by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 3rd January 1992:
Proposal by the Muslim Lawyers’ Association that Justice Minister, Syed Hamid Syed Albar be made the head of the Bar Council completely unacceptable
The President of the Muslim Lawyers Association, Zaid Ibrahim, proposed in an interview over RTM 2 News Bulleltin last night that the Justice Minister, Syed Hamidd Syed Albar, be made head of the Bar Council. This proposal is completely unacceptable.
It is clear that the Barisan Nasional Government is thinking of all manners to emasculate the independence of the lawyers in Malaysia, which is an indispensable and integral part of the principle of the Independence of the Judiciary in the country.
The appointment of the Attorney-General, the Justice Minister or any Government appointee to head the Bar Council will destroy the traditions and conventions of the independence of the Bar which had been painstakingly established over the decades.
The basic reason for various proposals for the Government to take over the Bar Council is to ‘politicise’ the Bar Council and convert it into a body of ‘yes-man’ who will endorse, approve and justify all Barisan Nasional government laws and policies, including those which undermine, threaten or destroy the Rule of Law or the Independence of the Judiciary.
Any government attempt to take over Bar Council will precipitate a national crisis which will undermine Malaysia’s investment conditions
The Prime Minister and Government leaders must be forwarned that any attempt by the Barisan Nasional to amend the Legal Profession Act to allow it to virtually take over the Bari Council, either by appointing the Attorney-General or the Justice Minister as head of the Bar Council, will touch off a new national crisis over the rule of law which would adversely affect Malaysia’s investment climate for foreign investors.
In this connection, it is time to examine the credentials and locus stand of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association which is headed by Zaid Ibrahim as its President.
During the winding-up of the debate on the Legal Profession Act in the Dewan Rakyat on 23rd December, 1991, I had intervened and asked the Justice Minister, Syed Hamid Syed Albar, whether the Government would approve any application for the registration of a Christian Lawyers’ Association, Buddhist Lawyers’ Association or a Hindu Lawyers’ Association- in the same way as the government had approved the registration of Muslim Lawyers’ Association. Syed Hamid declined to give an answer.
Does the Barisan Nasional Government want the Bar Council to become like the Muslim Lawyers’ Association-and become its voice and apologist for all government policies?
If the Barisan Nasional Government talk about a body which is ‘highly politicised’, there is no doubt this description fully fits the the Muslim Lawyers’ Association.
Everybody knows that Zaid Ibrahim is an up-and-coming UMNO leader in Kelantan, as well as being the lawyer for many companies with well-known connections with UMNO Baru, like United Engineers Malaysia (UEM).
From its activities since its inception, the Muslim Lawyers’ Association had acted purely as a voice for the UMNO on great and fundamental issues like the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the Bar.
The question that all Malaysians must ask is whether Dr.Mahathir and Syed Hamid want the Bar Council to become like the Muslim Lawyers’ Association-to become the voice of UMNO and apologist for all government policies, regardless of how unfair, unjust and how destructive they are to the principles of the rule of law and the independence to the judiciary.