• Majlis Peguam
berarak serah memo ke pejabat PM
• Hampir 2,000 peguam tuntut tubuh suruhanjaya kehakiman
• Lawyers walk for justice
Lawyers and social activists march for justice
©The Straits Times, Singapore (Used by permission)
by Hazlin Hassan, Malaysia Correspondent
They demand probe into claims of judge–fixing by a
PUTRAJAYA – ABOUT 1,000 lawyers and activists staged a rare show of civil disobedience against the Abdullah administration yesterday. (Click here to view the Picture Gallery)
The demonstrators marched from the court complex in Putrajaya to the Prime Minister's Office to demand that the government investigate accusations that a prominent lawyer had attempted to influence the appointment of a judge to a top post.
Dozens of police officers, riot police, trucks and even a police helicopter
trailed the protesters, who included members of opposition parties Parti Islam
SeMalaysia, Democratic Action Party and Keadilan.
Curious civil servants watched the march from their windows.
'We are walking for justice, we want judicial reform,' said Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan. 'Lawyers don't walk every day. When lawyers walk, something is wrong.'
She said confidence in the judiciary had suffered since 1988, when constitutional changes reduced its powers and gave the government the upper hand in making decisions.
Malaysian lawyers have marched twice in the past, once in the 1970s and again in the late 1990s, she said.
At the centre of the present turmoil is a video clip released a week ago by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
It allegedly shows a lawyer speaking on his cellphone and telling a judge that he would push his name for a senior position.
He also names a number of other judges, a tycoon and a senior politician during the conversation.
The video clip has triggered speculation over corruption and abuse of power in the promotion and demotion of judges.
Yesterday, demonstrators walked from the magnificent granite–and–marble Palace of Justice, housing Malaysia's highest court, to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's office.
'We want justice!' chanted the lawyers, who were dressed in suits, as they marched while holding banners stating 'Stop the patronage, stop the rot' and 'Clean up the judiciary'.
Earlier, several buses packed with supporters were prevented from entering Putrajaya as police closed off many of the roads leading into the administrative capital.
Rain drenched the marchers just as they ended their demonstration peacefully.
Ms Sreenevasan presented a memorandum from the Bar Council to a government official. It demanded a royal commission of inquiry into the allegations.
Datuk Seri Abdullah is currently in New York.
The Bar Council also called for an independent commission to oversee judicial appointments. At present, judges are appointed by the Malaysian King on the Prime Minister's advice.
The protest was held despite the government's announcement on Tuesday that a special independent panel had been set up to investigate the authenticity of the video.
The move stopped short of a royal commission of inquiry, which has special powers to subpoena evidence and witnesses.