Bar council questions the government's move to elevate the eight, half of whom were involved in the Anwar Ibrahim case Malaysia's legal community is set for a new clash with the government over the promotion of eight judges, four of whom were involved in the controversial jailing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy and corruption charges. The 12,000-strong Malaysian Bar Council has called an emergency general meeting for today to discuss action over the promotions after the government angrily rebuffed a call for a full explanation. The bar council is demanding to know why the eight were promoted over more senior, experienced and eligible judges. The government says the council has no right to question the promotions that were announced in July and came into effect in August. The government said the eight judges were promoted based on their experience and the speed with which they had conducted trials and delivered judgments. The decision has set off a heated debate between government leaders, lawyers and the public, focusing not only on the promotions but also on whether protests against them should be legally allowed, and if they amount to contempt of court. Both sides have dredged up obscure English cases going back to the 16th century to buttress their respective opinions. Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz has defended the promotions, saying the government considered the judges' experience, private life, integrity and the speed at which they conducted trials. Judges are appointed by the king but on the advice of the government. The government says that since it is the king's prerogative, the promotions should not be questioned. Bar council president Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said on Wednesday that the July promotions had been 'en block' and had bypassed many senior judges and should not have happened. 'The lack of full and credible explanation allows negative speculation to flourish,' he said. 'We want an independent commission to decide on the promotion and transfer of judges to ensure the credibility and transparency of the system.' There are privately whispered allegations among lawyers that the promotions were in part a reward for services rendered to the government. Four of the eight judges either heard the cases against Anwar or convicted him. The former deputy prime minister, who had a political falling out with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is serving a 15-year jail term. Anwar had once been the anointed successor of Dr Mahathir, who is due to step down at the end of this month. Prominent lawyer Zaid Ibrahim, writing in the New Straits Times daily on Tuesday, defended the government, arguing that the council's criticisms were 'misconceived, childish, un-Asian' and probably driven by private vendettas. 'If we are so resolute in our belief that this judiciary comprises mainly mercenaries and the chief justice is one who promotes cronies, then the proper thing to do is to burn our practising certificates,' he wrote. But Mr Kuthubul said the issue centred on transparency and objective methods of selection after 'some form' of consultation with the bar council. He rejected accusations that the council had no right to question the promotions, and denied it was in contempt of court. Observers said even if the bar council mustered enough support among lawyers to approve the resolutions and call for an independent commission to oversee judicial appointments, the government was unlikely to rescind the promotion of the eight judges. 'But it will worsen the already testy relationship of the bar with the government and some members of the bench,' a lawyer said.