PETALING JAYA, Aug 28 — Malaysian Bar president George Varughese retorted today that it is “unreasonable and self-defeating” to prevent its members from being appointed as top judges, for allegedly not speaking up against the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
In response to criticism by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, he said any candidate for the top posts should be evaluated by their merits, instead of their political stance, and support for either the previous, or the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
“It is unreasonable and self-defeating to allege that senior members of the Malaysian Bar should not be appointed to the bench, simply based merely on an assertion that they were not vocal critics of the previous administration, or because they have advised or acted for government-linked companies,” he said in a statement.
“The appointment of senior members of the Bar to appellate courts is indeed the norm in the Commonwealth. Potential appointees must be evaluated on their suitability, in terms of their competence, skills and experience.
“Similarly, members of the Malaysian Bar who have criticised positions taken by the former government, or who have expressed support for positions taken by the current government, should not enjoy preferential treatment or automatic qualification for appointments.”
George was rebutting comments by Haniff that members of the Malaysian Bar have no “moral right” to propose its members be appointed as top judges because they had failed to uphold justice under the BN government.
George explained that the Malaysian Bar had taken decisive action against the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) investigations by filing a suit, on March 14, 2016, against the then-attorney general (AG) Tan Sri Apandi Ali’s decision on January 26, 2016, to close corruption investigations into former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The AG then had also directed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close its investigations into the alleged transfer of large sums of money into the Najib’s personal bank accounts.
“The Malaysian Bar was denied leave to commence judicial review by the High Court, and appeals to both the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court were dismissed.
“Prior to that, the Malaysian Bar had strenuously and consistently condemned the then-Barisan Nasional Government for interference in the 1MDB saga, including convening an extraordinary general meeting of the Bar on September 12, 2015,” he said.
“The Malaysian Bar will only mount a legal action once there are justifiable legal grounds. We will always act in a responsible, measured and professional manner, and we are not, and cannot be, driven by any political affiliations or motives,” he added.
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