Senior lawyer Robert Lazar: "We recognise that Tun Salleh personally did suffer but to say that the Bar made use of him is a gross insult to the Bar and a gross distortion of history. I am confident in saying that what motivates the Bar is the cause not the person."
KUALA LUMPUR, Sat: Since Thursday, October 23 – the day blogger Ahirudin Attan or better known as Rocky's Bru highlighted Tun Salleh Abas' application to be allowed to be called as a "consultant" in his article entitled Bar–red by Council's double standards, more than 150 comments were posted by the readers on his blog in the aforesaid article and two subsequent articles that followed.
Sadly, majority of these commenters (and writing anonymously) showed a deep ignorance of the real issue and went on a rampage, hurling abuses with racist overtones at the Bar Council and its officers. Even retired Court of Appeal judge, Datuk KC Vohrah was not spared.
This led to one reader writing, "Rocky, I believe you are really barking on the wrong tree. The perception you have moulded your readers to believe is that Tun Salleh has been deprived to practise meaning being deprived of earning a decent livelihood. This is definitely not the case... Nobody is depriving Tun Salleh from practising and he does not need the blessing from the Attorney General nor the Bar Council to practise. That's a fact. He is applying to have the title "consultant" which of course carries more status as not all members of the Bar can be a consultant as you would need to fulfil the relevant rule 60." (Edited]
Another anonymous commenter even alleged that: "Talk had it that Tun Salleh has fallen out with them because the couple (Datuk Dr Yaacob Hussain Merican and Tunku Sofiah Jewa) – once great supporters and relatives of Tengku Razeleigh vowed never to talk to Tun Mahathir again are now close friends of Tun Mahathir. So Tun Salleh so pissed off because Tun Mahathir sacked Tun Salleh! In the Lingam inquiry, Tunku Sofiah even acted as counsel for Tun Mahathir!" He went on to say: "So you Rocky Bru and gang, if you bother to ask any senior lawyers, they will tell you in the 1988 judicial crisis, the Bar fought for judicial independence and not Tun Salleh. As a judge, Tun Salleh wasn't of good temperament and some lawyers even preferred to appear before the old Lord President Tun Hamid!... Vohrah's application was approved years ago and not by the present Council who looked at principles and not personalities. If you had checked the legal directory on the Bar Council's website, KC Vohrah was called to the Bar on 19.12.1964. This means Vohrah must have practised for sometime before he became a judge... Tun Salleh should learn to be grateful for what the Bar did for him!" [Edited]
Rocky's articles have also been reproduced on this website. Generally, members of the Bar were rather astonished by two remarks made by him in his first posting:
"Salleh Abas turns 80 next year. To say that he is disappointed with the Bar Council is an understatement. A close friend of the Tun told me that the former Lord President felt cheated, betrayed even. The Bar had no qualms about using the Lord President's name and person to champion its cause, but was not willing to help him in a matter that it has discretion to.
"BRU notes: During the hours we spent interviewing him for his biography, the former Lord President made no mention of how the Bar Council had been treating him on this issue. If he had told us, we would have strongly advised him against attending the Bar Council's dinner, supposedly in his honour, in April."
The first remark drew a strong response from senior lawyer, Robert Lazar who wrote here: "On a different note I was rather peeved to note the following comment in Rocky Bru's article. "A close friend of the Tun told me that the former Lord President felt cheated, betrayed even. The Bar had no qualms about using the Lord President's name and person to champion its cause, but was not willing to help him in a matter that it has discretion to." In the first place the "its cause" which must mean the pursuit of justice for all does not belong exclusively to the Bar. Secondly it was not Tun Salleh's personality that drove the Bar in 1988. If Rocky really wants to know, the Tun never really endeared himself as a friend of the Bar pre–1988 and neither did many of his actions and judgements. But it was the seat of justice and the institution that was attacked and it was that that the Bar rose to defend. We recognise that Tun Salleh personally did suffer but to say that the Bar made use of him is a gross insult to the Bar and a gross distortion of history. I am confident in saying that what motivates the Bar is the cause not the person."
To exemplify Robert's reference to "judgements", Tun Salleh Abas' decision in the famous case of Government of Malaysia v Lim Kit Siang in 1988 virtually dealt a death knell to public interest litigation in Malaysia.
Rocky's final shot was rather perplexing. He seemed to imply that Tun Salleh Abas ought to be treated differently, but what the current Council has demonstrated is that there should be equality before the law, and the earlier decision on Vohrah's application should now be best regarded as res judicata.
Be that as it may, perhaps blogger Rocky, being not legally trained, should be forgiven for his inability in appreciating legal principles and the real issues involved.