Malaysian Bar: Najib’s decision to discharge legal team an act of self-inflicted injustice

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The justice system in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s SRC International case is being abused and brought to disrepute, says the Malaysian Bar.

Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn said that this is through the frantic acts and numerous attempts to postpone the hearing; the application to discharge from acting for the former prime minister; defiance by refusing to proceed with submissions on the appeal after the Federal Court had made its ruling; and the sudden discharge of Zaid Ibrahim, Liew Teck Huak and Rueben Mathiavaranam by Najib.

Cheah said attempts to undermine the justice system through unscrupulous strategies are a perversion of the justice system and an abuse of the court process.

“The advocates and solicitors involved in such acts have conducted themselves unprofessionally and would have to face disciplinary action,” she said in a statement on Friday (Aug 19).

Cheah said a lawyer must examine his mind and assess that he is able to proceed with a case before deciding to take it.

“Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 (LPPER) states that an advocate and solicitor shall not accept any brief unless he is reasonably certain of being able to appear and represent the client on the hearing dates fixed by the court.

“The new lawyer must also adhere to Rule 24(a) of the LPPER, which provides that an advocate and solicitor shall make every effort to be ready for trial on the day fixed,” she said.

Cheah said while Najib was entitled to appoint new lawyers to take over his case, he should have known the risk that the court may not necessarily allow any requests for postponement of the hearing.

“By the same token, the client that discharges his or her lawyer or a lawyer who seeks to be discharged from representing his or her client, is still subject to the overall control and discretion of the court whether to allow such discharge.

“Simply put, it is not an automatic entitlement.

“The decision to change lawyers so late at this stage was his. Therefore, any purported injustice he claims himself to be in, if any, is surely self-inflicted,” she said.

Today, Najib discharged law firm Zaid Ibrahim Sufian TH Liew & Partners from acting as his solicitors, just about three and a half weeks after they were hired.

Najib had previously dropped his counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and the rest of his defence team on July 25.

Currently, the former prime minister is represented by lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who himself had yesterday applied to be discharged if the Federal Court refused to defer hearing the final appeal.

His reasoning was that he did not have enough time to prepare for the case.

Hisyam has since declined to file any submissions to defend Najib in the case.