KUALA LUMPUR: George Varughese was elected Malaysian Bar president today, replacing Steven Thiru who completed his two-year term.
Immediate past treasurer Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor was elected vice-president while Roger Chan Weng Keng and Ravi Nekoo were made secretary and treasurer respectively.
George, the former vice-chairman, told reporters that the four office-bearers of the Malaysian Bar were elected at the first Bar Council meeting this evening after the annual general meeting.
Under the Legal Profession Act 1976, 38 council members, including the state Bar committee chairmen would convene to elect the top bearers via a secret ballot.
In his maiden press conference, Varughese said 841 lawyers attended the meeting and four resolutions were approved with overwhelming majorities.
He said the motion to ban the serving of alcohol at Bar events was voted out while another to censure lawyer Siti Kasim for uploading a video of the Kuala Lumpur Bar annual general meeting proceedings was withdrawn.
George said lawyer Mohd Amir Sharil Bahari Md Noor, who moved the motion, decided to withdraw it as it was academic.
“There is already a pending complaint before the disciplinary board. As such his motion is academic,” he said.
The four motions approved were the Kelantan Orang Asli land and resources claim and indigenous peoples’ rights, deaths in police custody and police brutality, prosecution of policemen responsible for deaths in custody, as well as the repeal of all detention without trial laws.
He said the Bar would work with the government to revive the National Legal Aid Foundation to assist the poor and needy to represent them in criminal cases.
The programme initiated in 2012 was met with hiccups as payments for lawyers who participated in the scheme were not prompt since last August.
“The delay in payments was purely administrative not due to lack of funds,” he said.
Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali, who is also the YBGK chairman, last September ordered his officials to prepare a report following claims that the legal aid scheme was on the verge of collapse.
The AG, who also doubles as public prosecutor, said no accused person from a poor financial background should be denied a trial.
FMT understands that the total amount owed to lawyers in the peninsula between January and August last year is about RM3.4 million.
State legal aid committees had to literally beg its members to represent suspects and accused persons.
Between April 2012 and December last year, YBGK lawyers handled 551,152 cases. -FMT