Thursday, November 9, 2017

Speech by M.Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat while debating the 2018 budget in Parliament 7th November 2017
Mr Speaker, I wish to speak on three issues of national concern. They concern legal education, the exercise of the vote in a democracy, and handling the threat from terrorism.

First, the Malaysian Bar President George Varughese, has submitted its proposal to have a Common Bar Course (CBC) for all law graduates.

In March 2011, the Attorney-General announced the Legal Qualifying Board was considering implementing the CBC.

The CBC would be a 20-month course that would also focus on vocational skills. The CBC model combines the modern legal education approaches in other Commonwealth countries with local requirements.

There will be modules not commonly seen in other courses to meet specific needs among local graduates, such as the Legal Language and Communication Skills, to address the poor command of English and Practice Management Skills to expose lawyers intending to start their own firm to risk management.

Five semesters are envisaged as the duration of the course. The first three require fulltime study, while the final two are part-time where students will be pupils at law firms concurrently.

It will also feature a Student Law Office programme where the “students-at-law” will get to practise what they have learned in a simulated legal environment.

This proposal has its own pros and cons. Currently, the position is that the local grads are exempted from taking CLP (Certificate in Legal Practice) but foreign grads are required to sit for the CLP.

The CBC has long been mooted as a uniform entry point for those who seek to be lawyers.

As mentioned by George Varughese, one of the main reasons for having a CBC for all law graduates is to maintain a high standard for the legal calling.

This are advantages in having CBC, be it for local or foreign grads.

The CBC can be seen as an alternative examination toCLP in that local and foreign grads are required to sit for this course.

By doing this, it invokes a minimum standard for aspiring lawyers. The CBC has long been mooted as a way to standardise the legal profession.

However, the pro-local grads section of the debate on legal education is doubtful as to how the Bar Council can assure that by having a common examination, it will produce lawyers of calibre. They say this is an assumption, not a certainty.

However, this can only be known after the implementation of the CBC and not prior.

Moving on, the next advantage is that CBC will remove the disparities between local and foreign grads.

There are conflicting opinions on the two categories of law graduates. It is said the local grads are of lower quality compared to foreign grads.

Further, that the CLP is necessary to 'Malaysianise' foreign law qualifications.

Local university law graduates read law for 4 years whereas most foreign law graduates study for three years.

Opinion is common among law firms that their reluctance to employ local grads is because the latter are of lower quality.

By letting both local and foreign grads to sit for a commonexamination, it will eventually reduce the disparities between both.

This will also equalise the chances of them getting a position in any law firms as the entry requirements of law graduates joining the legal fraternity will be the same.

From the standpoint of the pro-local grads group, the module of the CBC is seen as having been adapted from some public universities in Malaysia, as one of them is a specially designed module for UiTM’s final year syllabus for the LLB Degree.

As such local universities, like UiTM, have been offering the very same modules that will be introduced by the Malaysian Bar through CBC. Hence there is no need for having another qualification for local law graduates.

This is viewed as as unfair on local graduates who have to to study the same subjects for at least another year.

Thirdly, the benefits upon implementation of CBC will be that the foreign law graduates will no longer be required to sit for CLP.

CLP covers subjects like contracts, tort, land law, probate, bankruptcy, evidence, ethics, civil and criminal procedure.

CLP can be considered as unweildy wherein a significant portion of the syllabus is utterly pointless.

Its cumbersome aspects is very likely the reason why the exam is notoriously difficult.

It is considered a myth that passing CLP is regarded as thebenchmark to be a lawyer of calibre.

By introducing the CBC, there will be a significant reduction to the bulk of CLP syllabus. In addition, the CBC emphasizes the development of the advocacy skill which is not a part of the CLP syllabus.

Though local grads are exempted from CLP, they are required to complete 4 years of study for the law degree.

The argument espoused by the pro-local is that the CBC has not stated what the duration of this course would be.

As mentioned earlier, if CBC is going to take 20 months, then it will be unfair to the local grads to take an additional 20 months of study after completing 4 years of learning just to qualify as a lawyer.

The foreign grads are required to read law only for three years and then take the CBC to be qualified.

Finally, by having CBC, it ultimately limits the number of grads entering the legal fraternity.

It may seem to be bad news to the profession, however, as per the quote of Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, private practice is the ultimate arbiter as to who remains in practice, as only the best can survive to meet challenges of the legal profession.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, only about 250 law graduates were produced yearly after passing the Common Bar Course.

