Tuesday 29 May 2012

Bar Council to shun Hanif panel, backs Suhakam’s Bersih probe

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — The Bar Council will not participate in Putrajaya’s “Hanif panel” investigation on violence during Bersih 3.0, saying today it was pointless to do so when the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is already conducting its own probe.

“We do not see the purpose to duplicate the process... we already said earlier that we would participate in Suhakam’s inquiry. There is no public purpose served by duplicating the enquiry process,” council vice-president Christopher Leong told The Malaysian Insider when contacted here.

He said the council holds strong to its position that Tun Hanif Omar (picture) should be disqualified from the post of the panel’s chairman as the latter had already previously indicated his anti-Bersih views.

Leong stressed, however, that the council was not questioning Hanif’s integrity as it respects the former Inspector-General of Police’s contribution to the country.
“It is unfortunately about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel,” he said.

Following the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, Hanif had alleged that communist sympathisers had participated in the event and agreed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that the demonstration was an attempt to oust the present government.

Despite his views, Hanif was later appointed to lead Putrajaya’s six-man investigation panel on allegations of widespread police violence during the rally.

Leong also pointed out that the panel, unlike Suhakam which is a statutory body established by law, does not have legal standing and power to subpoena witnesses for its probe.

“Suhakam is the proper body to undertake the inquiry; it has the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so. The Suhakam Act (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999) provides for this,” he said in a short text message to The Malaysian Insider.

Leong, however, added that the council would be willing to meet privately with Hanif to discuss its position on the matter.

Hanif had said yesterday that he was willing to meet the Bar Council as well as Bersih leaders as part of the panel’s investigation, saying he wanted the inquiry team to be given a chance to carry out its duties without “suspicion” from any parties.

“With regards to concerns that there may be several parties like the Bar Council and Bersih who are unco-operative, I would like to state that the panel is only an alternative channel for those who want to co-operate willingly.

“I am prepared to meet the Bar Council or any other parties, including going to their office, for (everyone’s) mutual benefit,” Hanif had said in a statement.

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