PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Bar will continue voicing out its concerns over the continued use of oppressive laws, says Bar president George Varughese (pic).
He urged the government to demonstrate full commitment to its election manifesto to abolish oppressive laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota), the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) without delay.
"Our legislative landscape need not be a time capsule of our regressive colonial past.
"These laws ought to be repealed as existing laws are sufficient to address the threats of crime and terrorism," he said in his speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2019 at a hotel here Friday (Jan 11).
If the laws were found to be insufficient, Varughese said the solution lies in amending the existing non-draconian laws or enacting new laws that observe the rule of law.
He said certain laws were rushed through Parliament prior to the 14th General Election without going through proper legislation for quality and resilience such as the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.
He said to avoid hurried legislative exercises, Parliament must extend its sitting sessions to allow more time for tabling of legislation as genuine reforms and strengthening the rule of law require considerable time and effort.
Varughese also said the Bar did not want to be perceived as an opposition voice but as a necessary check and balance and a partner in the administration of justice.
According to Varughese, Attorney General Tommy Thomas had acknowledged the need for reforms to be carried out and the need for assistance among stakeholders to improve and strengthen legal structures and systems.
"We share the same values as the Attorney General in always promoting genuine constitutionalism, separation of powers, the rule of law and due process," he said.
The Bar also hoped more legislative reforms to emanate from the Attorney General's Chambers in the areas of freedom of expression, child marriage, the establishment of the Independent Police
Complaints and Misconduct Commission, and observance of international obligations.
"The Bar has had a good working relationship with the Attorney General over the past several months – not only because he is more accessible, but because he has been generous with his input and open to a more meaningful engagement with the Bar," he said.
Varughese also called on politicians and the media to refrain from pandering to racial and religious sentiments and to avoid stoking the sensitivities of the public.
"Choose instead to lead public opinion, and steer healthy nation building with the intention of improving the lives of all citizens," he said.
This year, the Bar returned to partake in the Opening of the Legal Year 2019 after snubbing last year's event due to a format change.
It was reported that last year, instead of three speeches that should have included a speech from the Bar's president, only a speech by the Chief Justice took place.