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KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — The Bar Council has refuted accusations calling it a political party, insisting that every statement it makes “is premised on legal principles or human rights”.
Its president Lim Chee Wee said the council has also been fair in its criticisms of both the government and opposition, dismissing claims that its views were biased.
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The council came under heavy fire from Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians after it resolved during its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last week to condemn what it alleged was excessive use of police force against Bersih 3.0 participants.
Umno minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad even labelled the council a “political party” and voiced support for the formation of a second Malaysian Bar as an alternative for lawyers.
“Every statement of the Bar is premised on a legal principle or human right, in this instance, the right of a Malaysian to be protected by the police and not harmed,” Lim (picture)said in an emailed statement to The Malaysian Insider.
“Both Nazri and Dr Mahathir failed to address the message of the Bar, namely why has the police failed to implement the recommendations of the past four Suhakam (Malaysian Human Rights Commission) inquiries in dealing with assemblies?”
The recommendations from the commission included suggestions for law enforcement officers to be compelled to wear identification numbers; a five-stage crowd control process (verbal persuasion, use of non-lethal force, clear warning for dispersal, adequate time for dispersal and no arrests of dispersing crowd); and no assault on protesters.
Lim repeated that while proper restraint by the police was observed during Bersih 3.0’s simultaneous assemblies in Ipoh, Malacca, Johor Baru and Kuantan, the main rally in the capital was the complete opposite.
During the April 28 protest in KL, riot police had used tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse protesters, many of whom have since alleged that the armed personnel had also assaulted them.
The council, as a part of its EGM resolution, had also demanded apologies from the police and home minister for the alleged use of indiscriminate force to disperse otherwise peaceful protesters.
But neither the government nor the police have since issued apologies and other than Nazri and Dr Mahathir, several anti-Bersih proponents had called the council biased towards the opposition.
Denying this, Lim pointed out that the council had also criticised the opposition in the past.
“The Malaysian Bar speaks up when the government does the right thing,” he added. “For example, the establishment of the National Legal Aid Foundation and better support of court infrastructure. Equally it will criticise when it makes a mistake, in this instance police brutality and wrongful use of force.”