By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, November 11, 1991:
DAP calls on UMNO leadership to reconsider its intention to effect a virtual government take-over of the Bar Council by amendments to the Legal Profession Act
DAP calls on UMNO leadership to reconsider its intention to effect a virtual government take-over of the Bar Council by amendments to the Legal Profession Act, as stated by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and the Minister of Justice, Syed Hamid Albar at the UMNO general Assembly yesterday.
The UMNO leadership must be forewarned that any such action to destroy and emasculate the independence of the Bar Council to carry out its statutory duty as provided under Section 42(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 “to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by gear or favour” will plunge Malaysia into another cockpit of international controversy with Malaysia in the dock for another grave assault on the fundamental freedoms of a democratic society.
The amendment to the Legal Profession Act to virtually effect a government take-over of the Bar Council will be seen throughout the world as a further attempt by the Malaysian Government to undermine the Rule of Law – one of the five principles of Rukunegara – by undermining the
Independence of the Judiciary in the Judiciary Crisis of 1988 with the arbitrary removal of Tun Salleh Abas and two Supreme Court judges.
The present controversy over the Bar Council generated by Dr. Mahathir and Syed Mahid Albar is a synthetic one, manufactured in order to create the conditions for UMNO delegates at the UMNO General Assembly to go on a rampage against the Bar Council.
This is because the Bar Council, after stating its stand on the Judiciary Crisis of 1988, had not launched any new campaign whether local or international on the issue. What the American and other overseas Bar Associations had learnt about the Judiciary Crisis in Malaysia was learnt in 1988 and 1989.
The American Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, for instance, sent a fact-finding mission to Malaysia from October 14 to 29 October 1989 – six months after the Bar Council had filed an action for contempt of court proceedings against Tun Abdul Hamid and which was denied before the arrival of the fact-finding team.
It is therefore completely baseless and untrue for the Prime Minister to allege that the Bar Council had been involved in a conspiracy to mislead world opinion by holding the fact about its attempt to file contempt proceedings against Tun Hamid.
Dr. Mahathir claimed yesterday the government had ‘religiously observed the provisions of the Constitution’ in the removing Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and that Tun Salleh was removed by a tribunal made up of ‘members of his peers’.
This is the root-cause of the entire Judiciary crisis – for the Judiciary, Bar and informed and knowledgeable Malaysians are convinced that Tun Salleh Abas had been removed arbitrarily and that he was definitely not tried by his ‘peers’ as provided for in the Constitution.
Dr. Mahathir claimed yesterday that the Government had always upheld the rule and law, claiming that violation of human rights and ISA detentions were also ‘according to the law’.
This is a very cynical defence of violation of democratic freedoms and human rights in malaysia, which had been used by the South Africa regime in the past to justify its apartheid policies and by Hilter in the 1930s and 1940s to justify his Nazi atrocities.
This is why there is a great distinction between the fundamental concept of ‘Rule and Law’ which embodies morality, humanity and justice form the concept of ‘Rule and Law’ which merely means the might of those in power in utter disregard to right or wrong.
Dr. Mahathir can justify his violation of democratic freedoms and human rights, whether in the removal of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President or the ISA detentions by using the argument of ‘Rule and Law’ but definitely not under the concept of ‘Rule of Law’.
Now there is a new attempt to further undermine the ‘Rule of Law’ but the UMNO’s ‘Rule by Law’ in trying to destroy the Independence of the Bar Council so that it would not be able to perform its statutory role “to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour.”
What the UMNO leadership wants is to reduce the Bar Council into a echoing-board for all government policies, however repugnant they may be to the fundamental concept of the ‘Rule of Law’.
These effort must be opposed by all thinking Malaysians, for it will only create an even greater crisis of confidence, not only in the Independence of the Judiciary, but the Rule of Law in Malaysia.
DAP calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuses of power and malpractices by the Rulers and their families as well as into the corruption, abuses of power and malpractices by political leaders, their families and cronies.
The recent UMNO General Assembly took a strange turn after Dr. Mahathir’s Presidential Speech last Friday.
In his speech, Dr. Mahathir expressed concern that UMNO leaders “have regressed to the old days when corruption and abuse of authority led to their being colonized and enslaved by foreign powers.”
Dr. Mahathir said the tendency toward abusing all their powers at every level would weaken the Malays and hamper their progress.
He said that the administration of the Malay governments before the arrival of the western powers came under select groups of aristocrats who treated the state they rules as their personal property.
He said this ancient scenario was being replayed in modern Malaysia. He said some people holding powerful positions in government had succumbed to self-interest and personal ambition.
Government funds are used to promote themselves in the party so that they will get even higher positons.
He said that there were government officials and party leaders who were still using this means to project themselves.
Dr. Mahathir was clearly talking about the corruption, abuses of power and malpractices which had become rampant in the leadership circles of UMNO Baru after three years of registration in 1988.
However, Dr. Mahathir’s speech which was praised by all UMNO leaders as ‘brave and courageous’ was never taken up by the UMNO delegates.
Instead, there appeared to be a deliberate policy to shift attention from Dr. Mahathir’s speech about spreading corruption, abuses of power and malpractices in top UMNO leadership circles, by attacking the Malay Rulers and their families for interfering in state administration and taking active part in business.
What is most unfortunate is that in the attack on the Malay Rulers, some UMNO delegates introduced a most unhealthy communal angle, especially when the Hule Selangor UMNO delegate, Haji Zainal Abidin Sakom, alleged that the Sultan of Selangor was used by ‘certain Kapitan Cina’ to compete for business contracts from the government.
Malaysians have a right to ask the UMNO leaders, whether at national, state or divisional levels, whether it is not possible for them to raise an issue without introducing a communal angel? Otherwise, how can they talk about Vision 2020 of a united Malaysian nation with a Bangsa Malaysia?
At the UMNO General Assembly, the Selangor UMNO liaison committee together with Selangor MPs and Assemblymen presented a resolution which called on the UMNO leadership to set up a committee to investigate and indentify all properties owned by the royal families and the project given to them.
What the country really needs is a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the abuses of power and malpractices not only by the Rulers and their family members, but also inot the corruption, abuses of power and malpractices by Political Leaders, their family members and cronies.
Is the UMNO Supreme Council prepared to support the establishment of such a Royal Commission, to eliminate abuses of power and malpractices at all levels of high society – whether among Rulers and families or among political leaders, their family members and cronies?