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Date: 19 Nov 1999
Malaysian court bans lawyers' meeting to complain about judiciary
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 (AFP) - A Malaysian court Friday banned a meeting called by top lawyers to air concerns about a lack of public confidence in the judiciary.
The High Court granted an interim injunction sought by lawyer K. Raja Segaran to stop Saturday's planned special meeting of the Bar Council, the state Bernama news agency reported. The council represents more than 8,000 lawyers.
Government ministers said last month that plans for the meeting were politically motivated.
Raja Segaran said in his application that the meeting and the adoption of a proposed resolution would constitute contempt of court and contravene the Sedition Act, Bernama reported.
The resolution called for authorities to investigate "all relevant instances of controversy that have undermined confidence in the Malaysian judiciary."
It also urged the setting up of a royal commission to recommend ways "to ensure that confidence in the Malaysian judiciary is fully restored."
The Bar Council said last month it was worried over "pronouncements in certain important branches of the law such as the law of contempt and the law of defamation, and with the administration of justice generally."
Raja Segaran said the meeting would cause irreparable damage to the independence of the judiciary and public confidence in it.
Judge R.K. Nathan said such a meeting would seem to contravene the Sedition Act but any action was up to prosecutors.
"In any event, it is my judgment that the plaintiff in actual fact is protecting the defendants from plunging into an abyss from which they cannot emerge unscathed," he said, adding the Bar Council could make more submissions during an application for a permanent injunction.
The judge praised Raja Segaran's actions. "The plaintiff was single-handedly taking on the entire bar," he said.
Last month a minister warned the council against any action against what he called the national interest.
"If destabilising the country is their intention, then it has to be checked in the interest of the country's legal system," said Ibrahim Ali, deputy minister in the prime minister's department.
Deputy Home Minister Azmi Khalid also charged that the special meeting was politically motivated.
The council has frequently criticised the way legal proceedings against former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim have been conducted. Anwar, sacked and arrested in September 1998, was jailed for six years in April for corruption and is now on trial for sodomy.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last month accused Anwar's counsel Karpal Singh, who is also an opposition lawmaker, of acting not as a defence lawyer but an opposition politician hoping to gain mileage.