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An Overview of Malaysian Legal System and Research

 

By Shaikh Mohamed Noordin and Lim Pui Keng

 

Shaikh Mohamed Noordin has more than ten years of experience in law librarianship. He is presently a librarian for the law firm Messrs. Tay & Partners in Kuala Lumpur.  He has contributed several articles in various law librarian journals, locally and internationally. He is an active member of the Librarians Association of Malaysia (PPM) and was the first appointed Chairman of the Committee for the Law Librarians Group of the Librarians Association of Malaysia. He is also a member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

 

Lim Pui Keng is a Partner at Messrs. Tay & Partners in the Intellectual Property and Technology Practice Group with focus on IP protection, litigation and enforcement. Lim Pui Keng graduated from University of Leicester, United Kingdom with an LL.B (Hons) in 1996 and was admitted as an Utter Barrister to the Bar of England and Wales in 1997. Lim is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London and was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya in 1998.

 

Published February 2008
Please, Read the Update!

 

 

Table of Contents

 

1. Where the Modern Malaysian Law Comes

2. Legislative Authority – Source of Primary Legislation

3. Executive Authority – Source of Subsidiary Legislation

Ministries

                  Government Departments

                  Statutory / Regulatory Bodies

4. Judicial Authority – Source of case law

5. Legal Profession

Note on finding primary Malaysian legal sources

                       

 

1. Where the Modern Malaysian Law Comes

 

It is important that researchers should understand that much of Malaysia’s history is related to Great Britain which established amongst the early colonies on the Malay Peninsula. Although the Dutch and Portuguese were the earlier colonies, the British, who had ruled Malaya for more than one hundred and fifty with just one short interruption of the World War II, left greater impact upon the law of the country. The legal history of Malaysia begins with the acquisition of Penang in 1786 and with the introduction of the Charters of Justice in 1807, 1826 and 1855.

 

The Federation of Malaya received her independence from the British in 1957. On September 16, 1963, the eleven states of the Federation of Malaya, the former colonies of Sarawak and Sabah on the western coast of Borneo and the State of Singapore united to form the Federation of Malaysia. In August 1965, however, Singapore seceded from this newly-formed federation to become an independent republic. Malaysia, as it is known today, consists of the eleven peninsular states that constituted of Malaya (this is referred to as peninsular Malaysia), Sabah and Sarawak.

 

The reception of English law slowly evolved and developed during the British colonization. However, the reception of English law only became statutory after the promulgation of the Civil Law Enactment of 1937. There are three segments of periods of which modern Malaysian laws were made. Pre-war law was made during the decentralization of Malay states (1866 to 1942). The Malay states at that time were divided into three groups of states. There were the Straits Settlement (SS) group of states comprising of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, the Federated Malay States (FMS) group of states comprising of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang and the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) group of states comprising of Johor, Kedah, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan.

 

Post-war law was made after the unification of all the Malay states except Singapore under a federal administration (1946 to 1957) and Post-independence law was made after the formation of the Federation of Malaya and Malaysia (1957and 1963). Prior to the independence in 1957, most of the laws of United Kingdom were adopted and either made into local legislations or simply applied as case laws. The application of English law or common law is specified in the Civil Law Act 1956 as stated in Sections 3 and 5 of the said Act which allows for the application of English common law, equity rules, and statutes in Malaysian civil cases where no specific laws have been made. Similarly, in the context of civil law, Section 5 of the Criminal Procedure Code also states that English law shall be applied in cases where no specific legislation has been enacted.

 

Malaysian law is also modeled on other jurisdictions’ laws such as Australia and India. The Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code was based on the Indian criminal code. Similarly, the labour law and the Contracts Act are also based on the Indian model. Malaysian land law is based on the Australian Torrens system. There are a number of laws made during the colonization still in existence and applicable with certain modifications in line with domestic and current circumstances.

 

An understanding of the basic arrangement of the current Malaysian legal system and the concept of separation of (law-making) powers will assist you in understanding how Malaysian legal resources are organized and found. Although the Malaysian legal system is predominantly based on English common law, there are also other secondary legal systems concurrently affecting certain sections of the law, such as Islamic law and customary law. Therefore, it is also important for researchers to note to which jurisdiction and group of people that the law was designated for and whether the laws are still in force.

 

The legal system of Malaysia was modeled after the English legal system which practices parliamentary democracy and is ruled by a Constitutional Monarchy, with His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King) ceremonially as the Head of the country. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected by the Conference of Rulers for a five-year term from amongst the hereditary Rulers of the nine states in the Federation which are ruled by Sultans. The states are Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. In the other states, namely Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Sabah and Sarawak, the Head of State is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor of the State. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a four-year term.

