Race, religion irrelevant in posts for executive and judiciary, says Bar

Bar president George Varughese. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar today said it was appalled that former de facto law minister Nazri Aziz had cast aspersions on the appointment of an attorney-general who is “not a Bumiputera or Malay”.

Bar president George Varughese said the Padang Rengas MP had also criticised the appointments of non-Muslims as the chief justice and finance minister.

“The Malaysian Bar condemns this statement, which is baseless, and also reflects a damaging and divisive attitude that breeds prejudice and intolerance, and incites bigotry.

“The Malaysian Bar firmly believes that these appointments were just and beyond reproach,” he said in a statement.

Varughese said there was nothing in the Federal Constitution — which is the supreme law of the land — that bars a non-Malay, non-Bumiputera or non-Muslim from holding any official position within the executive, Parliament or the judiciary.

“Further, Article 136 of the Federal Constitution holds that all persons in the service of the federation shall be treated impartially.

“Race and religion are thus not, and must never be, determining factors in making appointments.”

He said as the three appointments have been made in accordance with the Federal Constitution, the racial identities and religious backgrounds of these three appointees are thus wholly irrelevant.

“The appropriateness of the appointments must be based solely on whether they were made in compliance with the Federal Constitution and the laws of the nation, and on merit — including the integrity, abilities and competence of the individuals — as well as their commitment to abide by the Federal Constitution and to uphold the rule of law.

“The breadth and depth of their experience in the relevant fields speak for themselves.”

Varughese said the chief justice held the most senior position in the judiciary at the time of his appointment, and the attorney-general was, until his appointment, a very senior member of the Malaysian Bar.

“Since assuming their respective offices, they have been performing their duties in accordance with their oaths of office.

“Remarks with regard to their racial or religious backgrounds, and that of any other employee of the federation, are irrelevant and irresponsible, and must cease.”

Varughese said the Malaysian Bar believed that the nation’s multiculturalism and its peoples’ respect for diversity are its strength.

“Malaysians of all identities and backgrounds must rise above extremist and divisive thinking, as well as unfounded statements that drive a wedge between Malaysians and polarise our society.

“The Malaysian Bar has full confidence in the chief justice, attorney-general and finance minister to discharge their duties impartially, competently, diligently, with the utmost integrity and in accordance with the rule of law.”

On Feb 26, Inspector-General of Police Fuzi Harun confirmed that Nazri, who is also Barisan Nasional secretary-general, is being investigated under the Sedition Act 1948 over his controversial campaign speech in Semenyih.

He said police were taking statements from those connected with the issue following a police report against Nazri.

In his speech on Feb 23, Nazri was said to have questioned the appointment of non-Muslims as the attorney-general, chief justice and finance minister, saying this meant they could not be sworn in using the Quran.

He also reportedly warned non-Malays not to question Malay special privileges, saying that non-Malays also have their vernacular schools to preserve.

He later defended his speech, saying he had only asked that all quarters respect the rights of Malays as well as non-Malays.

Regarding his statement on the attorney-general, he said he was merely conveying the people’s concerns over the way the case of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim was handled.

“I am merely voicing out the unhappiness of the people on the ground. That certainly cannot be considered seditious,” he said.