I REFER to the timely comment by Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai in his On The Beat column on Jan 22 (“Kicking up a fuss over a dance”, Focus, Sunday Star; online at bit.ly/star_judiciary) and to the excellent letter by Anas Zubedy (“Why focus on dance parties?”, Views, The Star, Jan 21; online at bit.ly/star_anas).
They both referred to the “brouhaha”, as Wong put it, over the annual gala dinner of the Law Society of Sabah that elicited adverse comments from Umno leaders Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and Datuk Asraf Wajadi Dusuki. The two objected to the fact that the Chief Justice (CJ), Attorney-General (AG), de facto Law Minister, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Siti Kasim – the latter two are lawyers too, incidentally – danced the twist together at the event.
It seems to me that the adverse comments were not so much about the dancing per se (after all, we are in Malaysia and not in some Taliban-inspired or -controlled culture where music and dance and even being happy and having a good time are frowned upon). The criticism appears to be premised on the CJ, AG and Law Minister socialising with each other and with members of the Bar.
As a former practising lawyer, a past president of the Bar Council and a former Court of Appeal judge, I point out to those critics in particular, and to the readers of The Star in general, that, happily, in Malaysia, we have always enjoyed the tradition of a harmonious and useful relationship, an enviable rapport, between the members of the judiciary, the members of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the members of the Bar.
This includes participation in social functions, at which by tradition, nobody “talks shop”. Social functions include the annual dinner of the respective Bar Committees and Law Societies, and of the Bar Council, and also the Annual Bench and Bar Games at which lawyers and judges take part in sporting activities and which ends with a dinner, where music and dance play a prominent role.
There has not been any credible suggestion that members of the Bar and of the Bench fraternising with each other at such social events has been a cause of compromising the integrity of the administration of justice. Past greats of the judicial system in Malaysia, including Tun Azmi, Tun Suffian and Sultan Azlan Shah, when they headed the judiciary, supported and led many such events.
I end by recalling Tun Suffian saying to a predecessor to those stalwarts whose misplaced, ill-advised and politically motivated criticism resulted in the current brouhaha, “I rather have my judges fraternising with members of the Bar who are aware of and observe the traditional relationship between Bench and Bar, than with businessmen and the like who could be potential litigants in our courts!”
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