Of lawyers, protests and burgers
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 18 May 2012
So Lord Bobo. Those darn Malaysian lawyers are at it again, I hear. A small minority of them went against the Will of the Majority, and their Bar Council passed a resolution condemning our hardworking boys in blue. Surely, the Bar Council must now register as a political party? Bemused Accountant, by email
First things first. The Malaysian Bar is a a body corporate established by an Act of Parliament, the Legal Profession Act 1976.
All lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia must be a member of the Malaysian Bar if they want to practise law i.e. hold themselves out as being able to advise on Malaysian law, to go to court on your behalf or to act on your behalf in the sale and purchase of houses, condos and other properties.
The Bar Council, on the other hand, are 36 members of the Malaysian Bar who are elected by the 14,000-strong membership to govern them. Think of the Bar Council as the board of directors, and the Malaysan Bar as the company.
So, the extraordinary general meeting was called by the Bar Council because of the unprecedented brutality shown by the police against peaceful protesters on April 28.
(Yes, yes ... there were some protesters who were violent as well, and some who apparently breached the barricade. But then why did the police leave the barricades? Why did the police fire tear gas within the crowd, thus boxing people in? Why were so many journalists beaten up, had their cameras smashed, and detained? Why was BBC and Al Jazeera coverage censored?)
But as usual, we digress. So about this EGM.
The quorum for the EGM was 500. It used to be one-fifth of the membership (at that time, of about 12,000 members), but this was amended by Parliament a few years ago to 500. Think of your listed companies – how many shreholders are there, and how many people actually turn up?
So naturally, not every single member turns up for a meeting. Five hundred is considered by Parliament a reasonable number for the Bar’s EGM to make decisions binding on its entire membership.
But 1,270 members of the Bar attended the EGM last Friday afternoon with just a week’s notice.
Now, the debate (this was more than a thousand lawyers after all) took about two hours. The meeting started at about 3.30pm, and the resolution was eventually voted on at around 5.30 pm, with 939 voting in favour.
Now, pay attention very closely. The remainder of this is important.
Nobody abstained. Only 16 people voted against. The 331 who did not vote had already left the building by the time voting was carried out.
In other words, they did not abstain.
So all that rubbish you have heard about “331 people did not vote in favour” is just as true as saying 13,000 people did not vote against.
So ignore the people who claim that the Bar is split on this issue. A small number of vocal lawyers are agitating against the Bar Council.
Except for one or two, most have never set foot in a Bar general meeting before and most have very close affinities with certain political movements or coalitions (You know what we mean, lah).
The vast majority of lawyers are very clear. Lawyers are not fools. They can can read the Internet, they can see Youtube videos, and they can apply common sense.
They know Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan as their former leader, and a lawyer of impeccable standing and integrity.
The vast majority of lawyers are fully behind the EGM resolution, which, you must remember, was passed with more than 12,000 people who did not vote against it.
Some high ranking boy in blue said that anyone can go and protest outside Ambiga’s house since we have a Peaceful Assembly Act? And I heard some dude was frying up burgers outside her house? Can ah like that wan? I want to open stall outside Prime Minister’s house! BKT, on back of a 4D results slip
The stock response to this question would be: “This is 1Malaysia Bolehland lah. Everything can unless the government says cannot. You dunno wan ah?”
Of course, the basic principle of universal human rights law is that your human rights extend only until they interfere with another’s rights.
Ambiga is unarguably a public figure now, and so her rights to privacy perhaps weigh less in the balance than the rights of people to protest.
However, lest you run off and set up your stall, be aware that both setting up a stall AND hawking food, drinks or other goods require two separate licences under the Licensing of Hawkers and Stalls (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) By-laws 1989.
A food stall which is not mobile or attached to a vehicle cannot simply be moved around. The licence given is for a specific site.
This may be why the burger stall f’ler who set up shop outside her house gave his burgers away in a protest at his loss of business! (One suspects he lost business because he does not know how to do business.)
The police cannot just say anyone is free to protest in a residential road. The right to peaceful assembly is not an absolute right.
Restrictions to this right must have a formal legal basis, be precise and proportionate to very specific needs such as all that jazz about reasons of national security, preserving public order, public health or public morality and the rights and freedoms of others.
Bersih 3.0 should have been allowed because it was a one-time peaceful protest meant to raise public awareness and influence change in government policy.
The mob outside Ambi’s house are just jackasses, who are trying to criminally intimidate her: thus far, they have set up a shop making meat burgers and offering this vegetarian Brahmin Hindu one, and performed an “exercise” which was effectively just lewd male posturing.
The police must be there to ensure both sides are permitted their freedoms. They can’t just wash their hands off it.
But hey – Malaysia Boleh, right? Except if you want to assemble at a place named for our independence, asking for free and fair elections.
That one, Malaysia Tak Boleh lah!