Kuala Lumpur, 6 September 2016 – Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz should be commended for suggesting that the Malaysian Bar Council should be allowed to be free to run its own affairs. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) praised Nazri for this stance because the Bar could be one of the many mechanisms to check and balance the Executive.
“In mature democracies, it is common for different institutions to be critical of each other. They do it not out of malice but because of love for the country. For example, in the United Kingdom even the Prime Minister can get publicly scolded by other individuals in Government. Back in December 2010, former British Prime Minister David Cameron received a written rebuke from the then Head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, for his special adviser’s actions and Cameron took it in good stead. After all, the Prime Minister is not infallible.”
“Nazri is right in saying that the government does not need to clamp down on groups that are critical of them. I find it interesting that Nazri actually said this point. Don’t forget that the move to amend the Legal Profession Act 1976 was made immediately after the Malaysian Bar openly criticised the Attorney General.”
“I wonder if this move was initiated by the Government as a whole, or was the Attorney General making a personal and unilateral retaliation. It does look like the Malaysian Bar is being punished for exercising their independence. By speaking up, Nazri indicates that this was not a Cabinet decision, which means it must have been the action of one agency only.”
The amendment to the Legal Profession Act will severely impact the Bar Council’s ability to operate effectively by requiring a higher quorum for the Malaysian Bar’s General Meetings from 500 to 4,000 members. It will also institutionalise interference because the Government can appoint two representatives into the Bar Council and the Law Minister can change rules and regulations in the Bar Council’s elections.
“It is important that the Bar Council retain its independence. The Cabinet should follow Nazri’s suggestion and let the Bar Council operate as is,” concluded Wan Saiful.
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IDEAS is Malaysia’s first think-tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a cross-partisan think tank, we work across the political spectrum. Our purpose is to advance market-based principles, and we are not bound by party politics, race or religion. Our mission is to improve the level of understanding and acceptance of public policies based on the principles of rule of law, limited government, free markets and free individuals. For more information, please visit http://ideas.org.my/