KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 — The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) acted correctly in asking a federal ministry to remove its legal counsel from the inquest into the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, the Malaysian Bar said today.
Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor added that lawyer Syazlin Mansor should not have taken the job in the first place and Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas made the right decision to protect the inquest from the potential conflicts that may arise from Syazlin’s continued representation of the Local Government and Housing Ministry in the matter.
He noted that Syazlin had also simultaneously represented the Fire and Rescue Department as well as Muhammad Adib’s family in the inquest, which would muddy matters in the event the late fireman’s family decides to sue the government.
“While an inquest is not a trial and is only inquisitorial in nature, the strong public reaction to this is itself illustrative that, in the public eye, there is an appearance of conflict of interest.
“It is highly regrettable that no objections were raised at an earlier stage of the inquest proceedings, either by the Coroner or the Conducting Officer, once Syazlin Mansor was on record for the parties concerned,” Abdul Fareed said in a statement.
He further noted that the AG did not appoint Syazlin by fiat, which was necessary for her to act in the matter.
Citing the Legal Profession Act 1976, the Legal Profession (Practice & Etiquette) Rules 1976, the Rules and Rulings of Bar Council Malaysia, and precedent, the Bar president added that it was vital to protect against even the appearance of conflict.
Abdul Fareed stressed that the AG was entitled to his move, which he said should not be seen as suppressing any particular viewpoint in the inquest.
“It is noteworthy that the attorney general in no way precluded Syazlin Mansor from continuing to represent Muhammad Adib’s family in the inquest; she withdrew from doing so, of her own accord,” he added.
The Bar president also urged all involved to preserve the sanctity of the inquest to ensure that truth and justice prevail.
On May 27, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin announced Syazlin’s withdrawal from the inquest over concerns regarding a conflict of interest.
Observers decried the incident as symbolic of the government’s lack of coordination and incompetence for allowing the lawyer to be appointed.