Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ)

KUALA LUMPUR: Any lawyer or member of the Bar Council must not obstruct enforcement officers from carrying out their duties as provided by the law, and such an act should not be condoned, the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) said today.

They were commenting on the case of Bar Council member Siti Zabedah Kasim, better known as Siti Kasim, who allegedly obstructed a Federal Territories Religious Department (Jawi) officer from carrying out her duties during a raid on an event here last year.

In a statement, CLJ said they were shocked by a defensive proclamation on the matter issued on Thursday by the Bar Council’s chairman, George Varughese.

“While CLJ agrees in principle with the Bar Council that ‘the independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice, this must however not be abused to the extent of putting lawyers above the reach of the law.

“Instead, an advocate and solicitor is duty-bound, even in representing clients and carrying out duties in defence of a suspected offender, to uphold the law and dignity of the profession at all times; to conduct (themselves) with candour, courtesy and fairness; and to refrain from insulting or annoying attitudes, as laid down by the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978, as well as embodied in Principle 12 of the United Nations Basic Principle on the Role of Lawyers,” said CLJ secretary-general Fatihah Jamhari.

According to Fatihah, the fracas between Siti and the Jawi officer, which was captured on video and circulated online, has been witnessed by the public – and CLJ was shocked and concerned over the brutal intimidation and ruthless harassment thrown at Jawi officers who were merely carrying out their duties.

“While the video may not be conclusive, at the very least, we believe it provides compelling evidence showing that the charge (levelled) against Siti Kasim is indeed fair, and must be allowed to be litigated in full in a court of law.

“It is improper for the Chairman of the Bar Council to hinder or condemn due process from being carried out, especially when the person charged is currently a member of the Bar Council, for it would open the door for speculation as to whether the Bar Council is actually being biased in its stance – not to mention, it would also be against the principle of equality before the law,” it said.

CLJ further urged the Bar Council to uphold the rule of law; to reaffirm the sanctity and supremacy of the Federal Constitution; to subscribe to the principle of courtesy and morality as declared in the Rukun Negara; and to reaffirm its commitment to allow necessary enforcement functionaries to carry out their duties without intimidation and harassment.

It was reported that Siti was investigated by police for criminal intimidation and obstruction of public servants after she defended transwomen from being arrested during a dinner at a local hotel in April last year.

Jawi had raided the private fundraising event by the transgender community at the venue.

On June 23, Siti claimed trial at the magistrate's court to a charge of obstructing the Jawi officer from carrying out her public function.

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