Selangor MB crisis: Lawyers for Liberty asks of Bon's role as human rights advocate

PETALING JAYA: The objections raised by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) against Edmund Bon for legally representing Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim are due to his stance as a human rights and media freedom advocate, and not about his rights as a professional lawyer.

"What was questioned was his role as a human rights advocate, and if this suit against The Malaysian Insider contradicted his long-time campaign of freeing the media from an un-free, politically-oppressive climate," LFL legal coordinator Michelle Yesudas said in an e-mail to The Star Online on Friday night.

Yesudas said Khalid was entitled to sue whoever he wants and that generally, Bon, who spoke up to criticise Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for suing the online portal Malaysiakini for defamation, could act for whoever he pleases as a lawyer.

"However, as a human rights advocate, would this not be upholding the very system that he has claimed to be campaigning against.

"And does it not contradict the criticisms he has levied against Najib for suing Malaysiakini," said Yesudas.

She added that in a political climate of un-free media and oppressive laws, alternative media is highly vulnerable, and questioned whether Bon's act of representing Khalid was compatible with his long-term free media campaign.

"It is the duty of an activist or human rights advocate to resist the system that they campaign against, not uphold it," said Yesudas.

Yesudas also spoke out against Bon and his defenders for using the cab-rank rule to justify him representing Khalid in the brief against The Malaysian Insider.

"The cab-rank rule has been misstated by Edmund and his defenders. Rule 2 of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) rules 1978 have stated special circumstances may justify refusal to accept a particular brief.

"So, he had every opportunity to turn down this brief," said Yesudas, adding that the debate over the cab-rank rule was a diversion.

"This is a diversion that takes away from the real issue at hand which is questioning the role of a human rights advocate in taking up defamation suit by a powerful Mentri Besar against the vulnerable alternative media," said Yesudas.

She also dismissed the accusation that LFL has a political agenda in raising objections against the suit, calling them a "flimsy criticism that has been levied to dodge any engagement of the issue on its merits."

"The publications on Loyarburok has in fact dissolved into personal malicious attacks. There's nothing personal against Bon in our criticism on this issue," said Yesudas.

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