PETALING JAYA: The stage is set for a “bar fight” of a different kind at the Malaysian Bar’s annual general meeting today with controversial motions – including calling for the Attorney-General to step down and to introduce a mandatory training scheme – to be mooted.
Three lawyers – Charles Hector, Francis Pereira and Shanmugam Ramasamy – had proposed a motion to debate the call for A-G Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali to resign.
The move had drawn flack from both sides of the divide, with Umno lawyer Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah as well as DAP assemblyman and lawyer R.S.N. Rayer calling for the motion to be withdrawn or risk getting the Bar branded as busybodies.
“The Bar cannot be seen as doing something for the sake of doing something although it may not have any legal impact, lest we become the laughing stock of the entire nation,” said Rayer in a statement yesterday.
The Judicial and Legal Service Officers Association also responded swiftly to the controversial motions saying that it would hold an extraordinary general meeting to reject the motion, which it described as interference with the affairs of the A-G’s Chambers.
Bar member Hector also submitted a motion on national policy, which demands the Malaysian Government to stop Internet censorship and to reopen access to news sites blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
Though the need for Internet freedom had been addressed by Bar president Steven Thiru, Hector said raising it at the AGM carried greater weight, as should the motion be adopted, it would bind all 17,000 of the Bar’s members to that stance.
“These motions are of a legal nature, something citizens can object to. It is our duty as the Bar to monitor the state of law and give suggestions on reform,” he told The Star when asked if the motions were of a political nature.
Bar Human Rights Committee co-chair Andrew Khoo proposed a motion to have the Bar reject the passing of the National Security Council Bill and called upon the Government not to bring the Bill into force without making extensive revisions to its provisions.
Motions on internal matters included one to increase solicitor fees and to require young lawyers to take professional development courses or risk being fined.
The second motion would affect some 6,000 lawyers admitted to the Malaysian Bar after July 1, 2011, and pupils in chambers, requiring them to collect 16 Continued Professional Development points within the next two years or face fines of up to RM500.
The proposal caused an uproar among young lawyers, who found it discriminatory.
Professional Standards and Development Committee chairman Richard Wee defended it, saying that although the motion initially affected lawyers who were practising for less than five years, it would eventually be extended to other parts or the whole Bar.
“The staggered implementation is to ensure the scheme is affordable to as many members of the Bar as possible within a manageable time period,” he said.
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