 

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia clearly divides the law-making authority of the Federation into its legislative authority, judicial authority and executive authority. The separation of power also occurs both at federal and state levels. The federal laws enacted by the federal assembly or better known as the Parliament of Malaysia applies throughout the country. There are also state laws governing local governments and Islamic law enacted by the state legislative assembly which applies in the particular state.

 

2. Legislative Authority – Source of Primary Legislation

 

Legislative authority is the power to enact laws applicable to the Federation as a whole under Article 66(1) of Federal Constitution. At Federal level, the legislative power is vested in a bicameral Parliament headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and comprises the Dewan Negara (House of Senate) and Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives). The Dewan Negara has 70 members, of whom 44 are nominated by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and 26 elected by the State Legislative Assemblies. The Dewan Rakyat is fully elected and has 219 members. The duration of the life of each Parliament and State Legislatures is about five years and is split into one-year sessions, after which the session is terminated or prorogued usually in September.

 

The distribution of law-making authority between the Federal and State Governments is enumerated in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution; and is set out in a Federal List, State List and a Concurrent List. The main subject areas of the Federal List are external affairs, defence, internal security, civil and criminal law, citizenship, finance, commerce and shipping industry, communications, health and labour.

 

The State List comprises matters such as land, agriculture, forestry, local government, riverine fishing, Muslim law, etc. The Concurrent List, under authority of both the Federal and State Governments, covers social welfare, scholarships, protection of wildlife and town and country planning. Should any inconsistency between federal and state law exist, federal law takes precedence over state law.

 

The Parliament generates a great number of publications containing law primarily the federal statutes which are officially published in the Government Gazettes by the Government Printer. Most are made available in the Internet commercially and official websites.

 

Legislative Sources

 

Official sources:

 

     Website of the Parliament of Malaysia

The Malaysian Parliament website offers the largest numbers of full text of Acts of Parliaments enacted since 1990 in pdf format for free of charge. The only obstacle to finding the Acts of Parliament from this website is that, one must know the name of the Acts to enable one to extract it. The Acts are currently available only up to the year 2000. The Bills on the other hand, are quite current.  

                 

Constitution of Malaysia

1.     Source 1

2.     Source 2

3.     Source 3

4.     Source 4

 

Laws of Malaysia (LOM) series in numerical table index

This website is a good starting point to find the Acts of Parliament with numerical and alphabetical indexes in helping researchers to find new and revision Acts promulgated after 1 January 1969, which also known as ‘Laws of Malaysia’ (LOM) series. The LOM series is a compilation and reprint of laws published in volume form pursuant to Section 14A of the Revision of Laws Act 1968 [Act 1]. It is the only official and authoritative publication of the laws of Malaysia. The LOM series incorporates all principal laws of Malaysia enacted after 1969 and pre-1969 laws which have been revised by the Commissioner of Law Revision.

 

Laws of Sarawak

Contains only the list of Sarawak State ordinances.

 

1.  Laws of Sabah - Sabah LawNet

The Sabah LawNet belongs to the Sabah State Attorney-General's Chambers which includes a database of updated Sabah Law. These laws include the State's Enactments, Ordinances, Rules, Regulations or By-Laws. It is comprehensive and easy to use and is catered for government officers, practicing lawyers, legal advisors, academicians, law students as well as the general public who have a daily need to refer to Sabah laws.

 

2.     Sabah State Government Gazette

The Sabah State Government gazette website belongs to the State Government Printing Department. The legislation in the website publishes every Thursday and it is available from year 2000.

 

Official government portal for Malaysia “Legal Maters@MGovernment”

The link allows one to check lists of statutes on Property, Health, Consumer and Employment law.

 

Commercial sources:

 

1.     Government Gazette

lawnet.com.my or commonly known as LawNet commercially provides authoritative text of the Laws of Malaysia. It started its operation in 1998 and has since included Updated Acts of Parliament, Principal Acts (Original), Amendment Acts, Ordinances, Bills Supplement, Updated Rules & Regulations, Legislative Supplement (A), Legislative Supplement (B), Federal Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code, Penal Code, National Land Code, Rules of Court, Court Forms and General Order. LawNet launched its electronic Gazette (e-Gazette), an electronic version of Malaysia Gazette printed by the Government’s printer (PNMB) since 2001.

