A reminder for the legal profession

The Bar Council was advised to make a stand for the interests of the nation, first, instead for and with any parties with ulterior motives and agenda. Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said this today at 14th Malaysian Law Conference today.

Bernama has the story:

October 29, 2007 22:52 PM


Any Stand By Malaysian Bar Must Be In The Country’s Best Interest

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (Bernama) — Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that whatever stand taken by the Malaysian Bar must be in the best interest of the whole country instead of any internal pressure group.

“For instance, when the Bar Council officially supports dissenting judgments or pushes forward its view that Malaysia is a secular state, the Bar must take care to not simply represent the views of certain segments of the society,” said the Prime Minister in his keynote address at the 14th Malaysian Law Conference 2007 here.

He said any miscalculation in this regard could drive a deeper wedge between the different groups in the country.

“This opens the Bar Council to accusations of causing greater damage, not only to the Bar Council as a professional body, but also to the country,” he said.

Abdullah said as a body whose opinion was widely respected not just locally, but also internationally, the Bar Council must recognise the repercussions of its actions.

“With regard to the recent `Putrajaya March’, I would first take the view that a public demonstration is not like any other public social event.

“A demonstration gives the impression that a problem has reached an intractable impasse, even when, in reality, it has not,” he said.

Abdullah said it also sent negative vibes to domestic and foreign investors, undermining the tireless efforts of industry and government in attracting investments and subsequently, in creating employment and providing new economic opportunities.

The future of the country depended on, among others, the political stability and societal peace which had been preserved for so many years, and “the creation of negative perception, through over-reaching and unfounded public accusations, is difficult to overcome,” he said.

The Prime Minister said “these damaging perceptions can potentially be all that it takes for us to fall behind other countries in this increasingly competitive global environment.”

“We must always take the view that disagreement and differences can be solved in many ways. The government is not only willing, but is also serious in addressing the views of the legal fraternity, of which the Bar Council is a party,” he said.

Abdullah said a more constructive way was working together sincerely and without pre-conditions, as well as, without being suspicious of each other.

The government took the views expressed by the Bar Council seriously, and “just like the Bar, we believe in the independence of judiciary and upholding the supremacy of the Constitution.”

Improving the judicial service, eradicating corruption and enhancing the performance of the public sector were also among the government’s national priorities, he said.

The Prime Minister said he did not deny that there were imperfections and challenges that the country was facing, “while we still have some way to go, the legal fraternity should not be irrationally negative or unduly pessimistic about the progress the country has made.”

Abdullah said that there were many more opportunities that could be better explored together and with a greater sense of common purpose, not only for the socio-political development in the country but also to further develop the country’s economy.

He said the legal firms should be selling their services internationally, and in line with the government’s moves in promoting new sources of growth, for example the Islamic financial services, the legal fraternity was encouraged to develop specialist legal expertise in this area.

In doing so, they would be able to take full advantage of the same opportunities on offer, as bankers and other perfessional sectors had already done, he said.

“New business opportunities and the entry of big and sophisticated global players in niche industries and planned growth areas, such as the Iskandar Development Region, require that our legal firms have the capacity and capability to meet the increasing demands and expectations,” he said.

Abdullah also suggested that the Bar Council, which has more than 12,000 members and it is growing at 10 to 12 per cent annually, assisted its members, especially the small and medium-size firms, to develop business skills and specialist legal competencies, including internationally applicable ones to enable them to compete with larger local firms which were already forming alliances with major foreign firms.

He also said there was a need for strategies and programmes to be formulated to ensure that Malaysian lawyers were better able to understand and face the more demanding and constantly changing global legal environment.





In another note at the same conference, HRH Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Muhibuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Yusuf Izzuddin Shah, the Sultan of Perak in his titah advised judges not to question the judgment of another judge, no matter how senior and experience one is.

The Sultan, who is a former Lord President, also said in his titah:

Sadly I must acknowledge there has been some disquiet about our judiciary over the past few years and in the more recent past. In 2004, I had stated that it grieved me, having been a member of the judiciary, whenever I heard allegations against the judiciary and the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary.

Recently there have been even more disturbing events relating to the judiciary reported in the press. We have also witnessed the unprecedented act of a former Court of Appeal judge writing in his post-retirement book of erroneous and questionable judgements delivered by our higher courts in a chapter under the heading When Justice is Not Administered According to Law”. There are other serious criticisms.”

HRH Tuanku Paduka Seri Sultan was most probably referring to a former Court of Appeal Judge Dato’ Chan Nyan Horn’s book, “Judging the Judges“.


