Instituting judicial reforms in Malaysia will not scare foreign investors away, the country’s largest lawyers’ group said Tuesday, rejecting a warning by the prime minister.
The Malaysian Bar Council, which represents 12,000 attorneys, claims the government is not doing enough to resolve a scandal sparked when a video clip was released purportedly showing a prominent lawyer brokering the appointment of top judges.Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a gathering of lawyers Monday that the council sent “negative vibes to domestic and foreign investors” when it held a rare public demonstration last month to highlight alleged judicial corruption.About 1,000 lawyers marched through Malaysia’s administrative capital Sept. 26, urging authorities to investigate the video clip and change how judges are appointed.Council President Ambiga Sreenevasan said Tuesday Abdullah was entitled to his views, but she defended the council’s moves as necessary because “we certainly felt that no one was listening.”"We think that problems with the judiciary are what would damage investments — not freedom of expression,” Ambiga told reporters.Abdullah had urged lawyers not to be “irrationally negative or unduly pessimistic,” adding that he wants to work with the council “sincerely and without preconditions, as well as without being suspicious of each other.”The government has set up an independent panel to probe the authenticity of the video, but says there is no need to overhaul the judiciary.Currently, the prime minister chooses senior judges, although the king formally appoints them. The Bar Council wants an impartial commission to evaluate candidates.Ambiga said council officials hope to accept Abdullah’s invitation to meet soon to discuss their concerns, but added that the council “cannot be restrained” in expressing its views.”We want a dialogue with him,” Ambiga said. “We also form the voice of the public.”Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.