Universiti Malaya to offer off-campus law programme with focus on Sarawak laws, similar to Swinburne

Abang Johari (left) fielding questions from Sarawak students during a townhall session at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur on May 18, 2024.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, May 21: Universiti Malaya (UM) is planning to offer an off-campus law programme in Sarawak, which will include a curriculum focused on Sarawak-specific laws, particularly the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and customary laws such as Native Customary Rights (NCR).

Currently, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak is the only institution offering a twinning law programme that incorporates Sarawak laws. In this programme, students spend two years in Kuching and two years in Melbourne, Australia, with the opportunity to be admitted to the Victorian Bar upon graduation.


Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that Swinburne University Sarawak is tasked with offering the law degree that includes Sarawak laws, as the university is government-owned and thus has more flexibility compared to public universities.

“If I demanded this from UM, I would have to go to the vice chancellor, who would then pursue this with the Board Senate, but whether it can be materialised or not is uncertain.

“However, we are open to having local universities offer a similar law degree on Sarawak laws. It seems that a plan is now in the pipeline, with UM working to offer such a programme,” he said during a townhall session with Sarawak students in UM in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday (May 18) which was streamed live via Ukas’ channel.

This statement was in response to a query from a UM law graduate regarding the challenges in establishing law faculties in local universities like Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and UiTM Sarawak.

These concerns arise from the successful implementation of similar programs at private universities like Swinburne University Sarawak. Given the importance of the legal profession, especially in Sarawak’s efforts to pursue autonomy and safeguard its rights under MA63 and NCR, it is crucial for younger and future generations of Sarawakians to assume these responsibilities.

“We (Sarawak government) are in discussion with UM, and I assure you, Sarawak also needs good lawyers who can analyse new issues and help the government draft new laws,” he emphasised.

Recognising that laws continuously evolve, Abang Johari pointed out the necessity for lawyers specialised in drafting laws, particularly for cyber security, cyber crime, and the legality of digital transactions and agreements.

“We also need a lot of cyber security experts to protect our people from scam activities, as well as other laws such as spectrum in airspace,” he said.

He made reference to the carbon trading law, which has yet to have national reference and protocols on carbon trading and as such, Sarawak is guided by the World Bank, which is a credible organisation, in formulating its carbon trading law. — DayakDaily