Consider Sarawakians’ exclusive rights before admitting non-Sarawakian lawyers to practice in state: PBK

Voon Lee Shan

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Aug 26: Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) is urging the Sarawak government, The Advocates Association of Sarawak and the Attorney-General Chambers to give serious attention to the admission of non-Sarawakian lawyers to practice in Sarawak as any decision must reflect and affirm the special safeguards of exclusive rights given to Sarawakians.

PBK president Voon Lee Shan disclosed that there were applications by two senior and well-respected legal practitioners in Malaysia to the High Court in Sarawak for admission to the Sarawak Bar to practice as advocates in Sarawak.

“The two applications will be heard in the High Court very soon. We don’t know what is the stand of the Sarawak government and The Advocates Association whether they allow or object to this.

“We are concerned as it would have an effect on the people of Sarawak especially the younger and future generations who will practice in the future.

“I hope and pray that the Sarawak government will take notice of this matter seriously. Any leeway given or which could ‘dilute’ Sarawak’s rights should not be acceptable to the Sarawak government,” he told a press conference at his office here today.

Voon reminded that the special guarantee and safeguard to practice in Sarawak had been entrenched in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the Federal Constitution that lawyers from Peninsular Malaysia do not have the right to practise in Sarawak courts.

“But of course lawyers from outside Sarawak can come based on certain criteria and they need to apply for the license from the High Court. If there are no objections from all stakeholders, then it is likely they will be allowed to practice,” he explained.

In reference to the Advocate Ordinance Sarawak 1953, he highlighted that eligible lawyers practicing in Sarawak must meet certain criteria in that the person must be born in Sarawak; or has been ordinarily resident in Sarawak for a continuous period of five years or more; or satisfies the Chief Justice that he is, at the time when the question whether he has Sarawak connections is relevant, domiciled in Sarawak.

“This is a right agreed under MA63 that practitioners outside Sarawak could not simply be allowed to come in and practice as advocates but of course they can apply for an ad hoc license,” he said.

Voon also revealed that he had filed an intervention on this matter in court but a file search in court was turned down by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak while the request for relevant documents from The Advocate Association also failed.

“I feel that we have the right to look into the documents before intervening, otherwise we would not know the status of the matter and what action or stand to take.

“I hope that the Sarawak government, The Advocate Association of Sarawak and the AG Chambers will look into this matter seriously for the benefit of Sarawakians and legal practitioners in Sarawak.

“The applicants are my friends who are very respected, high standing practitioners in the legal fraternity in Malaysia but these facts should not be taken into consideration to allow them to practice as advocates in Sarawak if the criteria under the law is not met because there is a very strict protection given to Sarawakians,” he emphasised.

Voon pointed out that he was not a lone ranger in this pursuit as he intends to form a team of senior lawyers to argue this case in order to protect these very few remaining rights Sarawak have now.

“At the moment, there are four or five willing to look into this matter with me.

“This shows that there are people concerned about this and there are people who back me up in the legal fraternity as well as the community who supported me in this quest. It is not on my own volition.

“PBK will always defend Sarawak’s rights. I pray Sarawakians are aware of these rights and give us the support, morally at least, for PBK to defend Sarawak rights,” he stressed.—DayakDaily