PETALING JAYA, Oct 4 — The Malaysian Bar recognises the central role of the judiciary in Malaysia’s constitutional scheme and has taken all steps within its powers to protect and defend it.
Its president, Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor cited the Bar’s action to challenge the constitutional validity of the appointment in 2017 of the chief justice and Court of Appeal president.
“These measures were taken at great cost to the Bar and coincidentally, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (in 2017) himself had filed a similar action. We are happy to report that we have come a long way since then.
“The 14th general election saw a turn of events that many thought they would not see in their lifetime and as pledged by Tun Mahathir we are now in a period of transition and recovery to restore the rule of law,” he said.
He said this in his welcoming remarks at the LawAsia Constitutional & Rule of Law Conference 2019, themed, ‘Constitutional Government: The Importance of Constitutional Structures and Institutions’, at a hotel here, today.
Also present were Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and LawAsia president Christopher Leong.
Citing another example, Abdul Fareed recalled the judicial crisis in 1988 involving the suspension of then lord president of the Supreme Court, Tun Salleh Abas, and five other Supreme Court judges.
“Ultimately, three of the judges were reinstated and three were dismissed; the exercise was a chilling moment for the Malaysian judiciary and the wheels of justice.
“Nevertheless, the Bar has continued to be persistent with our aims and objectives. We believe we have truly earned our place as one of the guardians of the rule of law in our nation in ensuring that the scales of power are always balanced,” he said.
Abdul Fareed said the professional body’s relationship with the judiciary and the executive had improved immensely as could be seen from the fruition of many proposed areas of institutional and law reforms.
“Moving forward, we hope to continue pursuing our constitutional and rule of law objectives, alongside juggling differing political ideologies and aspirations, and religious sentiments.
“This paradigm shift also has led to the direct appointment from the Bar, for the first time in Malaysia’s history when Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was appointed as the attorney general,” he said.
Such shift, he said, had resulted in an opportunity for the Bar to holistically revamp its founding charter, namely the Legal Profession Act 1976 and hoping for it to be tabled during the upcoming Parliament sitting this year.
“We hope that this would overhaul our Act (Legal Profession Act 1976) in recognition of the internationally accepted principle because an independent and robust Bar is key to a democratic society,” he added.
The Malaysian Bar is a body of legal practitioners comprising approximately 19,700 members, with a history that spans over 70 years and which at its core prioritises matters of justice and the rule of law. — Bernama