MELAKA: More than 800 lawyers in the state want to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination so that court proceedings can fully resume.
This is especially urgent when it comes to defending prisoners who are unable to afford legal fees, says Melaka Bar Council chairman Nitin Kumar Gordhan.
He hopes that the State Health Department will expedite the vaccination for advocates with the recent case where 81 prisoners from Sungai Udang prison tested positive, resulting in the prison being placed under enhanced movement control order for two weeks from Wednesday (June 23).
"There are prisoners relying on the Legal Aid Bureau to defend them, and lawyers need to get the vaccination before sitting in the courtroom.
"Hopefully, the Health Department gives priority to the legal fraternity, as we have previous cases where lawyers contracted the disease while defending the accused on a pro-bono basis,” he said on Tuesday (June 22)
Nitin Kumar said lawyers in Perak, Negri Sembilan, Selangor and Kelantan have already received their jabs.
“I have also written officially to the State Health Department to consider a vaccination programme, as we are in the high-risk category.
“Furthermore, postponing trials would only lead to a growing backlog of cases,” said Nitin Kumar, who added that there are 261 legal firms in Melaka.
Nitin Kumar also said that legal assistance has to continue to be extended to those who can’t afford the fees.
“Hence, we appeal to the State Health Department to consider our plight,” he said.
Earlier, Melaka health authorities said the admission of prisoners from another state is believed to be among the causes triggering the Sungai Udang Tembok Cluster 2.0.
The spread in the prison occurred after the admission of 172 inmates from Negri Sembilan, and 14 people from the A’ Famosa Detainees Transit Centre, into the Sungai Udang Prison several weeks ago.
Screenings by the Melaka Health Department found that 81 of the 186 prisoners were positive for Covid-19, resulting in the prison being placed under EMCO.