 

2.     CLJ Legal Network (CLJ Online)

This website consists of all Federal legislation of Laws of Malaysia series from Act 1 to present day. There are over 700 such enactments currently available to the subscribers.  In addition selected subsidiary legislation is also made available.  Any new enactments are put on-line as soon as available.  All legislation is consolidated - i.e. amendments are incorporated into the principle Acts soon after they are in force.

 

3. EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY - Source of Subsidiary Legislation

 

The Executive is vested with the authority to govern and administer the laws by way of delegated and drafts Bills as provided under Article 39 of the Federal Constitution. The power to govern that is vested in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is however exercisable by a Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is answerable to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the head of Executive Authority in the country. Each executive act of the Federal Government flows from his Royal authority, whether directly or indirectly. However, in accordance with the principle of a democratic ruling system, the Chief Executive is the Prime Minister.

 

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong appoints a Cabinet - a council of Ministers - to advise him in the exercise of his functions. It consists of the Prime Minister and an unspecified number of Ministers who must all be members of Parliament either the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) or Dewan Negara (House of Senate). The Ministers hold different portfolios and are collectively responsible for all decisions made by the Cabinet, which is the highest policy-making body in the country.

 

To ensure the smooth enforcement of the law, the Government has set up various agencies to attain its objectives. The government agencies are comprised of three main components, namely ministries, departments and statutory bodies. At ministerial level the functions of the main agencies are to formulate, control and implement government policies; while at departmental levels the agencies are responsible for implementing all the policies. Agencies of statutory bodies are semi-government in structure and are responsible for carrying out duties assigned to them to meet the government's policies.

 

Executive Sources

 

Federal Government website comprises all the ministries’ websites.

 

States Government websites comprise all the state governments’ websites.

 

Ministries

 

Ministries are the highest bodies in the federal administrative machinery. Each ministry is responsible for formulating, planning, controlling and coordinating government policies pertaining to its functions. It is also the responsibility of the ministry to control departments and statutory bodies under it. A ministry is normally headed by a minister who holds a certain portfolio.

 

The organizational structure of the ministries is divided into several divisions or units depending on its size. In view of the present legal system, ministries are divided into two groups, namely self-law-making ministries and non-law-making ministries. Whether or not a Ministry is self-law-making is based on the size of the ministry concerned. The purpose of establishing self-law-making is to ensure the smooth running of its administration and expedite its legal processing. In the case of non-lawmaking ministries, the Attorney General's Chambers would be responsible for its law drafting arrangements of the ministries concerned.

 

Prime Minister’s Office

 

 

Government Departments

 

Government departments are the second highest agencies responsible for implementing government policies. Most of these departments were established during the colonial era. During British rule over Malaya, government departments were set up to implement policies and enforcement of the law of the ministries concerned and still continue to play the same role today.

 

Usually the functions of a department are related to certain policy determined by the Government. The daily activities of a government department involve direct rendering of services to the public. The services rendered include security, social development and other social services. A department is headed by a Director-General who is responsible to administer the law under the purview of his/her department. Some of the departments include legislation administered and enforced by them in their websites:

 

Department of Environment

The establishment of the Department is to administer and enforce the Environmental Quality Act, 1974 (Amendments 1985, 1996), and Section IV of the Economic Exclusive Zone Act, 1984. You can check list of environmental law that administered by the Department under this website.

 

Royal Customs and Excise Department

This is an important revenue-collecting department under the Ministry of Finance, which determines and imposes duties on goods coming into Malaysia. The website contains various Custom duties, regulations, guidelines and procedures for public reference.

 

Immigration Department

The main functions of the department is to issue Visas, Passes and Permits to foreign nationals entering Malaysia and to enforce (all provisions of) the Immigration Act 1959/63 (Amendment Act 2002), Passport Act 1966 (Amendment Act 1996) and Immigration Regulations 1963. Its website focuses more on corporate profile of the Department.

 

Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia

As DCA is a regulatory authority, its main function is to ensure that the aviation service providers conduct their activities in accordance with appropriate regulations. All the relevant aviation law can be accessed from this website.

 

Marine Department Malaysia

The Maritime Department is responsible for the formulation of policies, planning, research, and coordination in respect of maritime matters including ports development, shipping industry, licensing of domestic shipping and seamen affairs. The aim is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of utilizing port facilities. Its website includes full-texts of maritime legislation and regulations. The National Maritime Portal provides other source of law on shipping.

