By Lee Wei Lian
KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — Bar Council leaders have created a perception problem for the Bar and the onus is on them to prove that they are an impartial body, said Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today.
The deputy prime minister’s remarks come after de facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz agreed to look into forming an alternative to the Malaysian Bar.
Muhyiddin (picture) said that while there were no steps yet to form an alternative to the Bar as it is governed by the Legal Profession Act, the council members of the body had created a perception that the body was biased.
“The question (of forming an alternative) arose because of the behaviour of the Bar Council,” he said at a press conference.
“I don’t think all the members of the Bar agree (to the recent EGM resolutions). The silent majority may not agree,” he said, referring to the outcome of last week’s EGM where 939 lawyers voted in favour of a pro-Bersih motion and 16 against.
Muhyiddin said the Bar Council had to be more responsible and fair.
“Don’t appear to be too biased until they say that the council is monopolised by members of the opposition,” he said, referring to Nazri’s recent comments that there was a “monopoly” over the law fraternity by the Bar Council, which has now become an “opposition party”.
He added that while the Bar Council has protested that it is not biased it had to prove it.
“They say it is a wrong perception then it is their burden to prove the perception wrong,” he said.
He added that the Bar Council appeared to “only blame the government and do not acknowledge the good things.”
The Bar Council had earlier this week dismissed accusations that it is prejudiced, pointing out that lawyers have spoken up in the past against any violation of human rights and failures to uphold the rule of law.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said ministers should have read the Bar’s report first as they would have seen that it was based on observations of a monitoring team comprising at least 80 members of the Bar and had acknowledged good policing which facilitated peaceful assemblies in Johor Baru, Kuantan, Malacca and Ipoh, and observations of unruly and violent behaviour on the part of some of the participants.
The Bar’s EGM last week had approved a 12-point resolution condemning the police for allegedly using excessive force to disperse protesters during the Bersih 3.0 rally for free and fair elections.
But during the EGM, lawyer Abu Backer Sidek had told reporters that he no longer wanted to be a part of the “stupid” Malaysian Bar, which he accused of being biased.
He suggested the formation of another Malaysian Bar as an alternative for those who shared his views.
“Yes, I would like to talk to him (Abu) and the Attorney-General to see if there is a possibility of setting up another Bar,” Nazri told The Malaysian Insider.
The Padang Rengas MP said this would be in addition to the proposal to set up a law academy for those who graduated in the field but are not practising lawyers.