The Malaysian Bar wholly disagrees with the position taken by Dato Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi bin Tuanku Jaafar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) that “The Malaysian Bar ought to have come forward and given their views on the various allegations identified by the special task force. To refuse participation and then question the impartiality of the special task force and its members should not be the Bar’s way to confront issues of this kind”,1 and we reiterate that the Malaysian Bar was justified in declining to participate in the Special Task Force (“STF”).
The earlier Malaysian Bar press release on 25 October 20222 (“the said press release”) clearly explained that the Malaysian Bar declined to participate in the STF since the request required us to verify and comment on the accuracy of the contents in the memoir, to which the Malaysian Bar is not in a position to do as it has no direct or personal knowledge thereto.
The Malaysian Bar went on to outline in the said press release the possibility of it being called as a witness in the event of a legal suit being filed as a result of the STF report, and that the Malaysian Bar wished to avoid being utilised as a tool of any political manoeuvring. This decision was made by the Bar Council back in February 2022, even before the declassification of the STF report and the legal suit by former Attorney General (“AG”), Tommy Thomas, against the STF.
The declassification of the STF report3 on the former AG’s memoir was made on 21 October 2022,4 and his recent filing of the legal suit on 27 October 20225 are developments that clearly validate the Malaysian Bar’s reservations, and that we were correct to have exercised caution when deciding not to participate in the STF exercise.
It is therefore not entirely accurate to state that “the Bar Council was not keen to participate” as stated in the STF report, neither is it accurate to state that the Malaysian Bar had “failed” or “refused” to participate, without considering or taking into account the context as to how and why the Malaysian Bar’s non-participation came about.
The Malaysian Bar maintains that there is no correlation between not participating in the STF and the right to question the legitimacy and legal standing of the STF. Declining to participate in the STF does not preclude the Malaysian Bar from expressing its views on the legitimacy of the STF.
The Malaysian Bar stands as a guardian of the administration of justice and will not be muzzled, especially when vocalising the truth and upholding the cause of justice.
Karen Cheah Yee Lynn
1 November 2022
1 “Wan Junaidi lambasts Malaysian Bar, says concern over impartiality of task force that probed ex-AG’s memoir misplaced”, Malay Mail, 27 October 2022.
2 “Press Release | Strengthening Institutions for a Better Malaysia — Is Declassifying the Report of the Special Task Force on Tommy Thomas’s Memoir an Abuse of Power?”, Malaysian Bar website, 26 October 2022.
3 Laporan Pasukan Petugas Khas: Siasatan ke atas Dakwaan-Dakwaan dalam Buku Bertajuk “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness” Tulisan YBhg. Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Bekas Peguam Negara, Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department (BHEUU).
4 “Special task force report on Thomas’ memoirs declassified, findings made public”, The Star, 21 October 2022.
5 “Tommy Thomas sues task force, govt for publishing report on his memoir”, Free Malaysia Today, 27 October 2022.