the suppression of legitimate dissent.
“Now, it looks like anything can be seditious if the government decides so,” the Bukit Bendera MP said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.
PKR’s Chua Tian Chang, who has also faced sedition charges in the past, said instead of keeping the public safe, the police are spreading fear by using the Act against the lawyers.
“This is meant to silence critique and to spread fear. What is worse is that as a body that is meant to enforce law and order, should not be creating fear because the Royal Malaysian Police is meant to keep us free from fear, that is the job of the police,” he said.
The Batu MP also said it was excessive to use the Act against the lawyers, and warned of more such investigations in the future over any remark deemed remotely critical of the administration.
Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed briefly with Malay Mail Online that a sedition investigation has been opened on the Malaysian Bar motion.
The motion proposed by lawyers Shanmugam Ramasamy, Charles Hector and Francis Pereira had called for Apandi to step down over his handling of the cases involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd, its former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd, and the transfer of RM2.6 billion into the prime minister’s personal accounts, and for the Solicitor-General to take over as public prosecutor in those cases.
Apandi told a press conference on January 26 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.
The motion was approved at the Malaysian Bar AGM on March 19, with over 700 members of the peninsula legal body voting in favour.