Draft Legal Profession Bill: SUPP leader very disappointed with Bar Council

Datuk Sebastian Ting

MIRI, April 27: Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) has expressed shocked and appalled to read the draft of the Legal Profession Bill 2019 (LPB 2019) proposed by the Malaysia Bar Council and circulated among the legal fraternity, since yesterday.

The draft was prepared by the Bar Council of the Malaysian Bar and had been submitted to the secretariat of Parliament for consideration to be tabled as Legal Profession Bill 2019 for debate and subsequently to be passed as Legal Profession Act 2019.

According to SUPP Secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting, as the proposed draft of the LPB 2019 would have serious impact and consequences on the legal practices in Sabah and Sarawak, the important question here is whether, in the preparation of the draft bill, was there any consultation or adequate consultation with the stakeholders, namely The Sabah Law Society and The Advocates Association of Sarawak and the two governments of the day for Sabah and Sarawak.

“The Sabah Law Society (SLS) and Advocates Association Sarawak (AAS) had just issued a joint statement dated today that they were never consulted, and they categorically opposed the provisions containing both the extension of the Legal Profession Act 2019 (LPA 2019) and the repeal of the Advocates Ordinances of Sabah and Sarawak as contained in the draft bill,” he said in a statement today.

Ting said it was indeed very disappointing that a responsible Bar Council had chosen not to consult the stakeholders and both SLS and AAS on this important matter.

“We would not be surprised if both the governments of Sabah and Sarawak were not consulted at all on this proposed draft Legal Profession Bill 2019,” he said.

Ting wondered if it was due to an inadvertent oversight or pure arrogance or was it a case of them of sending a message that the lawyers in Sabah and Sarawak are insignificant that prompted the Bar Council to exhibit their inner thoughts of brushing Sabah and Sarawak aside.

He opined out had the Bar Council consulted SLS and AAS and the governments of Sabah and Sarawak, this issue might not have surfaced in its present form.

“Our fellow lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia should not take our lawyers in Sabah and Sarawak for granted and should instead show mutual respect for each other so that our nation can move further as one,” he said.

He added that Clause 211(2) is very clear of its intention, which is to repeal The Advocates Ordinance of Sabah (Sabah Cap 2) and The Advocates Ordinance of Sarawak (Cap 110) on the coming into operation of this Act in Sabah and Sarawak.

SUPP believed this was not in line with the Federal Constitution, against the spirit of the formation of Malaysia and against the safeguards for Sabah and Sarawak with the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

“Can Section 211(2) repeal our Advocates Ordinances by the passing of this draft Legal Profession Bill 2019? We do not think so.

“Indeed the draft Legal Profession Bill 2019 cannot repeal our Advocates Ordinance of Sarawak. We are of the opinion that our respective Sabah and Sarawak state assemblies are proper legislative assemblies and  authority to consider, amend and repeal our own Ordinances as this had been one of our few safeguards during the formation of Malaysia that our own Ordinances, pre-formation of Malaysia, shall remain our Sabah and Sarawak respective laws and these Ordinances were not repealed at the time when Malaysia came into existence or be repealed by an Act of Parliament without the consent of our  Sarawak DUN.

“In addition, the proposed bill is likely to breach Article 161B of the Federal Constitution,” said Ting.

He pointed out that Article 161B states: “(1) In so far as any provision made by or under an Act of Parliament, by removing or altering a residence qualification, confers a right to practise before a court in the States of Sabah and Sarawak or either of them on persons not previously having due right, that provision shall not come into operation until adopted in the States or State in question by an enactment of the legislature.”

Further, Ting added, there was a need to refer to Paragraph 4(d) of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report Annex A, which reads, “Restriction on the lines of the existing Borneo legislation should be continued, so that practice at the local Bar would, subject to certain exceptions provided for in that legislation, be restricted to resident advocates, until otherwise agreed by the Borneo State Legislatures”.

Ting shared that it was agreed during the formation of Malaysia, the exclusive rights of the Sarawak Bar to practise in respect of all Sarawak matters as stated in the Advocates Ordinance of Sarawak before Malaysia Day would continue.

The draft Legal Profession Bill 2019 in this present form, Ting insisted, must not be allowed, and SUPP hoped all the 56 Members of Parliament (25 MPS in Sabah and 31 MPS in Sarawak) would vote against it if it was presented and tabled in Parliament.

“Sabah and Sarawak should come together and be on the same page on this important matter,” he said. — DayakDaily