KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 – Hundreds of Malaysian lawyers in their black suits and white caps had turned up in Padang Merbok since early this morning to join a peaceful protest – “Walk for Judicial Independence” – against the recent reported interference and instances of intimidation against the judiciary system.
While the plan was for the lawyers to march to Parliament to handover a memorandum to a minister, the police held on to their decision announced yesterday that the protest will be allowed but no permission will be given for the march to Parliament. Although the police eventually agreed to allowing 20 representatives to walk to the Parliament to hand over the memorandum, the Malaysian Bar declined the offer.
Bar President Karen Cheah eventually handed over the memorandum to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin at the Padang Merbok, with the latter giving an assurance that it would be handed over to the Prime Minister as soon as possible.
The memo sought the government’s assurance of judicial independence in the country.
The “Walk for judicial independence” came following alleged intimidation towards the judiciary, as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) began investigation into Court of Appeal judge Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
Nazlan was the High Court judge who had convicted former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the RM42 million SRC International, finding him guilty of seven charges involving abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.
The MACC began its probe on Nazlan following claims that he had an unexplained sum of more than RM1 million in his bank account. The investigation papers are now in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) pending further action.
Among those who joined today’s walk to defend judicial independence in the country was former attorney-general Tommy Thomas.
The event followed a petition by six former Malaysian Bar presidents – Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, Steven Thiru, Datuk Lim Chee Wee, Datuk Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari – to organise a “walk of justice” to defend the institution of the judiciary against alleged intimidation.
In the petition, they said certain quarters in recent events had shown total disregard for the independence of the judiciary, and there had been several occasions of alleged intimidation.
Ambiga on Thursday urged all lawyers to join in the protest and rise against what she said was an attempt to undermine the country’s judiciary system.