Monday, 14 May 2012

‘Bar cannot be replaced’

Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee says while other bodies can be set up, the Malaysian Bar is empowered to set the standards, regulate and issue practicing certificates

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar cannot be replaced but there is no issue in setting up another body to represent a particular interest of lawyers, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said today.

“If there is any dissatisfaction about the leadership of the Bar, members can propose motions of no confidence against the council members, which has happened in the past but defeated,” he added.

He was responding to a suggestion by Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz on Saturday that another body such as a law academy be formed to represent the interests, welfare and profession of lawyers.

Lim said that the suggestion to form another body to represent the legal fraternity was not something new.

“There have been suggestions in the past to amend the Legal Profession Act to dilute the independence of the Bar and of the council or through the establishment of an Academy of Law, and the Bar opposed it by way of resolutions in 1996 and 2002.

“The ministers in charge of law then agreed with the position of the Bar and we see no reason for any change,” he added.

He, however, did not see an issue with the setting up of another association to represent a particular interest of the lawyers.

“Regarding the intention of a member of the Bar to set up an association of lawyers, he is entitled to do so under our Federal Constitution. That is why we have the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association and the Catholic Lawyers Society.

“However, only the Bar Council is empowered under the Legal Profession Act to set the standards, regulate and issue practising certificates,” he added.

Former Bar Council president S Ambiga, who currently heads the Bersih steering committee, also echoed Lim’s statement.

“No other body can replace the Bar Council since it is a statutory body,” she said, adding that there was no issue with the formation of another body on the grounds of freedom of association.

The Bar earned the wrath of the government, when in its extraordinary general meeting last Friday, the lawyers passed a resolution condemning the police for using excessive force during the Bersih 3.0 rally.

The lawyers also demanded that Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar tender a public apology.

However, several lawyers criticised the Bar and accused it of being an opposition tool.

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