Perjuangan Peguam-Peguam: Cara dan Pengaruh Biasa v Berlainan?

Dalam temuramah “Cross Talk: Making of the hybrid lawyer of tomorrow” yang diaturkan oleh Aniza Damis (New Straits Times, 31 Januari 2009) dan disalin di bawah, kita dapat menilai bahawa bukannya visi atau objektif Badan Peguam yang bercanggah, tetapi cara menyuarakan mesej Badan Peguam yang berbeza.

Outside of court, what should lawyers be doing with their time? Should they walk, march, protest, or just sit quietly and make money? Senior lawyer and Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Bar Council human rights committee deputy chairman Amer Hamzah Arshad thrash it out, with ANIZA DAMIS sitting in.


Amer: You have to uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law, without fear or favour. Over and above that, lawyers need to take a more proactive role in terms of creating awareness, educating the public, taking up causes on behalf of the public. We know the law, we know how the system works, and we know its failings. We are now trying to come out with a hybrid lawyer – a legal expert who is also a human rights activist.

Ambiga: The examples set by our predecessors were very good. In 1988, we had the judicial crisis and Operation Lallang; it was a very tense situation. Despite that, the Bar stood up.


Aniza: De facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said, after the lawyers’ “Walk for Justice” in 2007, that their role is to speak, not to march.

Amer: Speaking up in court is one way of advancing an issue. But we have to be creative in trying to put forward our views. We had been communicating, engaging with the government, and yet it wasn’t working. Just because we went to the streets to send a strong message to the government about the judiciary doesn’t mean that we turned into a mob.

Ambiga: We always start by dialogue, by issuing statements, by trying to reason. But when it falls on deaf ears, then we have to make a decision how we want to advocate this in stronger terms. We are doing this for the institution of the judiciary and for the country.

Aniza: In December 2007, when you had the Walk for Freedom, you, Ambiga, didn’t walk; Amer did. Why?

Ambiga: The Bar Council called off the walk because we thought there would be a security issue. Especially as the police were already making noise that they were going to come down hard on the walkers. So, we felt a responsibility towards the other people, the non-lawyers who were going to walk. I was disappointed there was so much pressure on us to call off that walk. The only reason we did that was in the public interest at that time. But, of course, a group of lawyers decided otherwise. They were exercising their rights.

Amer: Different lawyers would have a different take of the situation. The country had just had the Bersih and Hindraf rallies. The situation was tense. It was important to send the right message to the government that it’s possible to have a peaceful demonstration in the name of human rights. From the government’s perspective, the Hindraf and Bersih rallies were associated with violence. So, we were trying to send a strong and correct message to the government that it is okay to have peaceful assemblies and rallies.

Ambiga: The council came under a lot of criticism, including from Amer and friends, for calling it off. Sometimes, I feel that perhaps Amer and friends don’t appreciate the issues that we have to deal with. We are not only there for a group of 30 lawyers; we represent a much larger group of lawyers.

Aniza: Amer, did you think it was the right decision?

Amer: I would say the right decision would have been to proceed with the walk, and to have the walk in a very coordinated and peaceful way.

Ambiga: There were people who said we chickened out.

Amer: Yes, I think that was some of the criticism.

Aniza: By marching, didn’t you feel you were creating some sort of schism in the Bar Council?

Amer: It shows that the Bar is dynamic. Whether you like it or not, that was the decision of the council. At the same time, the council respects the views and rights of other people to exercise their constitutional rights, and that’s what happened.

Ambiga: We respect the right to freedom of assembly. That’s why we were not angry with them for walking.


Aniza: Do you worry that the younger generation is going to be just activists, and is not going to look at the bigger picture?

Ambiga: I think they do get a feel for what’s happening around them. Amer’s group, the human rights committee, gets very heavily criticised by the members. But they are also entitled to their own views. Recently, we were criticised by our members for being so political. They said: “Stop all this and start looking after the interests of the members.” But we are looking after the interests of the members. We just don’t publicise it.

