No labelling in the Malaysian Bar, please! — Kee Thariq K Zainal

DECEMBER 7 — I am a proud Malaysian. I am also a practising advocate and solicitor and serve my clients who themselves hail from various ethnicities and backgrounds as a member of the Malaysian Bar, a body that exists primarily to uphold the cause of justice without fear nor favour, and this includes favouring any race or creed.

It is primarily out of my steadfast pride and conviction in Malaysia as a diverse melting pot of cultures that I was appalled to read other members of the Bar making highly disparaging remarks against those of a certain ethnicity merely because they chose to contest in the recently concluded elections to the Bar Council for the 2019/2020 term.

In the Malay Mail report titled A more ‘conservative’ Bar Council in 2019? seeds of division were sewn by the likes of HR Dipendra who is a current member of the Bar Council. Despite his apparent distaste for labels, he proceeded to engage in precisely the same by acknowledging a false divide between so-called “conservatives” and “liberals” and alleging without evidence the occurrence of “targeted, dishonest and unbecoming” campaigns. I am utterly dumbfounded that he even went on to allege that there was race baiting going on — why does everything has to be seen from a polarising racial lens?

He also mentions an equally invalid “worry” that so-called conservatives might be up to no good in the Malaysian Bar purely out of their convictions as individuals, a fundamental human right they are entitled to have! Not only that, he apparently believes that we members of the Bar did not consider choosing members based on their ability and actual service to the Bar, a notion that I find particularly abhorrent, since I certainly voted with these considerations in mind.

Thank goodness then that he has been voted out in the coming line up for 2019/2020 for he has clearly demonstrated neither the ability nor the predisposition to serve, in his making of divisive remarks such as the aforesaid.

But it is not just the senseless laments of that one particular member that I find distasteful. More alarming is the racialism of one Nizam Bashir, who for the benefit of the Malay Mail crunched some numbers on alleged increase in so-called Malays and Muslims choosing to stand as well as vote.

Why this focus on the race and religion of Bar members? Does it matter that they are Malay and Muslim as long as they are members of our multiracial Malaysian Bar? Why this apparent agitation over increased participation when it should be welcomed as a sign of maturing democracy within our Bar?

He tops it all with an all-encompassing insult to Malaysian Bar members of a certain race and religion by “not necessarily concluding” that our Bar would have a weaker stance on human rights just because there are more Malay/Muslim Bar Council members. Is he suggesting that Malays and Muslims are incapable of upholding human rights then? What nonsense!

I wholeheartedly agree with one of the ex-candidates, Farez Jinnah, when he reminded us all that elected Bar Council members do not exclusively act for any one group or class of persons but for all Malaysians. It must be in light of this then that the results of the recently concluded elections to the council must be looked at.

The proof is in the pudding. As the Malay Mail report has shown, members of our Bar did right by voting out those candidates who delight in labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” by HR Dipendra and “Malay” and “Muslim” by Nizam Bashir, whilst voting in new candidates not because they are conservative, nor even due to the fact they happen to be Malay or Muslim.

It is because these new members are our fellow Malaysians who wish to have their own shot at doing their utmost to uphold the cause of justice without fear nor favour as provided for by our statute, the Legal Profession Act 1976. This we must in good faith trust them to do without casting any negative aspersions on their predispositions or intentions. Let us remember that our Bar is not a Malay Bar, a Chinese Bar or an Indian Bar, but it is a Malaysian Bar that serves all Malaysians.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to all 12 candidates who have been elected, especially to Lukman Sheriff Alias with his wise call for members of our Bar who love Malaysia to show the same by standing and being counted to preserve, protect and defend the Federal Constitution.

* Kee Thariq K Zainal is a practising lawyer and a member of the Malaysian Bar.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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