Bar Council abruptly cancels 2nd of August “Judicial appointments” forum

The actions of the Bar are contrary to Section 42(1)(a), of the Legal Profession Act 1976, being the charter of the legal profession, provisioning that the Bar must act “to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour”

THE THIRD FORCE

A circular issued by the Bar Council today reveals that the “Judicial appointments of the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal – Constitutional Issues” forum – originally scheduled for the 2nd of August 2017 – has been postponed indefinitely.


The decision comes as a surprise, as two very able speakers in constitutional matters – Dato’ Seri Gopal Sri Ram and and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah – were primed and prepared for the forum, which members of the bar and public at large were looking forward to.

A Bar member who did not want to be named told The Third Force (TTF) that the topic that was to have been discussed “is one that is of utmost public importance and strikes to the very core of the Malaysian Federal Constitution and the judiciary.”

“The decision by the Bar to postpone the said forum is also concerning because on the following day, members of the Bar shall be, at an Extraordinary General Meeting, voting whether to mount a challenge against the appointments of the Chief Justice (CJ) and the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA).

“Therefore, the said forum would have been beneficial and important to members of the bar, in order to understand and appreciate the polarizing arguments that would have been canvassed by Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah,” he said.

TTF was made to understand that the President of the Bar, who is said to have directed the organizing committee to postpone the event, had not provided any reason for doing so.

“It was a unilateral and high handed decision.

“Has the Bar suddenly got cold feet realizing their initial exuberance to express their non-measured statements against the appointments to be a not so well researched opinion?

“Whatever the reason may be, it is up to members of the bar to decide without censure,” the Bar member added.

The Bar initially chose the 2nd August 2017 as the date for the forum to prelude the EGM planned for the next day.

Accordingly, the Bar had planned to influence its members to vote for a motion to challenge the appointments of the CJ and PCA, who appear to have compromised the integrity of judiciary by issuing reckless statements in public before any determination of law could be made.

TTF is further made to understand that the speakers were expected to articulate their different views, likely ensuing a battle of the wits that would have allowed the audience and public at large to form their own opinions rather than those of “controlling personalities” said to be running the Bar.

The goal, we’re told, was to foster freedom of thought and intellectual discourse to the benefit of the public at large and those who intended to vote at the EGM the following day.

Another Bar member alleged that the “adjournment” of the forum was effectively a cancellation for the following reasons:

  1. If at the EGM, the decision is taken NOT to challenge the appointments, the issue is a “dead duck” and there is no longer any excitement about it; or
  2. If at the EGM, the decision is taken to CHALLENGE, and the matter is filed in court, the forum can be “subjudice” or at least damper the arguments of the speakers.

“So, what is the real reason the Bar is taking this stand?

“The inferences against the Bar is overwhelming and irresistible. As citizens, we ought not fear contrary opinions but rather welcome such debate for that is how we keep our democracy and governance in check,” he said.

The actions of the Bar are contrary to Section 42(1)(a), of the Legal Profession Act 1976, being the charter of the legal profession, provisioning that the Bar must act “to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interests or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour”.

The general consensus, we’re told, is that the term “without fear or favour” has without a doubt taken a back seat.

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