The Malaysian Bar welcomes the recent announcement by Liew Vui Keong, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law), to establish an independent, stand-alone ministry of law, as well as a law commission, to facilitate and carry out law reforms that are necessary, including the review and/or repeal of regressive or draconian laws.
The Bar Council had highlighted many concerns and proposed various reforms during a meeting held with the minister, representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers and and officials from the Bahagian Hal Ehwal Undang-Undang (Legal Affairs Division).
The Malaysian Bar views the establishment of an independent and stand-alone ministry of law as a vital step towards fulfilling the electoral promises of the ruling Pakatan Harapan government, particularly in respect of strengthening the institutions of state.
The previous government’s practice of appointing a minister in charge of legal affairs under the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department and placing core institutions such as the Legal Affairs Division (which manages, among others, the court budget and matters relating to court infrastructure) within the purview of that department, does not augur well for the independence of the judiciary and for public confidence in the administration of justice.
As is the practice in other jurisdictions, a fully-fledged ministry of law would function autonomously and be dedicated to the development of the legal sector.
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We also fully support the creation of an independent law commission to conduct thorough research and consultation, with the aim of reviewing existing legislation and recommending areas for reform and to promote and strengthen the rule of law. A law commission that is separate and autonomous in both structure and function and which encourages participation from relevant stakeholders, including the public, promotes much-needed and healthy discourse and the development of sound laws and legal policies.
At the meeting with the Bar Council, the minister agreed to look into various others matters raised, such as the delay in payment to lawyers who undertake work under the Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (National Legal Aid Foundation) scheme; insufficient Chinese and Tamil interpreters; a lack of parking space in the premises and vicinity of courts; and the breakdown of cleaning and maintenance services in the courts.
The Bar Council expresses its appreciation to the minister, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Legal Affairs Division for engaging with us. The Bar Council looks forward to regular and ongoing consultation in pursuance of our shared vision to uphold the rule of law and of our collective aspirations for a more equitable and just nation.
George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.