Azalina: LPA amendments not to control Bar

Legal-Profession-Act-1976KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA) is to address present shortcomings on “bread and butter” issues concerning the Malaysian Bar, says de-facto law minister Azalina Othman Said.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the Bar Council, she explained that the issues were mandatory prerequisites to be a Bar member, such as educational qualifications, common bar exams and language ability.

Azalina pointed out that a common bar exam was required to be a member of the Bar, because at present, members of the Bar came from various backgrounds.

“Their members also include corporate lawyers and shariah lawyers.”

“In other countries, they have a standard for qualification for Bar members. This had to be discussed because we don’t want qualifications from various quarters,” she said.

Azalina, who was recently appointed as the new Minister in charge of Legal Affairs, in the Prime Minister’s Department, lamented the poor grasp of English in courts, noting that “I heard in some cases, the lawyers cannot even read English”.

“Although court sessions are held in BM, but sometimes, the evidence comes in English.

“Let the amendments be an overall amendment to benefit and protect all 17,000 members of the Bar.”

It was earlier reported that among the amendments are proposals for two members of the Bar to be appointed by the minister in charge of legal affairs, to represent the government.

However, these two members would not be eligible to contest for any position as office bearers of the Malaysian Bar (that is president, vice-president, secretary or treasurer).

The amendments will also empower the said minister to make rules and regulations on the conduct of the elections to the Bar Council and of the office bearers of the Bar.

Azalina said the proposed amendments were not to control the Bar Council, as the amendments were made in accordance with Section 42 (1) (1), which promoted good relations and social interaction among members involved in the administration of law in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Azalina announced that a government task force overseeing legal aid was presently working to consolidate legal aid services into one entity.

She pointed out that there were many challenges in legal aid at the moment, including contentious questions such as whether legal aid should be provided to non-Malaysians and also unsettled family cases in shariah courts.

“Many agencies and NGO’s are involved in giving legal aid, so we want to streamline legal aid in Malaysia because we want to see government agencies and NGO’s be more effective.”