Is the Bar Council serious about Judicial independence or are they the spokesperson for certain political parties?
It was a Friday, a day when Malaysians and motorists alike are usually in a hurry. A day which Muslims look forward to as they prepare for the Friday prayers, some leave the office early, while others arrive back slightly later after prayers and a late lunch. Also, a day when the guys meet at the bar for a drink or two.
It is also a day when Kuala Lumpur and Selangor motorists go a bit crazy. I have been back to Malaysia long enough to know that Friday morning is not a good day to hold any rally, let alone a walk along the busiest street in the capital. Trust me, the accident rate peaks on Friday, see here.
It was also the day that the Malaysian Bar Council decided to go on a jolly walkabout in what they refer to as a Walk for Judicial Independence. I’d like to think that the name is clearly a misnomer since it was just a simple-minded protest against a probe being made on a judge based on reports filed against him for conflict of interest on a case he was presiding on.
On May 27, the Bar voted, at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), to hold a peaceful protest to uphold judicial independence and to also condemn a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation against a Court of Appeal judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
The investigation was made following a report about an unexplained sum of more than RM1 million in his bank account. MACC has said the investigation papers have been submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for further advice and action.
The Bar said constitutional procedures should be followed in the probe, contending that the Federal Constitution provides for complaints about alleged judicial misconduct to be handled in a manner that ensures continued public confidence in the judiciary.
They were expecting 1,000 lawyers to attend, but apparently, only 220 people were there at Padang Merbok and that too, some of them were not lawyers. They were politicians from Pakatan Harapan (PH), quite a number of them.
I sighted Teresa Kok, Syed Saddiq, Tony Pua, among others. Of course with Ambiga around, she is a lawyer, after all, it reminded me of the various Bersih rallies of days of yore. Same group of people, wearing different outfits, but with the same objective: to fight for their so-called rights, yet deny others of their rights too.
All that pontification by the Bar Council could have been spared if they had just let the due process of the law to proceed and the learned judge had recused himself from presiding and making the judgement on the case. Just as High Court judge Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh recently did.
As Joe Fernandez wrote in an earlier article on this site: “It may be the season for looking in the mirror in the wake of the Bar Council of Malaya allegedly currying favour, openly, with Judge Nazlan by lamenting his plight in court in the wake of the MACC probe.
“That’s probably tantamount to corruption, abuse of power, conflict of interest, and criminal breach of trust. It also smacks of prejudice against former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.”
Nevertheless, it became comical when lawyer Siti Kassim strangely said that there are ways to investigate a judge to see if he is guilty of what he has been accused of, yet in the same breath, she insisted that a judge should not be subject to such investigations.
Yes, it is Nazlan’s right to be a lawyer then (when he was with Maybank). But is wrong for Nazlan not to reveal his involvement or offer to recuse himself as the judge for Najib’s SRC trial because he was conflicted – just like how FIVE other judges recused themselves from hearing 1MDB/SRC trials.
So, Siti Kassim now admits that Nazlan was indeed conflicted because he was involved in 1MDB?
Selective Memory, Bar Council?
A few years ago, in July 2018, the Bar Council had urged the High Court judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak in former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s criminal cases to recuse himself from further hearing the case.
The then Bar president George Varughese in a statement said this is in light of reports that Mohd Sofian is the younger brother of Pahang state executive councillor and Benta Umno state assemblyperson Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak.
Varughese said the rule of law demands that justice must not only be done but it must manifestly be seen to be done.
“Given that the former prime minister was until recently the president of Umno and chairperson of BN, the judge ought to have disclosed to the prosecution and the defence, prior to the hearing yesterday, this relationship and about the latter’s position in Umno and the Pahang state government.
“The Bar Council believes that such disclosure by the judge is necessary to preserve the integrity of the proceedings before him and to avoid any real danger of bias.
“The judge’s failure to do so has unfortunately raised serious questions about the propriety of him continuing to preside over the case,” said Varughese.
This is not the case this time. It is obvious that the Bar is in favour of Nazlan who had been investigated by MACC and is pending further instruction from AGC.
The lawyers were not allowed to march to Parliament House from Padang Merbok to hand over a memorandum to the Prime Minister. The police had to do a human barricade to prevent them from proceeding with their walk.
So in the end, Deputy de facto Law Minister Mas Ermieyati Shamsudin came to the Padang Merbok carpark to receive the memorandum on behalf of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, something which I found strange because from the videos, the lawyers had been shouting about separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.
So now I am left with this question in my head: Do judges have special powers and privileges that even our Kings do not? Which part of the constitution says that they are not subject to be investigated if there are official reports made against the judges? Let’s see what the sitting premier Ismail Sabri will do about it. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Carole Raymond Abdullah is a freelance writer who used to domicile in Hongkong for many years. She is now back in Malaysia, totally surprised at the turn of events in the country lately.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.