HRH Tuanku Paduka Seri Sultan also mooted the idea of Commercial Court; getting expert and purposely trained judges to specifically deal with the commercial, financial and capital market disputes:

Confidence in the judiciary may also be eroded where the business community perceives incompetence in decision-making. A judgement in a banking or commercial transaction that is contrary to the established norms or which is incomprehensible in its reasoning is bound to give rise to suspicion and loss of confidence.

It therefore becomes apparent, that our attempts to establish ourselves as a leading financial and commercial center will fail, if we do not have a competent judiciary to decide on complex commercial disputes. In this regard, it is utmost importance that the foreign investor have faith in the competence and integrity of our judiciary.

The international foreign investor also expects a speedy resolution of their cases before the courts. Delays cause a loss of profits to the business community. In the recent World Bank survey on resolution of commercial disputes, Malaysia ranks poorly, 63 amongst 178 economies. A similar report by the US State Department warns American businessmen to be wary of the slow process of adjudication of cases before the Malaysian courts. This is indeed a poor reflection on our courts.

Countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong, who have a similar legal system and who share similar laws, and whose judges and lawyers are trained as ours, are ranked in these surveys as amongst the best in the world (Hong Kong is placed first and Singapore ranks as fourth in the world).

The reason is obvious: these countries have undertaken major reforms in their court structure and procedures and have introduced more efficient and transparent commercial courts so as to attract the foreign investor.

Maybe it is also time for us to consider such changes in our legal system and introduce a strong central commercial court in Putrajaya as in London, with especially trained judges who are familiar with the new and ever changing commercial laws and their developments, so that we too can become the center for the resolution of commercial disputes in the region.

I should point out that mere cosmetic changes alone would not suffice. If we wish to achieve this goal, it is imperative that major reforms are introduced. Many other countries have taken such steps to establish specialized commercial courts. Recently, the Dubai Commercial Court (where one of our own former Chief Judge has recently been appointed to sit as a judge in this new court), and the Qatar Commercial Court have been established.”

It is a positive and productive move to complement the complexity of business dealings and help propel the nation to move forward.

HRH Paduka Seri Sultan also had a reminder for the lawyers:

“It will also be appropriate for me to say a few words on lawyers.

The administration of justice is not just the role of the judiciary. I had said previously in July 1984 on the occasion of a farewell dinner speech to the Bar Council on leaving office as the Lord President, that there cannot be an independent Judiciary without an independent Bar. I stated further that the judiciary cannot function without legal profession.

This symbiosis calls for a proper understanding of the relationship between the Bench and the Bar. The Bar and its leadership must ensure there is a high standard of integrity and ethics among its members. A Bar that is riddled with bad practices cannot assist the administration of justice.

In this respect the relationship between judges and lawyers must be a roper and correct one. As I have said earlier, judges are supposed to be no respecters of persons who appear before them. This rule applies not only to litigants but also to lawyers. It is not just a matter of prudence and good practice, but fundamentally one of ethics.

As is often said, there are good lawyers and bad lawyers. Whilst the majority of the lawyers discharge their duties as officers of the court with professionalism and dedication, there have been cases of some others who have brought disrepute to the legal profession. There have been allegations against some lawyers that in clear dereliction of their responsibilities, they have either misled the courts, or attempted to choose the judges or courts for their cases to be heard so as to obtain a favourable decision in their client’s favour. This is serious interference with the administration of justice and the process of the court.”

The full text of the titah can be read at Bar Council’s portal. The 79 year old HRH Paduka Seri Sultan was the Lord President of the Federal Court of Malaysia, 12 November 1982 to 3 February 1984, was the youngest Lord President in Malaysian history.

This titah superseded and complemented HRH The Regent of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlah Muhibuddin Shah’s titah on the Constitution, at First Student Leaders Summit 2007 on 5 August 2007. HRH The Regent’s titah was overused by so many parties with angled and narrow interpretations, for their specific ulterior motive and agenda.

The reminder from HRH Paduka Seri Sultan and Prime Minister is a necessity for the legal profession today. It’s a cross road for the judges and lawyers to seriously consider the titah and move forward, for the betterment of the nation.


*Photo was uploaded from Jeff Ooi’s Screen Shot.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 03:26  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is teh problem when the Bar Council wants to be an NGO or pressure group instead of professional body developing and heightening teh skill level and ethics and integrity of teh legal profession.

  2. […] Biggum Dogmannsteinberg added an interesting post on A reminder for the legal profession.Here’s a small excerpt:“For instance, when the Bar Council officially supports dissenting judgments or pushes forward its view that Malaysia is a secular state, the Bar must take care to not simply represent the views of certain segments of the society,” said … […]

  3. […] for the ‘Rule of Law’ and they are the ones who break and defy the law. Even the HRH Rulers made reminders that law and law  enforcement agencies should be respected and adhered […]

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