Malaysian Bar Chief praises Bar Council for show of solidarity

17 October 2016

In his speech to the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference 2016 this Saturday, the President of the Malaysian Bar Association, Steven Thiruneelakandan highlighted the threats to the independence of his profession and thanked the Bar Council for standing in solidarity with the Malaysian Bar.

He said: "We are currently facing an unprecedented threat to our independence in the form of proposals to amend our governing law, the Legal Profession Act 1976."

The President described the proposals, which include the appointment of government representatives to sit in the Bar council, as "a frontal assault on the independence of the Malaysian Bar, and an undisguised attempt to interfere with our internal management and administration."

Thanking the Bar Council, Steven Thiruneelakandan said: "I wish here to place on record, the Malaysian Bar's gratitude to the Bar of England and Wales, who together with about 20 other leading international law associations and national Bar organisations, have resolutely and unequivocally spoken up in support of, and in solidarity with, the Malaysian Bar.

"This chorus of condemnation of the attack on us has reinforced the importance of the independence of the bar, as a universal principle of the Rule of Law and a hallmark of a free society."

The independence of the Bar is, he said, "the right of every citizen", and he described it as "fundamental to the independence of the judiciary", and "vital to the economic progress and development of a nation."

Talking about the role played by technology in legal services, Steven Thiruneelakandan said that "innovations should not be feared, [but] we must approach them with due care and attention, in the public interest."

He said: "Innovations such as artificial intelligence . . .  may well shake the current pillars of the legal profession, and possibly cause the displacement of lawyers. We must not be oblivious to these disruptions that are fast engulfing us, and must be prepared to handle them."

Speaking on pro bono and the role of the Young Bar, he said: "The Young Bar must also keep alive the spirit of pro bono provision of legal services for the vulnerable and marginalised in society, and answer our calling to be a voice for the voiceless. This is in the best traditions of the Bar, and is a vital aspect of access to justice and the upholding of the Rule of Law."

President of the Malaysian Bar Association, Steven Thiruneelakandan made these remarks in the closing speech to the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference on 15 October 2016.

The full speech is available here.


Notes to Editors

1. The leaders of the Bar of England and Wales, Bar of Northern Ireland, Faculty of Advocates and Bar Human Rights Committee wrote a joint letter to the President of Malaysia in July 2016 to express their concerns about the Legal Profession Act 1976. The letter is available here.

2. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and

3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board