Sunday June 17, 2012
Business as usual for MPs
By MAZWIN NIK ANIS
MEMBERS of Parliament were quite emotional when they bade each other goodbye at the end of Dewan Rakyat’s last sitting on April 20 as many had thought the general election would be called before the start of the next sitting.
This, however, did not happen and lawmakers from both sides of the political divide once again converged last Monday and after niceties, handshakes, pats on the back and “nice to see you again” greetings, they quickly swung into action.
Last week’s session among others, saw the Legal Professional (Amendment) Bill 2012 passed to allow foreign law firms and foreign lawyers to practise in the country. But it did not go through without intense debates.
Independent MPs Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Pasir Mas) and Datuk Zulkifli Noordin (Kulim-Bandar Baru) took the opportunity to slam the Bar Council in their debate, saying instead of cleaning up its own house and looking after the affairs of lawyers, the council was busy “playing politics”.
Zulkifli criticised the Bar Council for its partisan stand on politics, claiming that it had graduated from being the Opposition’s lackey (barua) to become the fourth component in Pakatan Rakyat.
“I challenge council president Lim Chee Wee to stand as a candidate in the general election and contest in Kulim-Bandar Baru against me,” said Zulkifli, who also proposed that the Bar Council be abolished and legal practitioners set up their own committee in each state instead.
Apart from attacking the Bar Council, the fiery Ibrahim also called on the Government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry or issue a White Paper on allegations by former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid in 1999 that Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had RM3bil in several master accounts.
“We need to know whether it was true that the Opposition Leader had that much money. Also, the authorities need to investigate why Murad did not report to his superiors on this matter when he was still in service,” he said.
The issue of the proposed law academy was also raised, with the Opposition MPs questioning whether the proposal was motivated by the Government’s unhappiness with the Bar Council’s stand on the Bersih 3.0 rally.
“The same proposal was raised in the Dewan Rakyat in 2002 but was later retracted, supposedly because the timing was not right. Why is it the right time now?” asked Fong Poh Kuan (DAP – Batu Gajah).
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz replied that the Bar Council had no right to prevent the academy from being set up.
“If it opposes this freedom of association, it will mean that they are the ones who are trampling on the fundamental rights of others,” he said, adding that the council would not engage members from the council but would be an organisation representing the law profession as a whole.