 

Road Transport Department of Malaysia

The Road Transport Department (RTD) was established in 1937, under the Traffic Enactment 1937. On 1 April 1946, the RTD had been set up specifically to coordinate all aspects relating to transportation nationwide. In line with its function, various acts relating to road transportation were regulated under provisions such as the Road Traffic Ordinance 1958 and the Road Transport Act 1987.

 

Department of Statistics Malaysia

The Department of Statistics was established in 1949 under the provisions of the Statistics Ordinance 1949 and was then known as the Bureau of Statistics. In 1965, the name Bureau of Statistics was changed to the Department of Statistics, Malaysia operating under the provisions of the Statistics Act 1965 (Revised 1989). In the government organizational structure, the Department of Statistics, Malaysia is placed under the Prime Minister's Department. The website is a good source of reference on statistical data of Malaysia.

 

Statutory / Regulatory Bodies

 

The setting up of a statutory body is governed by laws. Statutory bodies are established with the objective of implementing certain duties and responsibilities in line with government objectives. Corporations are set up to take over the duties and responsibilities of certain government departments. Each public corporation has officers of its own to manage it. The chief administrator of a public corporation is conferred and empowered to enact rules and regulations and to monitor his governing bodies to ensure smooth administration in accordance with the objectives. As public regulatory bodies, the law is public-accessed information in the following prominent websites demonstrate:

 

Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank)

Bank Negara Malaysia is the central bank for Malaysia. It was established on 26 January 1959, under the Central Bank of Malaya Ordinance, 1958, Act 519. The website includes full-texts of all banking and financial legislation.

 

MIDA - Malaysian Industrial Development Authority

The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) is the government's principal agency established under Act 397/1965 for the promotion and coordination of industrial development. It is the first point of contact for investors who intend to set up projects in the manufacturing and its related support services sectors in Malaysia. This is a useful site for foreign investors.

 

MATRADE

MATRADE was established since 1 March 1993 under the Act 490/1992 as the external trade promotion arm of Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). MATRADE functions as a focal point for Malaysian exporters and foreign importers to source for trade related information. This is an informative site for Malaysian exporters.

 

Securities Commission

The Securities Commission (SC) was set up under the Act 498/1993 on the 1 March 1993, marking a significant milestone in the Government's commitment to have a central authority in the regulation and development of the securities and futures industries in Malaysia. This is the best site for searching securities law in Malaysia.

 

The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia

The Inland Revenue Malaysia is one of the main revenue collecting agencies of the Ministry of Finance. The Department of Inland Revenue Malaysia became a board on 1 March 1996, and is now formally known as The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia. The Inland Revenue Board was established in accordance with the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia Act 1995, Act 533. This is the best website for information on Malaysian taxation regulations and procedures.

 

Labuan Offshore Financial Service Authority (LOFSA)

LOFSA was established as a single regulatory agency on 15 February 1996 under Act 545/1996 to be responsible for setting national objectives, policies and priorities for the orderly development and administration of the Labuan International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC). This website contains full-texts of all offshore legislation.

 

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is the regulator for the converging communications and multimedia industry established under Act 589/1998 on 1 November 2001. The website contains full-texts of Malaysian cyber law.

 

Companies Commission of Malaysia

This is the first agency or Federal Statutory Body under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs established on 16 April 2002 under Act 614/2001. The site facilitates company searches and the full text of the Companies Act.

 

Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia

The Intellectual Property Division (IPD) was first established on 27 October 1990 and now governed under Act 617/2002 under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Malaysia. The Corporation is responsible for the development and management of the intellectual property system in Malaysia.

 

Human Right Commission of Malaysia 

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) was established by Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597. The Act was gazetted on 9 September 1999. The full-text of the Human Right Act is included in the website.

 

Government Machinery

 

4. Judicial Authority – Source of Case Law

 

The Judiciary is empowered to hear and determine civil and criminal matters, and to decide on the legality of any legislative or executive acts as provided under Article 125A of the Federal Constitution. It is also conferred authority by law to interpret the Federal and State Constitutions. The courts can pronounce on the validity or otherwise of any law passed by parliament and they can pronounce on the meaning of any provision of the constitution. The jurisdiction of the Malaysian courts is determined by the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 for Superior Courts and the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 for Subordinate Courts

 

The Malaysian Courts of Justice are made up of the Superior Courts and the Subordinate Courts. The Superior Courts comprise of the Federal Court (the highest court), the Court of Appeal and the two High Courts. By virtue of Act 121(1) of the Federal Constitution judicial power in the Federation is vested on two High Courts of Coordinate jurisdiction and status namely the High Court of Malaya for Peninsular Malaysia and the High Court of Borneo for Sabah and Sarawak.

