In 2012, after three years in the civil service, I left to complete the last phase of my legal education. Despite graduating in law in 2008, I postponed my chambering or pupilage (as it is known in England and Wales) and I believed that after four years it was wise for me to complete it.
The chambering process is a nine month legal training that is conducted jointly by the Bar Council, the relevant state bar committee and also the law firm in which the chambering student’s master is practicing in.
However, a lot of the seminars I attended during the course of my legal training as a chambering student was informative but was heavily peppered with critiques of the government and government policy.
As a former civil servant, I was obviously perturbed by this trend but I also found that my colleagues who were undertaking the training with me were not necessarily sold on this anti-government slant that was adopted most of the time.
While some tension between the legal profession and the government is a necessary feature of any democracy but at the same time one should never oppose for the sake of it.
In 2011, the Bar Council in an Extraordinary General Meeting condemned the government’s handling of the Bersih 3.0 rally even before any official findings could be made by the authorities or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).
By jumping the gun, the Bar Council hurt its own credibility because no one should be pronounced as guilty of any wrongdoing before a full and proper investigation and hearing.
Fast forward to 2015, the Bar Council claimed that the government was persecuting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim after he was found guilty by the Federal Court for sexually assaulting his former aide.
Malaysia is a constitutional democracy that practices the doctrine of separation of powers and to insinuate that the executive influenced the judiciary in Anwar’s case is mischievous.
There have been a myriad of instances when the courts have decided against the executive and the government as a whole be it in defamation and other cases.
In times like this the Bar Council should highlight the judiciary’s independence and not seek to undermine the administration of justice and the rule of law by constantly painting a picture of judicial manipulation by the executive every time a decision is made that some members of the Bar find disconcerting.
I have many good friends who practice as lawyers and I welcome the scrutiny that the Bar Council seeks to provide however they must do so in a just and fair manner minus their personal political proclivities.
The Bar Council must work with the government of the day to ensure proper and effective administration of justice and the rule of law is upheld.