Chong: Bill drafted by Bar Council, advises Sarawak Advocates Association on the next step

Chong Chieng Jen

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KUCHING, April 26: The draft copy of the Legal Profession Bill 2019 was proposed by the Malaysian Bar Council in January this year, but it had not obtained any endorsement of the federal government.

Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen clarified that he had contacted de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong on the matter, and it was confirmed that it was merely a draft proposed by the Bar Council for feedback amongst the stakeholders.

“Of particular concern raised by the Sarawak legal fraternity about the new draft bill are two clauses,” Chong said in a statement today.

The two clauses are:

“1(2)​ The Minister may appoint different dates for the coming into operation of the different parts or provisions of this Act and different dates may be appointed for the coming into operation of this Act in West Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

2.​ This Act shall apply throughout Malaysia but shall only be made applicable to Sabah and Sarawak with such modifications as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may by order make, and such order shall be published in the Gazette.”

“Many see it as an attempt to encroach upon Sarawak’s rights as currently the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA 1976) is not applicable to Sarawak. Sarawak’s legal profession is governed by the Advocate Ordinance Sarawak 1953, which sets out very different criteria for admission to practise as a lawyer.

“In fact, the current LPA 1976 also contains the two above same sections, word for word. So far, as the application of the Act is concerned, this proposed draft bill does not add anything extra into the current LPA 1976,” Chong explained.

Nonetheless, he said he had conveyed to Liew the stand of Sarawak’s legal profession that they do not want the LPA to be extended to Sarawak.

He added that since the Bar Council was drafting a new LPA to replace the current LPA 1976 and that the Sarawak legal fraternity had no intention to have the LPA — both existing or the new one — to be extended to the state, Chong proposed that the Sarawak Advocates Association (SAA) take this opportunity to write to its counterpart in West Malaysia, the Bar Council, to suggest the following, that is if the Sabah Law Society also agrees.

“Otherwise we confine only to Sarawak,” he added, while revealing his proposal as follows:

“1.​ As to clause 1(2), to delete the words “Sabah and Sarawak”

2.​ To replace clause 2 with the following:
​​“This Act shall apply throughout West Malaysia Only.”

3.​ To delete clause 211(2), which provides for the repeal of the Advocates Ordinance of Sarawak and Advocates Ordinance of Sabah.”

Chong assured that he would do his part to ensure that this suggestion to exclude Sarawak and Sabah from the application of the LPA come true.

“Let us stand together to defend the rights of the Sarawak legal profession as provided in the Federal Constitution when we formed Malaysia in 1963,” he said. — DayakDaily