Stand-alone law ministry, commission will help push reforms, says Bar

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese says a law ministry that is separate and autonomous will promote much-needed law reforms and healthy discourse. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has welcomed the proposal to establish an independent, stand-alone law ministry, as well as a law commission, to facilitate and carry out law reforms, including the review of regressive or draconian laws.

Its president George Varughese said the establishment of an independent and stand-alone law ministry was 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 (BHEUU), 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 full-fledged law ministry would function autonomously and be dedicated to the development of the legal sector,” Varughese said in a statement.

The proposal was announced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department VK Liew, who is also the de facto law minister, at a recent meeting with the Bar Council, representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and officials from the BHEUU.

The Malaysian Bar also expressed its support for 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,” Varughese said.

He said at the meeting with the Bar Council, the minister also agreed to look into various others matters raised, such as the delay in payment to lawyers who undertake work under the National Legal Aid Foundation Scheme; insufficiency in the number of Chinese and Tamil interpreters; lack of parking space in the premises and vicinity of courts; and the breakdown of cleaning and maintenance services in the courts.