KUCHING: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) and the Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) oppose the provisions concerning both the extension of the Legal Profession Act 2019 (LPA Act 2019) and the repeal of the Advocates Ordinances in Sabah and Sarawak (the Extension and Repeal provisions) as contained in the draft bill.
In a joint statement yesterday, they said they would convey the message to the State Attorney Generals who would then be at liberty to convey it to the Federal Attorney General Chambers.
“We will similarly be writing to the Bar Council of the Malaysian Bar to record our discontent with the LPA Bill.
“The removal of the Extension and Repeal provisions will go a long way to recognising the historical autonomy that both Sabah and Sarawak have over the legal profession,” they said in the statement.
They pointed out that the legal profession in Malaysia was governed by three separate pieces of legislation, namely the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA Act 1976) for Peninsula Malaysia and the respective Advocates Ordinances 1953 (AO) of Sabah and Sarawak. Prior to the LPA Act 1976, Peninsula Malaysia was regulated by the Advocates and Solicitors Ordinance 1947.
“One must fulfill certain criteria before being admitted to practice in Sabah and Sarawak. The AO of Sabah and Sarawak contain a pre-requisite to the admission of advocates to the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak; a residency qualification must be fulfilled namely, that the applicant is born in Sabah/Sarawak or has been ordinarily resident in Sabah/Sarawak for a continuous period of five years or satisfies the Chief Judge that he/she is domiciled in Sabah/Sarawak at the time of applying for admission.
“Upon the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the AO of both Sabah and Sarawak were declared federal laws by virtue of the respective Modification of Laws (Declaration of Federal Present Laws) Orders for Sabah and Sarawak. As a result, any amendment to the AO of Sabah and Sarawak must be passed by Parliament.”
SLS and AAS said that it must be emphasised that under the Federal Constitution (FC) there are two High Courts in Malaysia. Sabah and Sarawak are under the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak which has co-ordinate jurisdiction with the High Court of Malaya which exercises jurisdiction in Peninsula Malaysia.
“Article 161B of the FC ‘Restriction on extension of non-residents of right to practise before courts in States of Sabah and Sarawak’ provides that any alteration to the residency qualification by Parliament shall not come into operation until adopted by a separate enactment of the Sabah or Sarawak State Legislature as the case may be. Article 161B was inserted in the FC as a result of the assurances and express terms of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC) and the Malaysia Act 1963 (MA63) respectively.”
The SLS and AAS are of the concerted opinion that their respective legal fraternities are definitely not in favour of the LPA Act 2019 being extended to the two Borneo states.
Whilst they recognise that the existing LPA Act 1976 contains identical Extension and Repeal provisions, both the SLS and AAS are of the considered view that such Extension and Repeal provisions should not be included in this current LPA Bill or any future or similar legislation.
“We (SLS and AAS) were not consulted on the LPA Bill and our position is to collectively and unreservedly oppose the Extension and Repeal provisions and to demand that they be deleted from the LPA Bill.
“In addition, the AO of Sabah was recently amended by Parliament to create the statutory body known as the SLS. The AAS are in the process of similarly creating a statutory body for the legal profession in Sarawak.
“There is thus no necessity to have the LPA Act 2019 extended to either Sabah or Sarawak. We are able to regulate our own legal profession in the two states.”