KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz is opposed to Putrajaya’s planned amendments to the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976, saying these would be seen as interference in the independent professional body representing lawyers in peninsular Malaysia.
The federal minister said the Bar Council should be allowed to conduct themselves as they saw fit, and that it was “alright” if they were viewed as critical of the government so long as they did not break the law.
“How they (Bar Council) want to run their affairs, we should leave it to them.
“Let it be … we cannot impose what we want,” he told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
On May 27, Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru issued a circular on the proposed LPA changes to the professional body’s members, informing them of Putrajaya’s plans to have the minister in charge of legal affairs appoint two government representatives to the Bar Council, to change the Bar Council’s election process and composition, and to increase the required quorum for the Bar’s general meetings.
The proposed amendments include giving the minister the power to make rules and regulations regarding the conduct of the Bar Council elections.
The amendments were initially scheduled to be tabled in Parliament next month, but it is unclear if they will be ready for submission then.
Commenting on the controversial appointees in the proposal, the former de facto law minister said the move was unlikely to result in meaningful changes.
“I don’t even agree to the government appointing two representatives to the Bar Council, what for? You think two persons can control the majority?
“The world is becoming more liberal, this is not the time (for the government) to clamp down on groups… what damage has the Bar Council done, criticising the government? We are still here, a strong government,” the tourism and culture minister added.
Groups such as the G25 as well as ex-presidents of the Malaysian Bar have expressed concern that the proposal to amend the LPA would empower Putrajaya to blatantly interfere in Bar Council’s affairs.
Current de facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has said that the government has yet to finalise its proposed amendments to LPA and that it was still under discussion, noting that all parties concerned must agree to the changes before they will be brought before Cabinet and Parliament.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said she hoped the final amendments to the LPA will also address “bread and butter” issues for lawyers.
She said she had told the Bar Council to prioritise the affairs of its 17,000 members, including issues such as the introduction of a Common Bar Exam (CBE) to serve as a uniform qualification standard for those wishing to be lawyers; limiting lawyers’ liability; and the lack of English proficiency among some lawyers.