The Malaysian Bar is appalled that Nazri Aziz, a member of Parliament and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs, recently cast aspersions on the appointment of an attorney general who is “not a bumi or Malay” and criticised the appointments of non-Muslims as chief justice of the Federal Court and finance minister.
The Malaysian Bar condemns this statement, which is baseless, reflects a damaging and divisive attitude that breeds prejudice and intolerance, and incites bigotry.
The Malaysian Bar firmly believes that these appointments were just and beyond reproach. Nothing in the Federal Constitution — which is the supreme law of the land — bars a non-Malay, non-bumiputera or non-Muslim person from holding any official position within the executive, Parliament or the judiciary.
Further, Article 136 of the Constitution holds that all persons in the service of the federation shall be treated impartially. Race and religion are thus not – and must never be – determining factors in making appointments.
The three appointments have been made in accordance with the Constitution, and the racial identities and religious backgrounds of these three appointees are thus wholly irrelevant.
The appropriateness of the appointments must be based solely on whether they were made in compliance with the Constitution and the laws of the nation, and on merit — including the integrity, abilities and competence of the individuals — as well as their commitment to abide by the Constitution and to uphold the rule of law. The breadth and depth of their experience in the relevant fields speaks for itself.
It cannot go unremarked that the chief justice held the most senior position in the judiciary at the time of his appointment, and that the attorney general was, until his appointment, a very senior member of the Malaysian Bar. Since assuming their respective offices, they have been performing their duties in accordance with their oaths of office. Remarks with regard to their racial or religious backgrounds and those of any other employee of the federation are irrelevant and irresponsible and must cease.
The Malaysian Bar believes that our nation’s multiculturalism and its people’s respect for diversity are our strength. Malaysians of all identities and backgrounds must rise above extremist and divisive thinking as well as unfounded statements that drive a wedge between Malaysians and polarise our society.
The Malaysian Bar has full confidence in the chief justice, attorney general and finance minister to discharge their duties impartially, competently, diligently, with the utmost integrity and in accordance with the rule of law.
George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.