Amer: Different people will have different views on the Bar’s function or role. I cannot impose my views on the others. The most I can do is to sell my views. What’s wrong with being labelled political? We are not being partisan political, we are not taking sides with Party A or Party B; but we have to be political on issues, like the Internal Security Act, for example. On certain issues, people tend to perceive it as being political, when in fact it is something that involves human rights issues, human rights violations. Take deaths in custody, for instance. Some people might say speaking out against death in custody is trying to be political. I disagree. What’s wrong with voicing out our concerns on deaths in custody, which affect the public at large?

Ambiga: Every issue we take up is in relation to the Rule of Law and human rights. It’s never outside that. If within the political parties, they are having fights, we don’t comment on that.

Aniza: As we saw with the Conversions forum, there was such a reaction from various sectors. Do you still think lawyers should get involved in such matters?

Ambiga: That was a legal forum; we were talking about legal issues. We explained what it was to everybody. We were only dealing with legal issues; we were talking about the laws and the decisions made by the courts; we were trying to find ways to resolve them.

Amer: People said we should just accept the court’s decision. And if we weren’t happy about it, we should just disband and register the council as a political body. We can’t run from the fact that any political issue will have a legal and human rights angle to it. And we cannot stop from discussing or debating such issues. Because everything that we do in life will have a political angle, the human rights angle and the legal angle. So, there’s bound to be some overlapping.


Ambiga: People say we are anti-government, and the opposition thinks we are pro-government. That only shows you how independent we are. Because a lot of issues are in relation to abuse of power or concern people in authority, I suppose it looks as if some of the issues can be anti-government. But we are not anti-anyone. We are pro-human rights, we are pro-the rule of law, and we are pro-justice. Recently, the minister said we were “publicity-seeking”, because we called for the separation of the public prosecutor role from the attorney-general’s role.” Once you label, you don’t have to deal with the merits. And that’s how they’ve been dealing with the issues (we brought up). It’s also time we realise that opposition is not a bad word. It is part of governance, the whole parliamentary process. People should get rid of this idea that if you are pro-opposition, it’s bad. The opposition should also stop saying that if you are pro-government it’s bad. They must concentrate on issues. Labelling is the easiest thing in the world to do. At the end of the day, this whole thing about human rights and right to assembly is a process of negotiation with the government. We have to show we can be responsible when we conduct assemblies. We must show that they don’t have to be paranoid about it. Right at this point, they are paranoid about all these things. They don’t have to be. And the way we do that is by being responsible about how we conduct assemblies. So, this whole process is a growing process for all of us. Some people like Amer are not patient enough, perhaps. They want it today; now.

Amer: We need to push the government, and the council. We need the members of the Bar to check and balance the council. Similarly, the council should be the check and balance for the government. If it is an issue that affects all of us, then all of us should stand up and voice our concern in unison.

Aniza: Amer, as you and your group move further up the ladder in the council, do you think the running of the council is going to change?

Amer: Maybe, maybe not. We are not trying to dominate the council and say: “This is just a human rights organisation” – it is part and parcel of the Malaysian Bar. Even assuming that the younger lawyers will eventually take up the mantle of the leadership of the Bar, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to focus on this one issue. You can’t. Because when you talk about running the Bar, it is similar to running the country: there are other issues apart from human rights issues that need to be resolved and looked into. So, that can’t be the sole agenda; but it should be the big agenda. Ambiga, what are the views of the senior lawyers towards the younger lawyers, who seem to be quite vocal and critical at times?

Ambiga: Oh, there is a group that is critical of the younger lawyers who are (laughs) “outspoken”. But, as I say, I have total faith in the Malaysian Bar that when push comes to shove, we have never wavered on principle – whether senior or junior.

Amer: Prior to the amendment to Section 46A of the Legal Profession Act, which prohibits young members – those who have been in practice for less than seven years – from being a member of the council or holding a position in the Bar committees, you hardly saw any young lawyers in such committees in the council. But after the amendment, there was a gradual entry of younger lawyers at the council and committee level. Do you think that’s a step in the right direction? There are some complaints saying: “The young lawyers are too impatient. They are trying to take over the Bar.”

