PETALING JAYA: A group of local law students have thrown their support behind the Bar Council in opposing the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA).
Universiti Malaya Law Society president Ng Seng Yi said the amendments, which are scheduled to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat during its next sitting later this month, would interfere with the independence of the Malaysian Bar.
He said the Bar Council never requested nor was it consulted on the proposed amendments, one of which is to allow the Minister overseeing legal affairs to appoint two members to the legal body who would report directly to Government.
“This duty to report will ultimately be in breach of the LPA, which requires that Bar Council meetings be kept confidential,” Ng said in a statement Saturday.
Ng also described the proposed amendment to increase the quorum of the general meeting of the Malaysian Bar from 500 to 4,000 members or 25% of its total membership as “unreasonable and unrealistic”.
“This is because the highest turnout for any Bar annual general meetings has at the most been a mere 1,910 members from a total of 17,049 members.
“Furthermore, the financial burden to meet the proposed quorum would be unduly onerous,” he said.
Ng also pointed out that under Article 24 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the role of lawyers, the executive body of an associations such as the Bar should be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference.
“Article 24 essentially requires the Government to ensure that lawyers can perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”
The group also urged the Government to reconsider the proposed amendments in respect of the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
“We, law students from Universiti of Malaya stand in solidarity with the Malaysian Bar and strongly urge the Government to reconsider the viability of these proposed amendments as they are wholly inconsistent with the idea of an independent Malaysian Bar, the rule of law, and the basic notion of democracy,” he added.
In August, de-facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had said that the proposed amendments to the LPA would only seek to address ‘bread and butter issues’ like legal exams and the ability of all legal practitioners to speak and read English.
Azalina’s comments were in response to Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru’s claim that the proposed amendments were an unwarranted interference in the self-regulation and internal management of the Malaysian Bar.