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Nazri promises to ensure rule of law

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 June 2009: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has promised to look into the Bar Council’s complaints about the arrest of five lawyers in May who tried to represent their clients at the Brickfields police station.

“I have accepted this memo, and [the complaints] are in my jurisdiction, I will try to correct it,” Nazri told the press in Parliament today.

“As law minister, I take seriously the contents of this memo. I want to see that the rule of law is observed,” he added.

The Bar Council today submitted a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, that was received by Nazri, to protest against the 7 May 2009 arrest of the lawyers from the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre.

Bar Council president K Ragunath (left) and Nazri

The lawyers — Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Murnie Hidayah Anuar, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal and Syuhaini Safwan — were arrested by police when they tried to render legal assistance to 14 individuals who had been arrested earlier that night for “illegal assembly”.

Nazri said that actions that did not respect the rule of law should not be allowed to happen in a developed country like Malaysia.

However, he denied that, in accepting the memorandum, he thought that the action of police officers at the Brickfields police station was wrong.

“In matters concerning the police in this memorandum, I must inform (Home Minister) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein,” Nazri said, adding he would forward the Bar Council’s memorandum to Hishammuddin tomorrow.

“I will tell him that there are matters in the memorandum that he has to look into, and also take action, so that these kinds of things will not be repeated,” Nazri added.

The Bar Council has previously called on Hishammuddin and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan to apologise for the lawyers’ arrests.

Hishammuddin‘s response was that lawyers were not above the law.

Section 28A(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 5 of the Federal Constitution guarantee an arrested individual’s right of  access to a legal practitioner of his or her choice.

“It is a sad day when an accused person is seeking legal assistance, and when his [or her] lawyer turns up, the lawyer is arrested in front of the police station,” Bar Council president K Ragunath told a press conference in Parliament today after meeting with Nazri.

“Arresting lawyers in the course of carrying out their duties is a great travesty of justice,” Ragunath added.

Ragunath said the Bar Council memorandum contained a number of recommendations to the government, including the setting of protocols for legal access to accused persons.

“There needs to be follow-up action. It all depends on what action is taken,” Ragunath said.

He added that the legal community required a reiteration from Najib that the rule of law would be respected.

The five laywers who had been detained

Suit against government

Regardless of any apology, Ragunath said the Bar Council would still be pursuing court action against the government.

“The five lawyers were detained overnight. It is their right to take action. We will definitely file [the action] on their behalf,” Ragunath said.

Ragunath also said the Bar Council had lodged a report with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), as the five lawyers’ detention was a breach of human rights.

“There are provisions under the Suhakam Act which says they cannot proceed with the inquiry if there is an ongoing court action. But we want the inquiry to continue,” Ragunath said.

“So, we will look at how we can carry on with both actions at the same time,” he added.

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6 Responses to “Nazri promises to ensure rule of law”

  1. aca says:

    With due respect, Nazri, are the apex court judges above the rule of law by making decisions which are clearly against the constitution?

  2. tebing tinggi says:

    I would agree with Hishammuddin that lawyers are not above the law. Doesn’t mean that just because they read law, the law is in their hands.

    It’s very common to see lawyers nowadays violating the law they are practicing on the pretext of upholding the law. There must be a reason for their arrest.

  3. “Hishammuddin’s response was that lawyers were not above the law.

    Section 28A(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 5 of the Federal Constitution guarantee an arrested individual’s right of access to a legal practitioner of his or her choice.”

    You may as well have said that Hishamuddin’s response was utter nonsense.

  4. Nicholas Aw says:

    I doubt that any serious action will be taken against those responsible for the arrest of the 5 lawyers. Perhaps one or two police officers may be made scapegoats and have to take the fall; that too, the action would probably be carried out to appease the Bar Council and would be highly publicised as fodder for the media. After a short while the whole thing will be forgotten and the police will continue with their old ways.

    This is typical of “Malaysia Boleh”. In countries like Japan for example, the Minister-in-charge or Police Chief would have tendered his resignation. Don’t expect this to happen in Malaysia!

  5. vp says:

    If BN guys like Nazri are to be trusted, the cow also can climb up the tree. BN will only review, no action. They are buying time only, until the rakyat forget. Throughout all these years, we all know BN guys talk only, no action.

  6. Fairminded says:

    Nazri has such a good sense of humour. I cannot stop laughing when he said that “As law minister, I take seriously the contents of this memo. I want to see that the rule of law is observed.” With the sodomy charges on Anwar, the motiveless murder conclusion on a Mongolian lady’s case, the JB gangster/politician case — geez, not enough room to fill in this comment, I just am unable to stop laughing at his good joke.

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