Bar to join Legal Year 2019 proceedings after last year’s snub

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: After giving last year’s Opening of the Legal Year (OLY) event a miss due to conflict with the judiciary over the appointment of two top judges beyond their retirement age, the Malaysian Bar will return to join the 10th edition of the ceremony on Jan 11.

Bar president George Varughese said the relationship between the Bar and the judiciary had been strained as the body of legal practitioners took the position that the appointments of Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as chief justice and Court of Appeal president past the mandatory retirement age was unconstitutional.

However, he confirmed that he would be given a slot to deliver a speech at this year’s event which will see the assembly of judges, lawyers, and judicial and legal officers.

“We will be back after skipping the event last year,” he told FMT. “I will speak about the vision and aspirations of the Bar for the new legal year.”

Raus and Zulkefli resigned in July last year, shortly after Pakatan Harapan swept to power in the May 9 general election.

Varughese, who was appointed as Bar president in 2017, said the changed format of last year’s ceremony, which was renamed the Judicial Year, was an attempt to prevent the Bar from raising issues of public concern.

Traditionally, three speeches are given at the OLY: by the chief justice, the attorney-general or his representative, and the Bar president, as equal partners in the administration of justice.

Last year, only the chief justice delivered a speech.

In an unprecedented move, the Bar had held its own OLY on Jan 12, a day before the Judicial Year, at a private club in Kuala Lumpur.

Chief Justice Richard Malanjum and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas will also address the audience at this year’s ceremony.

FMT understands that the event will also include speeches by Court of Appeal president Ahmad Maarof, Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah.