Bar chairman selected for Sri Lankan legal mission

(Updated )

Malaysian Bar Council chairman Mah Weng Kwai has been appointed by the International Bar Association (IBA) to be part of a delegation to address various legal issues in war-torn Sri Lanka.

Mah said in a statement today that he would be joining two other eminent law experts to visit Sri Lanka tomorrow to discuss various matters relating to the rule of law and to review the current state of judiciary and legal profession in that country.

The other two are former chairman of the English and Welsh Bar Lord Brennan QC and former chief justice of India's Karnataka and Kerala states, Justice VS Malimath.

"The delegation was convened after the international community raised concerns on the announcement by Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga that there will be a referendum on constitutional reform," said Mah.

"She said recently that should a referendum produce a majority vote in favour of replacing the constitution, the government would push through a new constitution without referring to parliament."

Mah added that the delegation will produce an independent and objective report after meeting the Sri Lankan foreign affairs minister, the chief justice and members of the judiciary and legal profession.

IBA Malaysian report

Mah said that it was an honour for him as the president of the Malaysian Bar, which represents about 10,000 lawyers, to be appointed by the IBA to this mission.

The lawyer also said that the IBA has a distinguished record of undertaking similar visits to other countries with the intention of promoting the rule of law, judicial independence and lawyers' right to practice without any interference.

IBA is a federation of 180 Bar Associations and Law Societies from 183 countries. It was formed in 1947 and represents the global legal profession.

Last April, the IBA, in a report on the state of justice in Malaysia said there were "well-founded" concerns with regards to the lack of judicial independence here.

The judiciary, then under chief justice Eusoff Chin's leadership, had become a target of adverse criticisms by the international legal and judicial community over the handling of many high profile cases including the criminal cases involving former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

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