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In the first Bar Council meeting held immediately after the AGM, the following Office Bearers were elected for the 2009/2010 term:

President Ragunath Kesavan
Vice-President Lim Chee Wee
Secretary George Varughese
Treasurer Tony Woon Yeow Thong

The report of the Advocates and Solicitors’ Disciplinary Board was of particular interest to the Members. Members voiced concerns over the touting problem, and implored the Disciplinary Board to take action. Several Members objected to the practice of naming and shaming Members who are called up by the Disciplinary Board, citing that it is unnecessary save where a Member has been suspended or struck off the Roll.

Other Members felt that naming and shaming is a great disincentive to all Members, and should be continued. The President said the practice will continue as the sanctions meted out by the Disciplinary Board, although a private tribunal, are made known to Members of the Bar. The President also assured Members that the Disciplinary Board will take action against touts but Members will have to lodge specific complaints to warrant action being taken.

Members complained about the difficulty in accessing and retrieving court files, as many files are allegedly misplaced or go missing, and court registry staff are rude and uncooperative. The President said that the Bar Council can take this issue up if Members lodge complaints and provide details of the specific incidents and the persons involved. The State Bar Committee Members can then highlight these specific incidents during their regular meetings with the Judiciary.

Members were divided over the efficacy of the newly-implemented fast track system at the Kuala Lumpur Courts. Some expressed disappointment with it and called for its abolishment while others commended it for ensuring the expedient disposal of cases. The President called on Members to be patient with the system and to give it a chance to function effectively.

During the discussion relating to the report of the Solicitors’ Remuneration Enforcement Committee, the President highlighted the Committee’s meeting with Bank Negara Malaysia where several issues were raised, including acts by certain banks inciting solicitors to breach the “No Discount Rule” and bank officers asking for discounts or giving discounts under the guise of “free legal fees”. She clarified that Bank Negara Malaysia officials had unanimously agreed that all banks must comply with the Solicitors’ Remuneration Order (“SRO”). Bank Negara Malaysia has given its assurance that action will be taken against banks who breach the SRO if full and specific details are provided. The President informed Members that the Bar Council had written to banks to inform them that action can be taken against them if they ask lawyers for discounts, and that the Committee would look into this matter again.

The lively debate on the Bar Council’s motion on SRO enforcement centred around these main points:

● The reasons for needing to revoke the Solicitors’ Remuneration (Enforcement) Rules 2004 made under section 57(a) of the LPA and to provide for fresh rules to be made under section 77;

● Whether the increased powers proposed to be given to the Bar Council to enforce the SRO were too wide and a breach of solicitor-client privilege;

● Whether considerations of service to the public, and public interest, ought to be taken into account in deciding whether to allow for discounting of scale fees; and

● The experience in other jurisdictions that had discontinued scale fees and allowed discounts.

The results of the ten motions are as follows:

1) The motion on setting up a Self-Insurance Fund as an alternative to the present Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme, by the Bar Council: Motion was unanimously carried.

2) Usul berkenaan hak-hak Orang Asli, dicadangkan oleh Majlis Peguam (Motion on indigenous peoples’ rights, by the Bar Council): Amended motion was unanimously carried.

3) Motion on detention without trial laws, by the Bar Council: Motion was unanimously carried.

4) Motion on deaths in custody, by the Bar Council: Motion was unanimously carried.

5) Motion on detention of P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kengatharan and V Ganabatirau under the ISA, by M Manogar: Amended motion was unanimously carried.

6) Motion on SRO Enforcement, by the Bar Council:

a) Amended motion on paragraph 1 was put to a vote, but was not carried: In favour – 89, Against – 140, Abstentions – 5.

b) Amended motion on paragraph 2 was put to a vote, but was not carried: In favour – 70, Against – 155, Abstentions – 6.

c) Paragraphs 3 and 4 were withdrawn.

7) Motion on hillside development, by the Bar Council: Motion was unanimously carried.

8) Motion of censure against Bar Council 2008/2009, by Major Dato’ M S Murthi: Motion was put to a vote, but was not carried: In favour – 4, Against – 122, Abstentions – 0.

9) Motion of no-confidence against Bar Council 2008/2009, by Major Dato’ M S Murthi: Withdrawn.

10) Motion on the Draft Rules to govern meetings of the Malaysian Bar, the Bar Council and the State Bar and its Committees, by P Suppiah: Withdrawn.

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