CLA News / CLA Observer Report – Malaysian Bar’s Walk for Judicial Independence
The Malaysian Bar organised a peaceful protest interference with the independence of the Malaysian judiciary. It was held on 17 June 2022. It was called “Walk for Judicial Independence “.
CLA was informed that an Extraordinary General Meeting of members of the Malaysian Bar had been convened on 27 May 2022 in response to attempts by certain parties to undermine public confidence in the Malaysian judiciary. CLA was also informed that it was resolved at that meeting that a peaceful protest by members of the Malaysian Bar should be organised in respect of the “unprecedented “attacks on the Malaysian judiciary.
The CLA was invited by the Malaysian Bar, inter-alia, to attend the peaceful protest as an independent observer. I was appointed to act as the observer. It is to be noted that I am a former President of the Malaysian Bar (2015 – 2017) and I am still a member of the Malaysian Bar. Hence, this is an observer’s report, and not an independent observer’s report.
The peaceful protest that was planned was for members of the Bar to assemble at a designated venue (Padang Merbok car park, Kuala Lumpur) by 11 am on 17 June 2022 and then to march to Parliament house (about 2 km). The President of the Malaysian Bar, Karen Cheah, and the other Office Bearers were then to meet the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), Datuk Wira Hajah Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and deliver the Malaysian Bar’s Memorandum “Upholding and Protecting the Independence of the Judiciary and the Preservation of Public Confidence in the Judiciary“ to her.
Members of the Malaysian Bar began gathering at the designated venue from about 10 am on the 17 June 2022, dressed in black and white court attire. There was a heavy police presence, including at all entry and exit points to the venue. This included the police “Light Strike Force“ in full riot control gear. It is estimated that about 600 members were present, and there were approximately 200 police officers. Additionally, there were also members of Parliament present including those who were members of the Malaysian Bar. Members of the press were present too. The police did not prevent the arrival and gathering of participants for the peaceful protest.
There were then speeches by President Karen Cheah, and the other Office Bearers. These speeches covered the chronology of events leading to the peaceful protest and the steps that had been taken by the Bar. There were also statements on the importance of the doctrine of separation of powers in government, the sanctity of the independence of the judiciary and the eschewing of attempts to undermine the judiciary. The police did not interfere with the delivery of the speeches.
It was almost 11am when members of the Malaysian Bar, led by President Karen Cheah and the Office Bearers, began to march to Parliament. However, the police prevented the march. There was at this time a police blockade – a human chain of police officers – at all entry and exits points. Efforts were made by President Karen Cheah and other members of the Bar to persuade the police to allow the march to proceed. These efforts were futile. The police refused to relent.
There was then a rather tense impasse. At one point, President Karen Cheah, the Office Bearers, and the gathered participants for the peaceful protest appeared to have been detained by the police as they were unable to freely exit. This led to sporadic attempts by some members to breach the police blockade, but this too was to no avail. It became quite chaotic, and the police remained adamant that the march to Parliament could not proceed.
Subsequently, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) arrived at Padang Merbok. She accepted the Memorandum. After she left, President Karen Cheah again addressed members of the Bar, and she expressed disapproval over the conduct of the police.
Members of the Bar then began to disperse by 11.45am and the peaceful protest ended.
Vice -President (Australasia), CLA.