Bar EGM boycotted by majority of lawyers

“At all other time, Malaysian Bar is nothing but a social pariah for its members. As such, the Bar Council has no position in the society to condemn the re-appointments of two most senior judges. Until the Bar Council finds new ways to win the hearts of its members, Malaysian Bar should be called the Mini Bar!”

Shamsher Singh Thind

1. During the recent Malaysian Bar EGM, held on the 3rd of August 2017, it was resolved that the appointments of Yang Amat Arif (YAA) Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Mohd Raus bin Sharif and YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin, purportedly as additional judges and to continue to hold the positions of Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal respectively, are unconstitutional, null and void.

2. The reason given was that their appointments contravened the age limit of 66 years and 6 months, required of persons appointed to the positions aforementioned herein and as prescribed in the Federal Constitution. The EGM resolved that the both of them would thenceforth not be invited to any social function of the Malaysian Bar or Bar Council, and members of the Bar were encouraged to decline social invitations from them, or inviting them.

3. Now, what this creates is the impression that lawyers in Malaysia have comprehensively rejected both judges. The truth, however, is something very much different. As of the 18 July 2017, there were 17,725 registered members of the Malaysian Bar, only 993 of which attended and voted during the recent EGM. In other words, the above motions were passed by a mere 5.6% of the total practising lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia (assuming it was a unanimous decision), whereas a whopping 94.4% of the lawyers “boycotted” the EGM.

4. Of course, it is near impossible to expect all members to attend every AGM and EGM carried out by the Malaysian Bar. But a 5.6% turnout is really pathetic, and not to mention, is not representative of the majority voice. During the Sarawak State Election in 2016, despite all the geographical and economic difficulties, the voter turnout was still 66.13%.

5. Maybe lawyers are indeed busy people and cannot afford to travel to the Klang Valley for a half-day meeting. Or maybe not! On 1 December 2016, a total of 17,394 ballots – for the election of the first twelve persons to the Bar Council Committee for the 2017/2018 term – were issued, out of which only 3,939 ballots were returned. Now, all that the lawyers had to do were to tick 12 names, put the ballot back into the envelope provided and post it. Yet, only 22.6% of them responded while the remaining 77.4% threw the ballots into their dustbins.

6. Instead of playing the role of opposition, in my opinion, the Bar Council should look into the welfare of the lawyers, especially finding ways to help the young lawyers and also those who are operating as sole proprietors, who are simply struggling to make the ends meet. I believe that the only time lawyers actually deal with Bar Council is once a year when they need to renew their practising certificates. At all other time, Malaysian Bar is nothing but a social pariah for its members. As such, the Bar Council has no position in the society to condemn the re-appointments of two most senior judges. Until the Bar Council finds new ways to win the hearts of its members, Malaysian Bar should be called the Mini Bar!

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