By Tan Yi Liang | The Star
Lawyers have come out on blogs and social media to defend Edmund Bon representing embattled Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in his defamation suit against The Malaysian Insider.
According to them, Bon has not done anything wrong by acting for Khalid.
According to a post by lawyer Khabir Dhillon on the legal affairs blog LoyarBurok on Thursday, those who said that Bon sold out his principles by taking up Khalid’s defamation brief against online portal The Malaysian Insider were “silly”.
“An essential ingredient of defamation is that the statement complained of must be false. If the statement complained of is true, there is no defamation. Edmund as a lawyer does not know whether the statement complained of is true or false. Only his client, Khalid, knows,” said Khabir.
Khabir, in his post, added that Bon would only be guilty of a crime or disciplinary wrong if he issued a letter of demand against The Malaysian Insider if he knew the instructions he was receiving from his client, Khalid, were false.
He said that Bon was legally obliged to take the brief if there was no conflict of interest, practices in the area of defamation law, and that Khalid agrees to pay a reasonable price for Bon’s work.
“We cannot expect Bon to simply dismiss his client’s instructions as false and refuse to take the brief. That would actually be a disciplinary wrong and Bon would be subject to censure,” said Khabir.
He questioned what would have happened if lawyers were allowed to take and refuse cases at their own whims and fancies, reminding them of the cab-rank rule.
“It would be like living in a country where the taxi drivers can choose whether to take their customers or not! That’s so third-world-nation, dudes. He’s just following the Common Law as it truly is and acting with common sense,” said Khabir.
Similar views were shared by criminal defence lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad who said in a post on his Facebook page, Thursday, that he felt it was improper for anyone to question Khalid’s lawyers on their motives for defending the Selangor Mentri Besar.
“We must understand that a lawyer has a duty to represent anyone, even the most despicable person, provided there is no conflict of interest. It is the lawyer’s role to present the client’s perspective zealously within the bounds of law and ethics,” said Amer.
He described a lawyer as being akin to a surgeon in an operating room whose only goal is to save the patient, whether that patient is a good person or a bad person, a saint or a criminal, requiring a lawyer to subordinate all other interests – ideological, career, personal – to the legitimate interest of the client.
“In respect of the the Selangor Mentri Besar crisis, Khalid is entitled to file any legal action against any individual, institution and/or organisation whom he feels had infringed on his rights. Of course, one may question his motives or moves for doing so. One may even disagree with him,” said Amer.