Bar slams police chief over Americk comments

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(Dec 2): The Malaysian Bar has slammed Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar for making "disparaging" remarks about Americk Singh Sidhu, the lawyer for Charles Morais, the brother of murdered deputy public prosecutor Datuk Anthony Kevin Morais.

Its president Steven Thiru said the Bar was "shocked" by Khalid's remarks, calling them "unjustified and unbecoming of the office of the IGP".

He said the trend of police targeting lawyers because of who they represented was unacceptable.

He cited the case of Matthias Chang, the lawyer who was detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act and charged with sabotaging the economy together with his client, former Umno man Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan.

Thiru said it was perplexing that Khalid appeared "indifferent" to the rights and obligations of an advocate and solicitor under the Legal Profession Act 1976 and the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978.

"The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice. It must not be curtailed by acts of police intimidation, harassment or victimisation.

"The IGP’s reported statements are a serious violation of this independence, and an affront to the administration of justice," he said in a statement last night.

Thiru (pic, left) said Khalid must respect solicitor-client privilege which was critical to the administration of justice, and uphold the rights and obligations of lawyers to discharge their responsibilities without obstruction.

He said unless the limited exceptions to the principle in Section 126 of the Evidence Act 1950 applied, any attempt to ignore or circumvent solicitor-client privilege must be condemned.

The limited exceptions are where there is “(a) any such communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose; (b) any fact observed by any advocate in the course of his employment as such showing that any crime or fraud has been committed since the commencement of his employment”.

Thiru also cited Article 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the 8th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990.

It states that lawyers "shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions".

Americk was recently retained by Charles, a US-based businessman, to prepare a statutory declaration (SD) on events leading to Kevin’s death.

Khalid reportedly said that Americk had a bad reputation when it came to SDs, adding that it was not the first time his client disappeared after making an SD.

Charles left for the United States on Thursday, after releasing a SD in which he linked Kevin's murder to a corruption charge sheet against a highly-placed political leader.

At the time of his abduction on Sept 4, Kevin was in the Attorney-General's Chambers, after he returned from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

In 2008, Americk prepared the first SD for private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, which implicated Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and several others in the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The next day, Bala issued a second SD, retracting the previous one, before fleeing the country, only to return in 2013. Bala died of a heart attack soon after.

"Instead of launching into this tirade of abuse, the IGP and the police should focus on investigating the veracity of the SD," Thiru added.

Americk was questioned by the police for two hours at his office about his client Charles, the SD and a pen drive Charles claimed to contain information implicating powerful individuals. He has since threatened to sue Khalid for defamation. – The Malaysian Insider