We are six days into the restrictions imposed by the Movement Control Order (“MCO”) announced by the Prime Minister on 16 March 2020, with the hope that in eight days’ time, we can get back to our regular routines.
For our nature of work that does not fall under the definition of essential services in the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020, this means staying at home or working from home. In these challenging times, we appreciate that our Members will have numerous worries as a result of the impact of the restrictions imposed by the MCO on their law firms, court cases, clients, office work and other work-related obligations.
The Bar Council, through circular issued to Members of the Malaysian Bar dated 18 March 2020, strongly advised Members against opening their law firms during this time in order to keep in line with the Government directives, in respect of the closure of non-essential services. The Bar Council urges law firms to adhere to this advice in order to safeguard the health of their lawyers, pupils and employees, and not risk offending the law by forcibly requesting them to be physically in the office.
The Bar Council is aware that some law firms feel pressured to remain open as a result of demands and instructions made by some banks and financial institutions, which are allowed to operate while the MCO is in place. In this regard, the Bar Council has issued a press statement on 18 March 2020, chiding such banks and financial institutions, and we also appeal to law firms to exercise wisdom and discretion in dealing with such situations.
Additionally, the Bar Council calls upon all Government agencies including Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri or Inland Revenue Board (“LHDN”), Royal Malaysian Customs Department, and Land Offices, to be cognisant of the problems faced by lawyers during this time, and to exercise fairness in dealing with any application or request to extend time, even as lawyers attempt to fulfil their legal and administrative obligations on behalf of their firms and clients.
The Bar Council is optimistic of a gradual return to normality and stands ready to assist Members of the Malaysian Bar, in relation to matters within its purview.
23 March 2020