10/16/2007, 00.00
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Malaysian lawyers question judiciary’s credibility

by Joseph Masilamany
Lawyers take to the streets in great numbers demanding scandal-free judges. Federal minister calls them crazy but they demand a royal commission to study the problem.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – A row has broken out between the Malaysian Bar Council and the executive over comments by Datuk Seri Mohamad Nazri Abdul Aziz, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who on Sunday called lawyers "crazy" for showing their displeasure at the country's judiciary by taking to the streets. Some 2,000 lawyers of every age, ethnic or political allegiance participated in the protest that took place on September 26.

In an immediate response to the minister’s statement, Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenevasan said that the call to strengthen the credibility of the judiciary in Malaysia is not new, lamenting that the government took no initiative in the matter.

“I have a good working relationship with him [Minister Nazri] but on this issue I intend to disagree with him because earlier he had also stated that the Malaysian Bar was acting like an opposition party,” she said. 

The demonstration highlighted existing problems, stressing the importance of improving and strengthening the judiciary.

“We want a strong and first-class judiciary which we can have,” Ms Ambiga said.

There are many honest and hardworking judges she explained and for this reason “we are entitled to have an institution that is scandal-free.”

Ms Ambiga said that it would be wrong to ignore the views expressed by those who participated in the march which received a lot of support from the public.

“We at the Malaysian Bar strongly feel that a royal commission must be set up, similar to what the government did for the police force.”

The demonstration saw the lawyers walk from the Palace of Justice to the office of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, where two memorandums were handed over explaining the reasons for their action.

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