In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here. A version of this article was first published in The Star iPad application.

This response was originally published on The Malaysian Insider, and Roger has asked that it be published on the blawg.

I knew this was coming because as I said it would be painful for some lawyers to read what I wrote in “Unswayed by fear or favour” last Sunday in The Sunday Star. I am indeed not wrong with my prognostication.

However, I am surprised that it was even necessary for the eight LoyarBurokkers to come together to give a 2,700-word response to something they felt were just mere fallacies being spun by me.

In a tweet sent out early yesterday morning, one of the eight, K. Shanmuga, tweeted that their joint statement, “Bar’s resolution proper”, The Star, May 23, 2012 was issued because my aforesaid article had got all of them so annoyed.

Hence, because I empathise with them, I would oblige them in the best tradition of the Bar with a short reply, which should suffice.

Firstly, my concern on the independence of the 80 monitors from the Bar is not totally unfounded. Out of the 80 monitors, I personally know at least one of whom I follow on Twitter. On April 28, the day the Bersih 3.0 assembly was held, this monitor, albeit not based in Kuala Lumpur, had tweeted, inter alia, the following whilst undertaking monitoring duties:

  • Heading to @bersihxxx at Dataran xxx #Bersih. This is it, we love this nation. God save #Malaysia! We want clean & fair elections!
  • Bye-bye BN! RT @xxx: Water cannons and tear gas fired. Bye bye BN.
  • Don’t associate with them. Agent provocateur RT @xxx: #Bersih #Malaysia Unruly mob attacks police patrol car http://….

It follows that the political and social beliefs as well as the prejudices of these monitors are material to ascertain if the integrity and independence of their final report could be described as incontrovertible. Unfortunately, we were not provided with the names of these 80 monitors.

A fortiori, my political affiliation is not relevant compared to the monitors’ simply because I did not volunteer to assume such a heavy responsibility of being an independent monitor during the assembly.

Further, my MCA membership, albeit dormant, is a public knowledge and I have written several articles in that capacity anyway. Neither have I made any attempt to hide it. The fact remains that at least I do not pursue any political agenda under the guise of any organisation, be it political or non-governmental.

Of the many articles I have written, majority of them are critical of government policies and supportive of the Bar; the last being my support for the continuing professional development proposed by the Bar Council. (See “Lawyers must constantly improve skills”, March 9, 2012 in The Star)

The eight are probably oblivious, either deliberately or otherwise, of this fact — but hopefully not because they felt that was the natural thing I should do. In fact, I am in the least bothered by their insinuation that the stand I took in my aforesaid article was because of my MCA membership. As the saying goes, truth fears no trial and it is their assertion that is nothing but a fallacy.

Secondly, I am not just obsessed, but very obsessed with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. As a lawyer, I should be very concerned if this political leader, who aspires to be the future prime minister of our great nation, has no regard whatsoever for the rule of law and the due process of law.

The eight Loyarburokkers are clearly very economical with their criticisms of the breach of the barrier, which triggered the response from the police. They even argued that there was no compelling evidence on who had removed the barriers. In this respect, I know I am getting old but let me assure them that my eyesight is still good enough to watch the many videos posted on YouTube which showed otherwise.

Apropos, I am impressed that my eight learned friends were discerning enough to decipher the hidden meaning of my argument that if the Bar Council could rely on their conclusions based only on reports, so could I.

Thirdly and finally, it is not fair to portray that I condone police brutality. I have emphasised in my article as well as during the EGM that there is no excuse if the police had responded disproportionately to the act of breaching the barricade.

I made it clear in the EGM that I would support the resolutions against police brutality if the Bar would inveigh in similar language the acts of violence committed by those protesters who had behaved like rioters and anarchists during the assembly.

What I was also interested to find out before forming my judgment is what actually had caused some policemen and protesters to react in the way they did, taking into account various rumours surrounding it. The monitors’ report had, in fact, mentioned that protesters had thrown bottles at passing patrol cars as well as taunted policemen with derogatory shouts of “anjing” and “anjing kurap”.

When I raised this at the EGM, the Chairman, Lim Chee Wee did not think these acts were serious enough to warrant condemnation from the Bar prompting me to ask if it was all right from now on for the citizens to call policemen with such derogatory terms.

It is not true that no amendment was proposed to Resolution (12) as regards the conduct of the protesters. I specifically proposed that this should be placed in the same Resolution (1) with regard to police brutality but with respect, the Chairman disagreed with me.

In fact, I would also like an investigation to be done first on whether various steps allegedly taken by the police in dispersing crowd are in accordance with standard policing methods. In America, for example, the police there have even used Taser stun gun against contumacious protesters.

All in all, the resolution was initiated by the Bar Council and I obviously had hoped that the Council would have been more circumspect in their approach because the entire Bar looks to them for their guidance on various matters.

One would expect that even though the Council had decided at the eleventh hour to amend to include a resolution on the conduct of the protesters, the Council should have reasonably foreseen that merely expressing concern over such violent acts by rioters would be repugnant to many law-abiding citizens in this country.

All in all, the thrust of my aforesaid article is that the Bar must not only be independent and apolitical but seen to be independent and apolitical. In fact, there was clearly no necessity for the eight lawyers to get so annoyed. They should take my criticisms constructively.

After all, I was merely stating, whether rightly or wrongly, why I could not vote in favour of the motion. My criticisms were made not to divide but to strengthen the Bar out of my love for the Bar.

As their arguments against me are, in my humble view, both fallacious and mendacious, I shall treat the matter closed and venture no further to respond again.

Related link: Fallacies Spun by Critics of the Bar” (22 May 2012, by Edmund Bon, Fahri Azzat, Janet Chai, K Shanmuga, Mahaletchumy Balakrishnan, Marcus van Geyzel, Seira Sacha Abu Bakar, and Sharmila Sekaran)

The writer is a senior lawyer.