New Bar chief says better for AG to explain decision to free Siti Aisyah

New Malaysian Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor (second right) with (from left) treasurer Surindar Singh, vice-president Roger Chan and secretary-general Salim Bashir.

KUALA LUMPUR: Newly-elected president of the Malaysian Bar, Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, said it would be good for Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to explain the decision to free Indonesian citizen Siti Aisyah, who was charged with the 2017 airport murder of Kim Jong Nam.

Fareed, who described the move as not normal, however said the AG is not obliged to give an explanation to the public as he has the power to drop charges.

“In this case, it is slightly different. The case proceeded, the charge was done, and led by the prosecution. The judge called for defence.

“The acquittal of Siti Aisyah was done after the defence was called. We don’t come across this on a normal basis,” he told reporters at the Malaysian Bar’s 73rd annual general meeting here.

Siti Aishah had been jointly charged with Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who will now face the charge alone. Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, died after he was attacked by two women at the klia2 airport in Sepang on Feb 13, 2017.

Fareed was named today as the Bar’s new president, replacing George Varughese whose two-year term expired.

The Bar Council members who held their first meeting for the 2019/2020 term today, also elected Roger Chan Weng Keng as vice-president, Salim Bashir Bhaskaran as secretary-general and Surindar Singh Chain Singh as treasurer.

Five resolutions were passed today, including a call for the immediate abolition of eight laws which rights groups have labeled draconian: the Sedition Act, Prevention of Crime Act, Universities and University Colleges Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and the National Security Council Act.

Lawyers also called for the repeal of various provisions in the Penal Code, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, Official Secrets Act 1972, Film Censorship Act 2002 and Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

Meanwhile, the Bar called for the final report prepared by the Committee on Institutional Reforms to be made public, adding that the government must act on reforming key institutions such as the judiciary, parliament, Election Commission, Attorney General’s Chambers, police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Bar also urged the government not to delay the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) it agreed to form recently to look into judicial misconduct, based on an affidavit by a senior judge.

Fareed said the Bar will continue to uphold the rule of law and engage with the government when necessary.

He said it would also focus on the proposed amendment to the Legal Provisions Act and follow up with the Attorney-General.