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Profound Concern about the Recently proposed Changes to the Legal Profession Act of 1976 (the “LPA”)

At the end of May 2016, the President of the Malaysian Bar, Mr. Stephen Thiru, indicated that the government of Malaysia proposed several changes to the Legal Profession Act of 1976 (the “LPA”). The proposed amendments are scheduled to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat during the next Parliamentary session from October to November 2016. President Thiru alerted to the potential dangers these amendments posed to the independence of the Bar.  Among the proposed changes:

-  The proposed appointment by the Malaysian Government of two members of the Bar Council. Even if these two members could not be appointed as President, Vice-president, Secretary or Treasurer, their presence could inhibit free, open and robust debate at Bar Council Meetings and compromise the ability of the Bar Council to act independently;

-  The change in the quorum at general meetings of the Malaysian Bar and State Bars --- from 500 members to 25% of total membership, or 4000 members – which would cripple the Bar Council’s ability to hold meetings and take decisions;

- The proposed empowerment of the Minister in charge of legal affairs to determine the electoral rules and regulations of the Malaysian Bar;

- Other proposed amendments to the processes and procedures governing election of members and Office Bearers of the Bar Council, such as the elimination of the postal ballot and the creation of additional eligibility restrictions for the Bar Council members, all of which would interfere with the independent and democratic functioning of the Bar Council.

The UIA sent to Malaysian authorities a letter to express its concerns regarding the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 and will continue to actively monitor the situation ( see below).

The independence of the Malaysian Bar, which has always been at the forefront of the defense of the rule of law and fundamental  lately has been  under serious threat.

On April 6, 2016, during the debate at the Dewan Rakyat, one of the parliamentarians suggested that the Attorney-General be automatically appointed as the chairman of the Bar Council of Malaysia. This suggestion was made after criticizing the Bar Council for its role in demanding greater government accountability.