Watching Brief at Anwar Trial

October 31, 1998

The Bar Council proposes to hold a watching brief at the trial of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim commencing on Monday 2 November 1998. The Bar Council is of the opinion that the trial is of public importance and raises issues of public interest relating to law and justice that merits the presence of the Council on a watching brief.

The Bar Council also supports the presence of international legal observers and representatives from international legal bodies at the trial. The trial has generated world-wide media interest. It is important therefore that it be seen by all that the Malaysian legal system and criminal justice system is fair and impartial and that it guarantees a fair trial to an accused person.

As regards the language to be used at the trial, and the Circular by the Honourable Chief Justice, the legal position under Section 8 of the National Language Act leaves it ultimately to the discretion of the trial judge as to the degree of English that is to be used. This decision has to be a judicial decision based on the interests of justice and is dependent upon the level of proficiency of Counsel and witnesses in Bahasa. In law, the Circular stands as an administrative guide-line for Judges generally on the scope and application of Section 8 as amended, but it is for the Judge in each case to decide independently in accordance with justice as to the degree of English to be used at the trial.

Dated : 31 October 1998

Dato' Dr. Cyrus Das, President, Malaysian Bar

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