Bar defends RSN Rayer’s choice to defend alleged MyKad peddler

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Rayer attracted negative attention after it became known he was the defence counsel of the accused Datuk Lai Chin Wah. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — The Malaysian Bar today slammed those opposing Jelutong MP RSN Rayer’s move to represent a man accused of selling MyKad to Chinese nationals in court, calling such comments a calculated move to intimidate and harass.

Bar President Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, in coming to Rayer’s defence, today pointed out how it was a constitutional guarantee that every accused person is entitled to be defended by a lawyer of his own choice, regardless of how heinous the crime may be.

“In support of this are the professional standards imposed on an advocate and solicitor to perform his duties, to put forward the best representation possible for his or her client.

“The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice.

“Any unwarranted interference with the discharge of such duties is a serious violation of the independence of the legal profession, and an affront to the administration of justice,” Abdul Fareed said in a statement.

This was in response to Rayer attracting negative attention after it became known he was the defence counsel of the accused Datuk Lai Chin Wah, despite the Bar not naming anyone.

Among those vocal over the matter was Penang MIC chairman Datuk M. Nyanasegaran, who said Rayer’s defence appeared to be in contradiction to the government’s stand on the matter, considering it was concerning the sale of identification documents.

On September 12, Lai was among six others, including a National Registration Department (NRD) assistant director, who were charged with being part of a syndicate that sold Malaysian birth certificates and MyKads to foreigners.

Lai was also charged with abetting the NRD senior officer in forging the documents.

Through today’s statement, Abdul Fareed warned that accusations by those chiding Rayer were a clear contravention of Principles 16 and 18 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

He explained Principle 16 provides that governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference.

The same law states that lawyers also should not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with their recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.

Abdul Fareed also cited Principle 18, which states that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.

“Recalling that the presumption of innocence, i.e that an accused is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, is an essential precept of our criminal justice system, the Malaysian Bar urges all parties to respect and uphold the rule of law in this regard.

“The right to a fair trial must be protected. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the authorities to act swiftly against anyone attempting to impede the process of justice by threatening and harassing lawyers,” read his statement.

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