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Activists welcome legal reps for kids involved in cases

 | November 18, 2017

They say legal representatives can safeguard rights of child, especially in custody cases.

suriana-welfare-society-1PETALING JAYA: A child rights activist has welcomed the proposal by the government to have legal representation for children involved in court cases.

Suriana Welfare Society executive director, Scott Wong.

Scott Wong, Executive Director of Suriana Welfare Society.

Suriana Welfare Society executive director Scott Wong said it is necessary for an independent individual to provide an unbiased view and protect children’s rights.

“In divorce cases, both parents may try to influence their children in giving testimonies that favour one side.

“With someone representing the child, he or she is able to advise the child what is the best for them,” he told FMT.

Wong added this was a way to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Malaysia is one of the signatories to this convention.

Earlier, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim was reported as saying that the government had proposed the idea for legal representation for children involved in court cases.

She said this was to ensure the children’s rights were protected and their “voices” were heard in court cases.

Rohani added “in divorce cases, the parents have their own lawyers to fight for their rights but no one speaks up for the children”.

She said New Zealand had this practice of appointing lawyers to represent children.

Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching also supported the proposal, stating the presence of a legal representative will be able to avoid conflict of interest between children and parents when they are involved in a court proceeding.

However, she wanted more details on who would be the “representative”.

“Would it be JKM officers or will practising lawyers be representing the children?”

Teo, who has been vocal on child issues, said while the proposal was still being considered, the ministry should increase the number of “child protectors” in the meantime.

“There is only a small number of child protectors currently.

“The ministry should get the child protectors to attend courses to equip themselves with the knowledge to advise the children on what is best for them.”

In the US, children are entitled to a lawyer when they are involved in court proceedings in cases of child abuse and neglect.

Lawyers will also appear for children during divorce cases when the court deems that they need legal representation.

Provision for legal companion for child victims tabled


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