KUALA LUMPUR: The government and the Attorney General (AG) should refrain from meddling in the governance of the Malaysian Bar to ensure the legal body maintains its independence, says AG Tommy Thomas.
“I shall advise the new government that the state’s intimate involvement in the governance of the legal profession is inimical to the independence of the bar, which is a vital precondition to true functioning democracy,” he said.
Although lawyers had drafted the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA) with little input from the government, he said the Act had been amended on numerous occasions to punish the Bar for the public positions it had taken.
“Previous governments have seen it fit for the office of the Attorney General to be involved in many aspects of your profession, thereby making in-roads into your autonomy and independence,” he said in the opening address of the International Malaysia Law Conference here yesterday.
Thomas listed a number of intrusions, such as making the AG the Qualifying Board chairman and thus the decider on qualifications for professional practice, plus requiring the AG’s approval for rules made by the Bar Council to regulate its members and in issues relating to insurance and professional liability.
He also revealed that shortly after taking office, he met with the Bar’s office bearers, inviting them to present a Bill to replace the current LPA.
“So Mr President of the Malaysian Bar, I am still waiting for a draft new Bill to govern your profession! And you have a free hand in drafting it,” he said, adding there were sufficient legal practitioners in the Cabinet who would be happy to pilot the Bill’s passage in Parliament.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the legal fraternity was in complete agreement with the new AG and was working on the Bill now.
“A draft is expected to be submitted later this year,” he said.
Thomas was appointed as the new AG in June, replacing Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Before entering government service, Thomas had been part of the Bar for over 42 years, best known for his work on constitutional law and as a corporate and commercial lawyer.