Malaysian Bar deplores unethical practices, but reminds law enforcers to respect legal rights after MACC detains lawyer

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — In a resolute stance against unethical practices within the legal profession, the Malaysian Bar has reaffirmed its commitment to upholding integrity and honesty.

Its president Mohamad Ezri Abdul Wahab emphasised the critical importance of maintaining ethical standards, citing their foundational role in fostering public trust.

“Dishonest conduct by lawyers contradicts the core principles of integrity and honesty that define our profession.

“Such behaviour not only violates ethical standards but also erodes confidence in the legal system,” he said in a statement yesterday after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) detained lawyer Lai Chee Hoe for alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

At the same time, Ezri reminded enforcement agencies of the legal professional privilege and the right to legal representation, stressing their indispensable role in ensuring a fair and just legal system.

“We urge enforcement bodies, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), to respect legal professional privilege.

“These rights safeguard individuals' ability to seek confidential legal advice without fear of reprisal,” he said.

Citing a 2018 Federal Court decision in the case of Tan Chong Kean v Yeoh Tai Chuan and others, Ezri highlighted the court's affirmation of legal professional privilege as crucial to the administration of justice.

He reminded members of the Malaysian Bar of their duty to uphold legal professional privilege and emphasised the obligation to refuse disclosure of privileged information or documents without explicit written consent from clients.

“The Malaysian Bar remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding the rule of law.

“We call on all enforcement bodies to cease unlawful practices that undermine legal rights and privileges,” he said.

The MACC came under fire from members of the legal fraternity after its detention of Lai and questioning of another lawyer Irwin Lo in connection with a separate investigation, prompting renewed calls for the protection of legal professional privilege and the right to legal representation amid scrutiny of the legal profession.

Responding to the allegations, MACC chief Tan Sri Azam Baki defended the commission’s actions to The Edge, saying Lai was under investigatinon for embezzlement and abuse of power, while Lo was sought to assist in the investigations.

“Lai acted as the legal advisor and is the former chairman of the joint management body (of the property in question); he, together with several committee members, were suspected of abusing their power to embezzle funds in the management and maintenance account.

“There is no issue of interference with the right of public legal representation.

“The focus of the investigation team was on the issue of abuse of power and embezzlement carried out by Lai and not to get information on his client,” Azam was quoted as saying.