The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is greatly alarmed by the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976, in particular the proposal to have two members of the Malaysian Bar Council appointed by the federal government and the changes to the Bar Council’s election processes.
In the past year, Malaysians have witnessed unprecedented interference in the independence of our public institutions, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, parliamentary committees and the attorney general’s chambers.
The proposed amendments to the Act appear to be an attempt by the government to muzzle the Bar Council, which has spoken up against abuse of power.
The Act states the functions of the Bar Council include upholding “the cause of justice… uninfluenced by fear or favour” as well as expressing “its view on matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of the law in Malaysia.”
Bersih 2.0 believes the Bar Council has carried out these legislative functions with conviction and courage and it has worked tirelessly to promote the causes of democracy, human rights and justice. The Bar Council has been the most outspoken professional organisation and a key guardian of and advocate for rule of law, judicial independence, and our Constitution.
The attack on the Bar Council’s independence is an attack on democracy itself. It is unwarranted, unwelcome and wholly unnecessary. The doctrine of separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary must be preserved and the actions by the executive to curtail the Bar Council and its independence is a clear violation of this doctrine.
Bersih 2.0 demands that the proposed amendments be withdrawn and the government turn its focus to strengthening public institutions instead of expanding the concentration of power into the hands of the executive. Bersih 2.0 further calls upon all Malaysians to stand up and safeguard the Bar as a key fortress for democracy.
Bersih 2.0 steering committee