Ambiga: It’s for a senior and junior to get together and thrash it out. I do feel sometimes that you all don’t appreciate what we have to take into account in decision-making. I think that as you come up the ladder, I hope you will be in a leadership position, so that you can understand how difficult it can be to make these decisions! (laughs) This is life as it should be. What binds us all, ultimately – no matter what – is principle. If there is a violation of a principle, we are always united.


Aniza: Do you think that young lawyers are too impatient for change?

Ambiga: Not too impatient.

Amer: I wouldn’t say impatient. I think we’re just eager to see change.

Ambiga: I don’t have a problem with them being impatient for change for the good. It is good to be impatient, because there is nothing wrong to want things to change for the better.

Amer: And after 50 years, I don’t think we can say we are impatient. Though we may not be born back then, but still 50 years of independence and nothing much has changed in terms of human rights values and norms? How much longer do we have to wait? So, if by pushing for it, we are accused of being impatient. So be it. These are issues or matters that need to be addressed, and things that should be done now, we should not wait until tomorrow. Ultimately, we would like issues to be publicised so that people from all walks of life can appreciate the issues. It is through this process that we can make a real change when everybody is aware of the issues.

Jika diizinkan, komen-komen saya:

I. Isu perhimpunan/perarakan oleh peguam-peguam

Pada 7 April 1981, lebih kurang 200 peguam berjalan ke Parlimen untuk membantah pindaan-pindaan kepada Societies Act dan Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Mereka telah memakai armband hitam. Kemudian, 42 dari mereka telah dituduh di Mahkamah dan disabit kesalahan berhimpun tanpa permit – lihat penghakiman-penghakiman yang dilaporkan dalam Siva Segara v Public Prosecutor [1984] 2 MLJ 212 dan Pendakwa Raya v Cheah Beng Poh & Ors [1984] 2 MLJ 225. Kini ramai daripada peguam-peguam tersebut adalah peguam-peguam berpengalaman dalam Badan Peguam.

Selepas insiden yang disebut di atas, dan dalam artikel yang diterbitkan dalam The Star bertajuk “Bravo the Bar Council” oleh mendiang Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Khoon pada 15 April 1981, dinyatakan:

Congratulations to the Bar Council for getting out of their air-conditioned rooms and descending from their ivory tower to demonstrate for fundamental liberties and human rights in this country.

At last the members of the Bar have reached manhood.

In my wildest dreams I would have never thought of the day when our lawyers would participate in a demonstration. In their wigs and black gowns they have always looked too respectable and dignified to actually take part in a demonstration and that, too, in a drizzle.

But on April 7, the lawyers actually stood on the roadside and in the rain, distributing their memorandum to MPs arriving at the Dewan Rakyat for the historic debate on the Societies (Amendment) Bill.

And 10 of them went into the lobby of the House to distribute their memorandum there as well.

It warmed the cockles of the heart of all freedom lovers of this country. The lawyers did us proud and the country salute you!

Let me explain.

In the past, the Bar Council had been headed by people who held office as chairman for too long and as a result got stale in office and in a sense got themselves isolated from the man in the street whom the lawyer is supposed to serve.

But with the passage of the Legal Profession Act a new generation of lawyers took over and the chairmanship was limited to two years. This was a change for the better.

I have always maintained that the lawyers of our country should be in the vanguard of the fight for human rights and fundamental rights.

In the past it has been left to trade unionists, doctors and others to lead the fight. But they are not well equipped where the law is concerned and they usually do not read the fine print where legislation is concerned.

But now that the members of the Bar are in the vanguard, as they should be, the battle for the preservation of democracy will take on a new look.

In the past, I am told, the Government used to consult the Bar Council about some of the Bills they intended to bring to Parliament. That practice has long been discontinued. This is regrettable, for the Government can have recourse to a source of valuable advice free of charge.

The easy and arrogant manner in which the Government has passed the Bill will, I hope, bring home the message to every voter and citizen of the need for a strong Opposition and the danger of entrusting the Government with too much power.

