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KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee has said that Putrajaya can go ahead and set up a second Bar as an alternative to the existing body for professional lawyers here.
“Anyone can register a society or association,” he told The Malaysian Insider yesterday, responding to Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz’s remark that the federal government was looking into forming a second Malaysian Bar as an alternative for lawyers who disagree with the present Bar Council’s alleged pro-opposition stand.
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The Padang Rengas MP said this would be in addition to the proposal to set up a law academy for those who graduated in the field but are not practising lawyers.
Lim (picture) said that Nazri was speaking about the same thing, whether he chose to call it a “second Bar” or a “law academy”.
“Mutatis mutandis,” the lawyer said, a Latin term meaning “the necessary changes having been made”.
“Same difference. My comments are still the same,” he added.
Lim had previously said the Federal Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of association and initiatives but stressed the existing Bar Council “cannot be dissolved” under the Legal Profession Act although its members could propose motions of no-confidence against any of its 36 elected council members.
The Malaysian Bar was formed in 1976 to regulate the profession of some 14,000 lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia.
Separate bodies regulate the legal profession in Sabah and Sarawak. Their Bar associations are known as the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak respectively.
Citing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s words in a Malaysia Day speech last year, Lim reminded Nazri that “long gone is the era in which the government knows everything and claims monopoly over wisdom … (be) confident that it is a strength and not a weakness for us to place our trust in the Malaysian people’s intelligence to make decisions that will shape the path of their own future.”
Lim said the Bar’s resolution at its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last Friday to speak out against police brutality at the April 28 Bersih 3.0 electoral reforms rally in the capital city was “another instance of the Bar speaking out to assist the government to uphold the rule of law and protection and promotion of human rights”.
“It is also consistent with the PM’s speech welcoming different views.
“It is unfortunate that the minister in charge of law is addressing the messenger, the Bar and the president by way of a challenge instead of addressing the message,” Lim added, in response to Nazri’s dare to the lawyer to stand against the politician in the next general election, widely speculated to be called in the next few months.
The de facto law minister had blamed Lim for the change in the Bar’s impartial stand to one favouring the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc.
“I challenge Chee Wee — from one man to another man. Make sure you have the guts.
“I will wait for him during election at Padang Rengas... I will wait for him enthusiastically, so come, be a man, be a man like Nazri is,” Nazri told The Malaysian Insider.
Nazri said Lim should only be allowed to speak like a politician if he succeeds in getting elected.
Failing which, Lim should concentrate on running the council fairly and clean from politics, Nazri said, adding that the council was merely a “toothless cat”.
The April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally, which saw tens of thousands throng the city’s streets, erupted into chaos shortly before 3pm when several protesters breached the police barricades surrounding Dataran Merdeka.
The breach prompted police to fire volleys of tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters who ran helter-skelter through small alleyways and main road arteries within the city to escape the bombardment.
But the Bar Council has insisted, based on observations from its team of 78 monitors present at the rally that day, that the police had fired indiscriminately and excessively, even deliberately employing methods that hemmed in protesters and blocked their exits instead of dispersing them.