replace the Sedition Act.The Malaysian Bar has expressed hope that the prime minister and cabinet will keep an open mind with regard to formulating laws, including the proposed National Harmony Act which will
Its president Lim Chee Wee (left) noted that “you cannot legislate or compel unity and loyalty ... it is something which needs to be grown and nurtured".
suggested taking a leaf out of United Kingdom's Equality Act, which
proscribes discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and age, as well
as hate speech.
“I know the government must have its plate full
with regard to replacing the Sedition Act. We hope that in (formulating
the National Harmony Act), there will be engagement between the
attorney-general, Human Rights Commission and the Bar,” he said, when
asked to comment.
“So far, the draft is not ready and we have not
been called to be consulted. While we note that there is no perfect
legislation, there is a need for proper political discussion and
consultation and debate before it is tabled.”
The Bar had
objected strongly to the Peaceful Assembly Bill and insertion of Section
114A into the amended Evidence Act, and has asked for a review of both.
In the case of the Peaceful Assembly bill, they had even marched to the parliament when the bill was tabled as it outlaws street protest.
Needed - permanent Law Reform Commission
also said that a permanent and independent Law Reform Commission which
is accountable to the parliament and public should be formed as part of a
He said that the body when formed will be
tasked with having an inclusive, open and transparent consultation on a
particular new legislation.
“Commissioners for the Law Reform
Commission can comprise of government and private practice lawyers,
judges, academics and members of civil society to provide depth of
knowledge and experience.”
Lim also welcomed Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement in parliament
that the government is looking to form a Sentencing Council to streamline and provide consistency in punishment for criminal cases.
idea was initially mooted by the Bar earlier this year before the
public outrage over the former national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan
escaping a jail sentence and being bound over for a conviction on statutory rape.
said in that case commentators were too quick to generalise and to
criticise the sentence without having full appreciation of the facts.
council will promote consistency and raise awareness of sentencing by
issuing guidelines (and not legislation) to assist judges in deciding on
the appropriate sentence to reflect the seriousness of the crime
“The sentencing guidelines for individual offences
should set out sentence ranges reflecting different levels of
seriousness and within each range, a starting point for the sentence. It
is not a substitute or replacement for judicial discretion in
He emphasised that it was meant not to replace the
judicial process of what sentence to pass but to examine various
offences from serious to less serious and prepare guidelines.
This, he said, are not mandatory or guidelines to give them a broad range of options in arriving at a decision on sentencing.
council can also raise awareness to the public as following the uproar
in the national bowler’s case, where if people do some homework a
26-year-old Olympic cyclist in Australia was given a suspended sentence
for having underage sex with a 14-year-old.
“Such sentences are not unusual as they do occur in other jurisdictions and the council can educate the public,” he said.
Review on judges’ remuneration to ensure independence
also said to ensure the independence of the judiciary and for them to
conduct fair and impartial hearings, the government should ensure that
judges and magistrates are given security and financial independence.
said the appointments and promotion of judges in the Judicial
Appointments Commission can be made more open and transparent so that
the public are able to see how candidates for the judiciary are
evaluated and assessed so there will be greater trust and confidence in
“There should also be an increase in remuneration
and benefits for magistrates, session court judges, judicial
commissioner and judges commensurate with the importance of judicial
responsibilities and comparable to the benefits in private practice.
will provide financial independence and attract talent to the bench,
thus alleviating the perpetual problem for the president of the
Malaysian Bar to persuade top advocates to leave behind their
financially rewarding practice and active social life and the long bar
and enter a world of solitude on the bench,” he said.
date, several former and current judges have came from private practice
to become a judge including former Chief Justice Zaki Azmi and former
Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram.
Others who had recently been
evaluated are former Bar president Mah Weng Kwai and also Mohd Ariff
Mohd Yusof who had been elevated to the Court of Appeal from the High
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