 

The Federal Court of Malaysia is the Supreme Court and highest judicial authority in the country as well as the final court of appeal in Malaysia. Before 1957, the name "Supreme Court" was used to refer to the highest court for Malaysia next below the Privy Council. The Supreme Court was renamed the Federal Court of Malaysia effective from 24 June 1994, and is now the final court of appeal for Malaysia. The Federal Court reviews decisions referred from the Court of Appeal; it has original jurisdiction in constitutional matters and in disputes between states or between the federal government and a state. Before 1 January 1985, the Federal Court was the highest court in the country but its decisions were further appealable to the Privy Council in London. However, on 1 January 1978, Privy Council appeals in criminal and constitutional matters were abolished and on 1 January 1985, all other appeals i.e. civil appeals, except those filed before that date, were abolished.

 

The Subordinate Courts in Peninsular Malaysia consist of the Sessions Court, Magistrates' Court and the Penghulu's Courts. The Subordinate Courts in Sabah and Sarawak consist of the Sessions Court, Magistrates' Courts and Native Courts. In the hierarchy of Subordinate Courts the lowest is the Penghulu’s Court. A Penghulu is a headman appointed by a state government. The criminal jurisdiction of a Penghulu’s Court is limited to the trial of offences of a minor nature which can be adequately punished by a fine not exceeding RM25.00.  In addition to the above, there is also a Juvenile Court for offenders below the age of 18.

 

All members of judiciary are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. The number of Judges is fixed by the Constitution. The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice of the Federal Court and he exercises direct supervision over all courts. Currently, the law provides seven other judges of the Federal Court, besides the Chief Justice of Malaysia, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak; ten judges for the Court of Appeal, forty-seven Judges for the High Court in Malaya; ten judges in the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak; and eleven Judicial Commissioners in the High Court in Malaya, and two in the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, although this may be altered by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by way of an order.

 

Selected court cases are reported in any of three major law reports in Malaysia e.g. Malayan Law Journal (MLJ – 1932 to current), Current Law Journal (CLJ - 1982 to current) and All Malaysia Reports (AMR – 1992 to current). Only a small portion of latest cases of the superior courts are available in the Court website as below.  

 

Judicial Sources

 

Malaysian Court Homepage

This website contains Malaysian judicial information and links to recent judgments and superior courts rules and other related information as follow:

 

Court Rules

·       Court of the Judicature Act 1964, (Revised 1972) Act 91

·       Rules of the Federal Court 1995

·       Rules of the Court of Appeal 1994

 

Judgments

·       Federal Court Latest Judgments

·       Court of Appeal Latest Judgments            

·       Kota Kinabalu High Court Judgments

 

Sabah Law Courts

This website contains information on Sabah courts such as how the courts function and how cases are being dealt with. This site covers the courts in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and Labuan, including the courts in the various districts. Latest judgments can also be obtained from here.

 

Sarawak Law Courts

Similar information as to the Sabah Law Courts’ website, set up with the aim of promoting transparency and informing the advocates and the public how the courts function and how cases are being dealt with. This site covers the courts throughout Sarawak.

 

Syariah Court of Federal Territories

The establishment of Syariah Court of Federal Territory was first made under Section 44(1) & (2) Selangor Islamic Administration of Islamic Law Enactment (1952). However, it was revised by the Federal Territory Order (1974). This website helps us to understand the syariah court procedures and contains other administartive information.

 

Industrial Court

The Industrial Court was established in 1940 under the Industrial Court of Inquiry Rules but it did not function due to Japanese Occupation. The Industrial Court’s objective is to set-up principles and guidelines for labour law in the private sector through decisions and awards handed down by the court which will set precedent to be followed in the practice of labour law and industrial relation system. The present Industrial Court is instituted under the Industrial Relations Act 1967. This website gives further explanations on the Industrial Court functions, activities and its jurisdiction.

 

Intellectual Property Court

The concern for the high rising number of piracy of copyrighted materials and counterfeiting of goods in Malaysia drove the country to establish an Intellectual Property Court. The Malaysian government has approved the establishment of fifteen (15) Sessions Courts with criminal jurisdiction known as “Sessions Court (Intellectual Property)”, one (1) in each state including in Putrajaya. In addition, six (6) High Courts with both civil and appellate jurisdictions known as “High Court of Malaya (Intellectual Property)” or “High Court of Borneo (Intellectual Property)” as the case may be, would be established in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak, with one (1) court already operational in the Kuala Lumpur High Court as of 17 July 2007.

