The legal profession has long been described as the noble profession. This is because of the many ethical demands required of lawyers in the execution of their duties. This includes, among others, the duty to the court, the duty to act in the best interest of the client, and the duty to not be put in a position of conflict of interest. Under any circumstances, it is axiomatic that a lawyer is required to put the court and his client before his own interest.
The recent Ijok Land Scandal has given us a textbook case of a lawyer’s ethical conundrum.
Sivarasa Rasiah and Latheefa Koya of Messrs Daim & Gamany (and its alter-ego Lawyers for Liberty) has long portrayed themselves to be champions of human rights in Malaysia. Where there is a human rights violation by the government (usually involving opposition politicians and their supporters), Sivarasa and Latheefa would be at the forefront either condemning the government or representing the victims (usually politicians and their supporters).
Ironically, Sivarasa and Latheefa have found themselves caught in a rather embarrassing situation in this Ijok Land Scandal [read Out-of-Court settlements - The Preferred Way To Launder Money].
You see, Daim & Gamany are purportedly acting for 980 settlors in Ijok. To most layperson, there is nothing unusual about this.
Apart from being a lawyer, Sivarasa is the Member of Parliament for Subang while Latheefa Koya is the Head of PKR’s legal bureau. Both Sivarasa and Latheefa are also members of the PKR Central Committee. Surely there is nothing wrong with their firm, Messrs Daim & Gamany, representing the 980 settlors?
The answer is yes, there is something deeply wrong with Messrs Daim & Gamany representing the 980 settlors.
The key player in the entire Ijok Land Scandal is the Selangor State Government led by Azmin Ali. Azmin Ali has taken the controversial stance of settling with the developers, Mujur Zaman and LBCN, for undisclosed terms.
The settlement between the Selangor State Government and the developers involved the settlors which have long been oppressed by the developers.
The problem here is not only both Sivarasa and Latheefa are in the same political party as Azmin Ali, they are also lawyers for the Selangor State Government and Azmin Ali. Both of them have a vested political interest in ensuring that the settlement is done. Evidently, there is a conflict of interest in Daim & Gamany representing the settlors and being Azmin’s lawyers at the same time.
It is not hard to see what their motivations are. Azmin Ali and PKR gets to trumpet the fiction that they have solved the 20 years old problems for the settlors and who knows what else, the developers get away scott-free with a handsome profit, and the settlors received their compensation. In PKR’s words, it’s a win-win for everybody.
Except that it isn’t.
Simple mathematics would show that the compensation received by the settlors is just a fraction of the market value of the lands (Read Eric See-To on ‘Ijok land scandal and Ijok land scandal Part 1).
The settlement terms between the Selangor State Government and the developers may not be in the best interest of the settlor. The settlors would not know whether the settlement would be in their best interest and would depend on their lawyers to advise them.
Being lawyers for the settlors, Sivarasa and Latheefa should advise the settlors that the settlement was not in their best interest and negotiate the best settlement possible for their clients. However in this case, it’s quite clear that they didn’t because no sound minded lawyer would advise their clients to accept a fraction of the market value of the lands as settlement.
What is more appalling is the fact that Sivarasa has came out defending Azmin Ali, PKR and the Selangor State Government as though as he is representing them in this scandal.
[Link to the post: https://www.facebook.com/sivarasa.rasiah.malaysia/].
It is no wonder that MACC paid him a visit.
Quite clearly, the biggest loser in this whole scandal is the settlors. They got screwed by the developers, got screwed by the Selangor State Government. The only person they could rely on is their lawyers who should have acted in their best interest but their lawyers are playing for the other side. Imagine the goalkeeper for your football team is a player for the other side, you would have never stood a chance!
The settlors are not without remedy, they can initiate a court action against Daim & Gamany for negligence to recover their losses. They can lodge a complaint with the Malaysian Bar Disciplinary Board against Daim & Gamany.
This is what happens when politician-lawyers allow their political interest overshadow their ethical duties as lawyers – their clients suffer.