The Malaysian Bar council while overwhelmed by the Prime Minister's 'extraordinary' move to form a legal aid foundation, feels Najib Tun Razak 'must stay true to his promises of a liberal and progressive nation'.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Bar Council has proposed that the government put in place a permanent Parliamentary Select Committee(PSC) in each of its ministries in order to maximise consultation and minimise problems arising from implementation of policies.
Malaysian Bar president, Lim Chee Wee, said that this was in practice in countries such as the UK, US and in South Africa.
“Instead of having the government reacting to each and every issue along the way, we have a PSC in every ministry. It would then deal with each ministry’s work and legislative reforms,” Lim told reporters at the sidelines of a public forum “Religion and Unity in a Multi-Ethnic Society” today.
“(This would be) something permanent, instead of having knee-jerk reactions every time. Its wonderful because you would conduct public hearing and consultation process, like what we are having for election reforms,” said Lim.
Lim was referring to the government’s recent announcement that a PSC would be set up to look at the controversial Lynas rare earth plant, which he said was laudable.
On the soon-to-be tabled Race Relations Act, the lawyer said that there was a lack of public consultation and details were sketchy.
“At this point, we don’t know what it will say. We only know it will mirror the UK Equality Act,” said Lim.
Lim said it would be hard to follow what UK has done, as its legislation had brought together several acts into a 290 page “omnibus”.
“In the Malaysian context, we already have the Sedition Act, which we are asking to be repealed, that deals with race relation issues. So it begs the question—What is a single proposed race relation act going to do?”
No news on family law
On the two replacement laws to take the place of the abolished Internal Security Act, Lim said that he understood that it was still “work in progress”.
“The Attorney-General is in contact with me, but we have yet to have a formal meeting to discuss it. I understand that it is in its final stages.
“What I wish to see? I pray very hard that it would be good.
“I operate on prayer and hope these days,” joked Lim.
During the forum, Lim reminded the government to look into amendments of family laws that would address the issue of unilateral conversion of children as well as the abjudication of matrimonial disputes between a Muslim and non-Muslim.
“In 2009, the council of rulers said they needed to be looked at. Unfortunately it has not been moved into legislative reforms since then,” said Lim.
Lim said those amendments would deal with issues when a marriage starts in a civil registration than it should end or be dissolved by way of civil court.
“This is would then prevent abuse of the Syariah system, where one spouse trying to circumvent the civil court by converting and getting relevant court orders from the Syariah court,” said Lim.
‘Miss-steps and mixed messages’
Lim also praised and warned Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in the same breath.
“He (Najib) would be announcing the National Legal Aid foundation, no other prime minister has done this.
“This is truly an extraordinary measure where the government is funding criminal representation system…, ” he said.
Lim however did express his disappointment at the government saying that Najib must ‘stay true to his promises’.
“… I am disappointed with the executive. The Prime Minister has to stay true to his promises of a liberal and progressive nation.
“There has been some miss-steps and mixed messages, like in the peaceful assembly bill.
“You must draw a red line to who you associate yourself with because you as a politician cannot be everything to everyone.
“Votes are the lifeblood of politicians. But votes of racists are a poison. We all forget Article 153 about the ‘the legitimate interests of other communities’. Why has this been forgotten?” he asked.