KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Newly minted de facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said told foreign parties today not to intervene in local affairs after the Australian Bar Association (ABA) denounced the proposed amendments to Malaysia’s Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976.
Azalina also insisted that the proposed changes, which include appointing two government representatives in the Bar Council that would report to Putrajaya, did not violate the integrity and independence of lawyers.
“The amendments to the LPA are in the drafting stage, so it’s not fair for outside parties to intervene and to issue statements.
“All parties must uphold the principles of non-intervention in another country’s affairs,” Azalina said in a statement.
The ABA issued a statement earlier today urging Putrajaya to reconsider the proposed amendments to the LPA that it said would affect the independence of the Malaysian Bar.
It also expressed concern that the proposal would compromise the Malaysian Bar’s ability to address controversial issues that are at odds with the government, claiming that it would enable the Attorney General to influence the peninsular legal body.
The Malaysian Bar frequently makes a stand on human rights issues and has called for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 that was used in recent years to arrest and prosecute government dissidents, opposition politicians, lawyers, and journalists.
Azalina dismissed today claims that the proposed amendments to the LPA were aimed at enabling the government to interfere with the Bar Council.
“Such a statement is considered premature and an act of disrespect to the country’s legal system,” she said.
“Besides that, the issues that the Bar Council previously raised are also baseless because the government does not intend to control them, but instead, the amendments were made in line with Section 42(1)(l) of Act 166, which is: ‘to promote good relations and social intercourse amongst members and between members and other persons concerned in the administration of law and justice in Malaysia’,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department added, referring to the LPA.
Besides the ABA, the German Federal Bar, the Law Society of England and Wales, and the Law Society of New South Wales, Australia, have all expressed concern that the proposed LPA amendments, scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in October, posed a threat to the independence of the Malaysian legal profession.