The Government is so drunk with power that it has become insensitive to the needs of the people.

Meanwhile the battle for democracy in this country goes on and we look to the members of the legal profession to be in the vanguard of the fight.

But the Government must also take note of the warning made by Datuk Dr Ezanee Merican, president of the Malaysian Medical Association, that the “cure” will be worse than the disease.

In the meantime the people of our country salute the Bar Council. Continue the good fight.

Pada tahun 1998an, semasa kes Anwar Ibrahim dibicarakan, peguamcaranya Zainur Zakaria telah dituduh menghina Mahkamah kerana telah memfailkan satu permohonan di Mahkamah. Peguam-peguam samada muda atau tua telah berjalan ke Mahkamah untuk membantah tindakan terhadap Zakaria tersebut. Mujurlah, tiada pendakwaan dimulakan terhadap peserta-peserta.

Pada 7 Jun 2006, peguam-peguam telah berjalan ke Ibu Pejabat Polis Bukit Aman untuk membantah penyalahgunaan kuasa oleh pihak polis apabila menguruskan kes-kes jenayah berhubung peguam-peguam.

Cara menunjuk perasaan dengan perhimpunan/perarakan bukannya satu cara yang baru yang hanya dilaksanakan oleh peguam-peguam kini.

II. Isu kritikan terhadap Badan Peguam/Majlis Peguam

Badan/Majlis Peguam pernah menegur dan mengkritik pihak Kerajaan dan pihak Pembangkang.

Badan/Majlis Peguam masih bekerjasama dengan pihak Kerajaan dan pihak Pembangkang terutamanya dalam isu-isu penggubalan undang-undang.

Badan Peguam terdiri dari lebih kurang 12,600 ahli di Semenanjung. Kebebasan bersuara dan kebebasan bertindak oleh ahli-ahli dalam konteks Badan adalah nyata dan terjamin seperti yang dilihat dalam mesyuarat-mesyuarat AGM dan EGM dan pada peringkat jawatankuasa-jawatankuasa, dan dalam forum-forum seperti laman web dan kumpulan-e.

Dalam artikel yang diterbitkan dalam theSun bertajuk “Without fear or favour” oleh KT Chelvi pada 24 Oktober 1996, dinyatakan:

Asked if lawyers have fought for justice in this country, only 41% of the 100 people polled said that they have. Fifty-nine percent said no. One of them, a lawyer himself, said: “I am a lawyer and it is very sad for me to say that how much a lawyer fights for justice depends on how much he is being paid.”

The legal profession, unlike many other professions, not only owe a moral duty to fight for justice but also a statutory duty imposed by the Legal Profession Act 1976.

An overwhelming 82% of the people polled said that lawyers should comment on government policies. A retired civil servant in his early 70s said: “I have read the Attorney General’s comments castigating the Bar Council for being vocal. The bar has a duty to point out the injustices in society. Nobody has the right to prevent it from performing its moral and statutory duty.

Observation from the poll revealed that though the Malaysian Bar has in some ways made its presence felt in our society, it is far from being perceived as a movement crucial to democracy or a movement so very important.

The Bar Council needs the people’s support to keep on going strong. It should concentrate on forging a closer relationship with society and start canvassing for support.

(1) Setiap keputusan atau resolusi Badan/Majlis Peguam berkenaan isu-isu semasa, nasional dan kepentingan awam mempunyai dasarnya atas alasan-alasan ideal humanitarian atau undang-undang antarabangsa hak-hak asasi manusia. Menolong mengurangkan penderitaan manusia menerusi undang-undang menjadi salah satu tujuan tindakan Badan/Majlis, tanpa mengira genus, kaum, bangsa, kepercayaan agama, pendirian politik, pangkat sosial atau kewarganegaraan.

(2) Sesiapapun bebas untuk menjanakan perbincangan dan pendapat-pendapat serta menggerakkan apa-apa “revolusi” dalam Badan/Majlis Peguam tertakluk prinsip-prinsip demokrasi dan good governance.

