Undeterred by sedition probe, lawyers vow to fight on

Charles Hector (centre), R. Shanmugam (left) and Francis Pereira arriving at Bukit Aman to give their statements regarding a sedition investigation in Kuala Lumpur, March 31, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Charles Hector (centre), R. Shanmugam (left) and Francis Pereira arriving at Bukit Aman to give their statements regarding a sedition investigation in Kuala Lumpur, March 31, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — The three lawyers under investigation for sedition over their motion calling for the Attorney-General’s resignation said today the possibility of facing charges for their action would not stop them from carrying out their duties.

Lawyer Charles Hector Fernandez said that as lawyers, it is their obligation to uphold the rule of law, even in the face of alleged intimidation by the authorities.

“We are still committed to upholding the course of justice, no amount of harassment or intimidation will stop us because ultimately, our position is that as lawyer and a member of the Bar, we have a right and also a duty, and an obligation, to uphold the course of justice and bring about reforms to the course of justice.

“It’s not just the obligation of lawyers but of each Malaysian to improve things,” he said outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters after he and his two colleagues gave their statements for the sedition investigation.

Lawyer R. Shanmugam added that the trio did no wrong in calling for AG Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali’s resignation as anyone holding public office has a right to be scrutinised by the public.

“No public officer is so infallible that he cannot be questioned. We as lawyers have a right to scrutinise the conduct of any public officer,” he said.

Lawyer Francis Pereira pointed out they were merely carrying out their statutory rights as lawyers, adding that the Malaysian Bar annual general meeting (AGM) where the motion was proposed was held behind closed doors.

“To the extent of law, we want to emphasise that it was a closed-door meeting and the act of calling and asking what happened is bad and unnecessary.

“Irrespective of whatever the police report said in regards to the motion, this is quite uncalled for certainly the Bar isn’t intimidated and we’ll carry on,” he said.

Former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, who was also present, claimed the “unprecedented” investigation suggested panic within Putrajaya, and that such action was unnecessary if the people in power did not do anything that merited criticism.

She added that the authorities were disrespecting the statutory rights of the Malaysian Bar by pursuing a sedition investigation over a motion made behind closed doors.

“They think they can barge into our territory and tell us what to do. It’s our home in a sense,” she said.

Malaysian Bar vice-president George Varughese was confident, however, that the police will find no cause to charge the three lawyers after their questioning today.

But Ambiga insisted that the authorities’ move to investigate members of the Bar over the motion was an act of intimidation with a knock-on effect on others.

“For me even the questioning is wrong because it is an attempt at intimidating other organisations like human rights organisations; they might think twice because action can be taken,” she said.

About 20 lawyers and activists gathered outside the federal police headquarters today in solidarity with the trio, with some holding up signs that read “#RespectMyAGM,” punning the #RespectmyPM hashtag from several weeks ago.

Others present included Bersih 2.0 chief Maria Chin Abdullah, PKR’s N. Surendran, DAP’s Gobind Singh Deo, civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan and Lawyers for Liberties’ Eric Paulsen.

The contentious motion at the Malaysian Bar’s AGM called on Apandi to resign as AG over his decisions in cases involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), former 1MDB unit SRC International, and the transfer of RM2.6 billion into the prime minister’s personal accounts.

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.

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