However, in Malaysia in comparison, 1,300 local law graduates are produced yearly.

Meanwhile, only 300 foreign graduates enter the profession upon passing CLP.

Limiting the number can produce lawyers according to the expectation of this legal faculty. As summation, it can be said that it is quality instead of quantity that matters the most.

I am sure the CBC will enhance the quality of lawyers in the future.

However, the Malaysian Bar can look into the disadvantages posed by this CBC to the local grads..

On a separate note, the CLP results were announced on the 30th October, 2017.

However, 2 weeks prior to that, and to be exact on 16thOctober, 2017, there was a glitch in the system to announce the CLP results. Some candidates were able to view their results. There were 3 different 'notifications'that was received by the candidates. The notifications were as follows:-

a) Some candidates received notification that they passed the exam and were to wait for the invitation email from LPQB for convocation.

b) Some candidates were able to view the subject tha theyneeds to resit.

c) And some candidates received a notification that registration has yet to open.

However, the 'leak' went viral among CLP candidates within few hours.

Many candidates were puzzled whether to believe the leak or not. Subsequently, the LPQB posted a notification on the 17th stating that the system will be down until 24thOctober, but did mention the leak.

On releasing the results, we learned that the informal notification received on 16th was indeed the truth.

The question that most candidates posed to the LPQB was that as soon as the leak occured, the LPQB could have brought forward the official results' day to avoid troublingthe candidates.

The gap of 2 weeks until the results' day raised anxiety among and resuted in panic to some candidates.

On a more serious note, several candidates were celebrating Deepavali with their families.

The ‘leak’ definitely caused anxiety and spoiled the joy of their festive occasion.

As compared to the CLP, BPTC’s [Bar Professional Training Course] results are usually released on a standardised date.

This will make the system more generalised and candidates able to predict the results' day.

Unlike CLP candidates, they would have to wait for the notifications from LPQB.

LPQB had also failed to send a notification to every candidate's email about when the results would be announced.

Instead, LPQB posted a notification on their website with the expectation that every candidate would be viewing their website on a daily basis.

We hope the LPQB would consider having a standardised results' day instead of changing the dates on yearly basis.

This would avert anxiety and prevent panic among candidates.

Issue No 2 is n the planting of postal voters.

Here the statement by the veterans' association on the issue of the movement of postal votes is significant.

The Election Commission should be the sanctity of the electoral process of this country.

The EC should be independent at all times and act in the intersts of the voters.

By allowing the registration of postal voters in Segamat elsewhere clearly shows the EC is a lame duck.

The appointment of EC commissioners is questionable.

People like Bersih chef Maria Chin should be taken abroad the EC.

The EC seems to be acting in the interests of the government.

More than that it has been manipulated by the Government.

It's failure to ensure automatic registration of voters, to lower the voting age to 18 and to abolish the registration of voters by assistant registrars who are NGO workers and aides to political parties) have crippled the effectiveness of getting unregistered voters to register, 3.6 million of them remain unregistered.

If EC commissioners, s impartial arbiters of the electoral process, cannot carry out their duties, they should resign with honour.

We come to issue of Zakir Naik.

There is a video which has gone viral showing how Zakir has received VVIP treatment in Malaysia.

He has been granted PR status and is said to have applied for citizenship.

He is alleged to be linked to terrorism in India. Interpol may soon issue a red flag on him.

Why, then, is he given special treatment in Malaysia. Is the government willing to cooperate with the Indian government and deport Zakir?

Sources say that if Zakir doesn't return, India could issue a non-bailable warrant against him and get an Interpol red corner notice, which means authorities in Saudi Arabia, where he is believed to be located, would need to hand him over to India.

Investigative agencies in India want to examine cases relating to 50 individuals who were allegedly drawn to violent extremism after listening to Zakir Naik's sermons.

Indian agencies are probing the source of funds received by Zakir's organisations from different countries after the agency raided Naik's residence and premises of firms such as Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, which makes content for the channel, Peace TV, which was Zakir's TV channel.

If all this comes to pass, Malaysia will be put on the spot. PM Najib's standing as a Muslim moderate and his creation of a lobby for global moderation will be in tatters.

Malaysia cannot run with the hare of global moderation and simultaneously to hunt with hounds of Muslim extremism.