(3) Sebenarnya, ramai ahli-ahli Badan Peguam dan rakyat Malaysia telah dahulunya kondem Badan/Majlis Peguam kerana tidak cukup menggunakan kemahiran undang-undang peguam-peguam untuk menolong masyarakat. Sekarang, ada ramai pula yang menyatakan Badan/Majlis Peguam keterlaluan.

III. Isu pembahagian Badan Peguam di antara peguam-peguam baru dan berpengalaman

Peguam-peguam yang lebih berpengalaman sering medidik, memberi pandangan, sokongan dan keyakinan kepada peguam-peguam baru untuk selalu mempertahankan keadilan tanpa perasaan takut atau sikap memihak/berat sebelah.

Seksyen 46A(1)(a) Akta Profesion Guaman 1976 (yang melarang peguam-peguam di bawah 7 tahun untuk menyertai apa-apa jawatankuasa atau bertanding untuk menjadi ahli Majlis Peguam) telah dimasukkan pada 1978 oleh Kerajaan kerana ingin mengawal cara dan pengaruh peguam-peguam baru dalam Badan Peguam. Kerajaan masa itu tidak berpuas hati dengan tindakan Badan Peguam meluluskan resolusi memboikot perbicaraan-perbicaraan di bawah Essential (Security Cases) (Amendment) Regulations 1975 atau ESCAR atas alasan bahawa prinsip undang-undang jenayah biasa tidak terpakai, dan Kerajaan telah membuat andaian bahawa peguam-peguam muda yang telah mengerakkan resolusi tersebut.

(Ini adalah satu contoh baik bagaimana isu-isu undang-undang, politik dan kuasa tidak dapat dipisahkan, dan bagaimana niat Badan Peguam boleh diputar-belitkan menjadi isu berbau politik untuk mengawal Badan melalui seksyen 46A(1)(a). Jika kita tidak berwaspada, Kerajaan pasti akan seterusnya cuba untuk menyekat kebebasan Badan Peguam.)

Setelah usaha-usaha dan kempen tetap Badan dan Majlis Peguam, peruntukan 46A(1)(a) telah pada 2006 dimansuhkan.

Dalam usaha-usaha dan kempen tersebut, peguam-peguam aktivis tidak pernah mengambil kedudukan bahawa semua ahli pucuk pimpinan Badan/Majlis Peguam mesti terdiri dari peguam-peguam baru, hanya bahawa larangan oleh Kerajaan tersebut mesti diketepikan atas dasar ia berlawanan prinsip kebebasan dari diskriminasi – lihat penghakiman minoriti dalam Malaysian Bar v Government of Malaysia [1987] 2 MLJ 165. Malahan, seruan adalah supaya penggabungan tenaga kerja dan idealisme peguam-peguam baru dengan tunjuk ajar, pengetahuan luas dan pengaruh peguam-peguam berpengalaman akan lebih efektif dalam memajukan Badan/Majlis Peguam.

(Seumpamanya, Jawatankuasa Peguam-Peguam Muda Nasional selalu terbuka kepada peguam-peguam samada baru atau berpengalaman, tidak terhad hanya kepada peguam-peguam baru di bawah 7 tahun.)

(1) Sejak pemansuhan peruntukan tersebut, adakah terdapatnya penukaran tuju hala atau misi atau visi Badan/Majlis Peguam? Adakah semua ahli pucuk pimpinan Badan/Majlis Peguam terdiri dari peguam-peguam muda? Tidak.

(2) Sebenarnya, apa yang telah dicapai sejak pemansuhan adalah lebih kerjasama antara peguam-peguam baru dan berpengalaman, dan sikap yang lebih terbuka dan inclusive dalam perbincangan isu-isu. Peguam-peguam baru dari seluruh Semenanjung juga berperasaan lebih empowered, dan lebih ingin menolong Badan/Majlis Peguam mencapai objektif-objektifnya.