 

Tribunal for Consumer Claims

The Tribunal for Consumer Claims is an independent body established under Section 85, Part XII, of the Consumer Protection Act 1999 which came into force on 15 November 1999 with the primary function of hearing and determining claims lodged by consumers under the Act and subject to the provisions of the Act. Before the establishment of the Tribunal, all disputes between a consumer and a supplier or manufacturer have to be brought before a civil court which often involves protracted trials, high legal and other cost, not to mention the long delays. This website is useful for those intending to file claims under the Tribunal.

 

Regional Centre for Arbitration Kuala Lumpur

In Malaysia, disputes can be settled through various means and the Regional Centre for Arbitration Kuala Lumpur (RCAKL) was established in 1978 to offer another avenue of dispute resolution outside the court structure. The website offers useful information about the arbitration procedures in Malaysia.

 

5. Legal Profession

 

Lawyers in Malaysia can practice in the government or private sector. Lawyers in the government sector are administered by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. They are transferable within the AG’s Chambers department or can be seconded to any of the state government as legal advisers. There is no division of legal profession in the private practice. A practicing lawyer is known as an advocate and solicitor and normally does all the work done by barristers and solicitors in England. There is one Bar for Peninsular Malaysia namely the Bar Council of Malaysia and a separate Bar each for Sabah and Sarawak namely the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak respectively. A member of the Peninsular Malaysia Bar is not entitled to practice in Sabah and Sarawak. No member of the Bar in the Sabah and Sarawak is entitled to practice in the other state or in Peninsular Malaysia. The Bar Council is given statutory powers to regulate the profession and acts as a general watchdog on professional etiquette and standards.

 

Malaysian law schools and the professional training of lawyers are modeled on the English system. Present admission requirements admit graduates from Malaysian law schools as well as graduates from Singapore, England, Australia and New Zealand. Admission to the role of advocates and solicitors is restricted to Malaysian or to a permanent resident of Malaysia, and a person admitted to the Bar has the exclusive right to appear and plead in all courts of justice.     

 

Useful legal sites:

Attorney General Chambers of Malaysia

Judicial and Legal Training Institute

Legal Affairs Division

Legal Aid Bureau

Bar Council of Malaysia

·       Kuala Lumpur Bar

·       Selangor Bar

·       Penang Bar

·       Johore Bar

·       Pahang Bar

·       Malacca Bar

Sabah Law Association

 

Law firms in Malaysia

·       Malaysian Bar – Legal Firms Directory

·       Law firms – Hieros Gamos Legal Firms Directory

·       Legal 500 – Malaysian Law Firms

 

Legal Education (in public universities)

·       University of Malaya – Faculty of Law

·       Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – Faculty of Law

·       International Islamic University Malaysia - Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws

·       Universiti Teknologi MARA Faculty of Administration and Law

·       Universiti Utara Malaysia – Faculty of Public Management and Law

 

Note on finding primary Malaysian legal sources

Most of the Malaysian laws originate from any of the three principal sources of law-making authorities namely the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. The law can be traced down by knowing their principal sources.  Although Malaysia has yet to have a one-stop center of free access for law, more and more of her laws are now freely available in the Internet through various government websites. However, there are two common limitations which can be discerned. Firstly, most of the laws in the Internet are current law, promulgated post-independence. Secondly, the statutes presented in these government websites are mostly of the principal statutes as it was originally enacted and in a non-consolidated form, except where released in reprinted versions.  Subsequent amendments of the law may be available in a separate text.  It may be quite difficult at times to determine whether a legislative text is current, accurate and complete when referring to these principal texts alone. The same goes for judicial decisions. Normally, only raw judgments are provided on the court websites without any editorial features such as head notes and other annotations. This certainly does not assist researchers in finding out more about the case, for example, whether the case was further appealed. 

 

Other than on the websites of the three law-making institutions where law is officially made accessible to the public freely i.e. on (i) the Attorney General’s Chambers’ website, (law-making institution for the Executive); (ii) the Parliament’s website and (iii) the Court’s websites, there are some ministries, statutory agencies, Bar Council and local governments which may also include their relevant law and regulations on their respective websites.  To access these websites, one may either choose to access them through legal portals, hosted locally or internationally, or one may access them directly from the websites of law-making institutions in their jurisdictions. Although they are not designed for sophisticated or exhaustive research compared to the service provided by commercial legal providers, these free-access sites are still the best alternative for Malaysian legal resources that are currently available.