Anwar: More than just a lawyer, Sulaiman Abdullah was a close friend who stood by my family

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today paid tribute to senior lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah who died yesterday at the age of 77.

Taking to his official account on X (formerly known as Twitter), Anwar described Sulaiman as not just a lawyer, but also a close friend who stood by him and his family during dark and difficult times.

Anwar said he was deeply affected upon receiving news of Sulaiman’s death while still in Tokyo, Japan for a work visit.

“His strong convictions and conscience towards the principles of justice and human rights are indisputable,” he said in the posting.

Sulaiman was also the lead defence counsel in Anwar’s second sodomy case but was forced to withdraw in July 2009 due to health issues.

The news of his passing was confirmed by his son, actor and director Huzir Sulaiman.

In a short message, he said that his father’s funeral rites will take place on Tuesday (Dec 19) at the Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Aziz, Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya, at 1.10pm, following zohor prayers.

“I was present at his passing together with my wife Claire, as well his devoted personal assistant and caregiver Siti Nur Abdullah, supported by Muhammad Hamza, as well as family members and friends,” said Huzir.

“Despite my father’s many health challenges, particularly in the last decade, his sharp mind and dry wit remained unaffected. He continued to represent clients and serve on various committees and advisory panels,” he added.

Huzir then said that an online memorial service open to all will be organised in a few weeks.

“Should the legal community wish to organise a memorial, it would be welcomed,” he added.

The Malaysian Bar also extended its condolences to Sulaiman’s family.

Sulaiman was the Malaysian Bar Council President from 1993 to 1995 and the president from 2000 to 2001; he was also a co-chair of the Pro Bono & Access to Justice Committee of the International Bar Association between 2007 and 2009.

He has also represented state and federal Islamic bodies in recent years.

Sulaiman appeared for a religious council in the case of Lina Joy, who was born to a Malay Muslim couple but became a Christian at the age of 26. She had wanted the word “Islam” removed from her identity card.

He also represented the Terengganu Malay Customs and Islamic Religious Council in the Catholic Church’s application to review a judgment that prevented the weekly Herald from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, among others.

Sulaiman was also the lead counsel for former Perak mentri besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin who wanted to reclaim his position following the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis.

Sulaiman was also the prosecution lawyer for the corruption case of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He graduated with a law degree from the University of Singapore in 1969, and later obtained a master’s in law from the University of London.

Sulaiman also holds a diploma in Syariah Law and Practice from International Islamic University Malaysia.