(3) Yang amat merangsangkan adalah bahawa ramai di antara peguam-peguam berpengalaman menyokong pelbagai inisiatif baru dan berlainan yang telah diperkenalkan kini. Sebenarnya, ramai yang ingin menggerakkan lebih inisiatif dan lain yang nampaknya lebih liberal tetapi sebaliknya, ada di kalangan peguam-peguam baru yang mengambil pendirian lebih konservatif atau berhati-hati! Dilihat juga peningkatan sikap bertoleransi, “pertunangan” melalui perbincangan secara rasional dengan alasan-alasan bernas (walaupun berhubung perkara-perkara yang kononnya “sensitif”) dan penerimaan cara berfikir yang luas di kalangan ahli-ahli baru dan berpengalaman – ini harus diteruskan kerana ia adalah amat positif bagi Badan/Majlis Peguam.

(4) Perarakan Walk for Justice telah mendapat sokongan dari majoriti besar Badan Peguam tidak kira peguam-peguam baru atau berpengalaman. Lihat betapa efektifnya perarakan tersebut. (Dan ramai peguam-peguam telah memberi saranan untuk mengulanginya seperti apabila Raja Petra, Teresa Kok dan Tan Hoon Cheng ditahan!) Sejak kebelakangan ini, dalam tempoh beberapa tahun dari pemansuhan peruntukan buruk tersebut, nampaknya perhubungan antara peguam-peguam muda dan berpengalaman dalam Badan Peguam lebih erat, lebih bersatu dan lebih mengikat terutamanya dalam isu-isu nasional dan kepentingan awam. Sungguh benarnya pernyataan Presiden dalam temuramah di atas apabila beliau menyatakan: “If there is a violation of a principle, we are always united.”

(5) Seringkali, dalam sebuah institusi besar, mesti terdapatnya minoriti yang mempunyai pendapat yang berbeza dengan majoriti. (Ada jenaka bahawa jika 12,600 peguam dalam satu bilik, sudah pastinya terdapat 12,600 pandangan berbeza!) Pendapat-pendapat kumpulan minoriti amat penting, dan proses perbincangan dan penghujahan (seperti dalam Mahkamah!) mesti diteruskan. Ruang mesti diberikan untuk pendapat-pendapat tersebut diluahkan walaupun ada di kalangan pendengar-pendengar yang tidak suka mendengarnya. Fikiran kita mesti selalu terbuka, dan banyak kali ada pandangan kami yang mesti ditukar kerana salah. Jadi ada peguam-peguam yang menyokong ISA misalnya, dan mereka berhak menyuara atau membantah cara Badan/Majlis Peguam memperjuangkan hak-hak asasi manusia menentang penahanan tanpa bicara.

Secara kesimpulan, memberi label-label kepada sebarang perkara amat bahaya, tetapi jika ia perlu untuk tujuan perbincangan sahaja, sejak beberapa tahun ini saya telah nampak bahawa pembahagian peguam-peguam “baru” dan “berpengalaman” tidak lagi tepat. Nampaknya percanggahan hanyalah bagaimana atau cara perkara-perkara perlu dibuat dalam mencapai visi dan misi yang sama. Bukannya objektif yang berlainan. Adakah kita memeluk cara yang berlainan dan baru, atau mengikut cara yang biasa dan telah diuji. Adakah cara yang dikatakan berlainan atau baru juga pernah dibuat tetapi kita yang telah lupa. Adakalanya cara yang dikatakan berlainan atau baru juga tidak baik. Ataupun kita perlu menerimapakai hasil campuran kedua-dua versi biasa dan baru. Jika label benar-benar perlu, lebih penting untuk memberikan ungkapan deskriptif seperti “pro-ISA” atau “anti-ISA”, “pro-kebebasan” atau “anti-kebebasan” dan “pro-justice” atau “anti-justice”; sepertimana yang telah diterangkan oleh Presiden Badan Peguam.

Cara atau pengaruh yang mana lebih efektif bagi Badan/Majlis Peguam dalam memperjuangkan isu-isu semasa, terpulanglah kepada ahli-ahli dan rakyat Malaysia memutuskannya.

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