Circular No. 79/2015
2 August 2016
SLA Press Statement In Reply To The Daily Express Column "Shame On You Sabah Lawyers" Published On 31 July 2016
The Sabah Law Association [“SLA”] makes an unreserved rebuttal to the above article appearing in the Daily Express “Forum” Column on 31.07.2016. The SLA will assert strongly that the said article was disparaging, factually incorrect, malicious and therefore wholly unwarranted towards the SLA.
The three imperative points that the SLA will make in relation to the article are:-
1. That the sensational headline is not only unacceptable but was irresponsible to the legal fraternity in Sabah;
2. That the SLA is a separate and distinct body altogether from the Inquiry Committee; and
3. That the SLA takes offence to the highly derogatory and defamatory statement that “they exist only for dinner and dance”.
The Headline:- The sweeping headline is entirely inappropriate as it neither has a bearing nor is it supported by the content of the Complainant’s letter which seeks to highlight a complaint against an individual lawyer. There is no direct correlation between the Complainant’s one private grievance towards one lawyer and the SLA and/or to the entire legal profession. The headline should have been professional and objective and not created in an attempt to taint all lawyers in the State of Sabah in the same light or colour. It is entirely misleading and mischievous to refer to the “shame” of all Sabah lawyers when the complaint is in effect against one law firm. Headlines are supposed to attract a reader and lead them into the content of the article but should not be confusing as to the actual content of the text. It is with regret that the Editor did not conjure a more balanced and nuanced headline proportionate to the content of the Complainant’s letter.
SLA and the Inquiry Committee [“IC”]:- Let us be absolutely clear about this as it is not the first time that the SLA has had to clarify that it has no role in relation to the official disciplinary procedure of lawyers. It is fundamentally necessary to state that the SLA and IC are two distinct, separate and unrelated entities. The SLA is a non-governmental association [“NGO”] registered under the Societies Act 1966 and membership is entirely voluntary for lawyers entitled to practice in Sabah. The SLA has no disciplinary powers over lawyers and is unable to mete out any sanction against any lawyer. Any complaint that the SLA receives will always be forwarded to the IC as the relevant body for dealing with disciplinary issues made against lawyers. Therefore to link the SLA and the IC as being one and the same body is erroneous and false. For the record, we have been made to understand that the IC did hear the matter and is ready for delivery of their ruling on the complaint.
The IC is created and exists by virtue of the Advocates (Inquiry Committee) Rules 2013 under the Advocates Ordinance of Sabah. The IC consists of nine individuals, namely a Chairman, a Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Five other members appointed by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak. The President of the SLA is a committee member in the IC by virtue of his position. The IC considers, examines, scrutinises or enquires into any complaint made against a lawyer in his professional capacity. Upon examination and inquiry into such complaint the IC may either dismiss the complaint if it is found to be without merit OR if the complaint is bona fide and there is prima facie evidence that disciplinary proceedings should be taken against the lawyer, such legal proceedings can be commenced by either the IC or the Complainant under section 12, 12A and 13 of the Advocates Ordinance for the lawyer to either have their name struck off the roll of advocates, suspended from practising, fined, censured or awarded costs accordingly. In this respect, it will be the High Court that metes out the relevant punishment depending on the severity of the offence or breach of the Advocates Ordinance. The lawyer concerned will have the opportunity to show cause why such punishment should not be granted against him or her. Therefore the SLA is not in a position to comment on the merits of the Complainant’s accusation against the lawyer involved. It would be prudent to await the outcome of the IC’s decision.
The SLA is far from being merely a social organisation. We would like to bring to your attention that the SLA as an independent NGO has been consistently involved and has contributed as part of its public service the following:-
1. the Legal Aid Clinic every Saturday morning (except the first Saturday of the month) where legal advice is provided for free to members of the public;
2. facilitating the carrying out of the National Legal Aid Foundation [“YBGK”] scheme by recruiting SLA members to participate in the program which provides free legal representation to Malaysians upon arrest and/or charge in Court. In 2015 there were 3,890 representations for either arrest, remand, bail / mitigation or hearings in Sabah;
3. by continuing to attend as an independent NGO various meetings called by various authorities to contribute independent advice on issues of public concern as well as affecting land law revision and subsidiary title developments and this includes working with State Attorney-General Chambers, Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Lands and Surveys Department as well as many other governmental agencies;
4. by organising over ten (10) seminars/workshops for the legal fraternity as part of continuing professional development over the past year;
5. organising My Constitution presentations / workshops for both university and school students in Kota Kinabalu and Tawau to create an awareness of the fundamental rights under the Federal Constitution;
6. has organised a free workshop in collaboration with the Majlis Perkhidmatan Masyarakat for “Persons with Disabilities and the Law” over two (2) days with over seventy (70) participants were encouraged to participate in the decision making process towards equality in all aspects of life;
7. has regular dialogues / collaborates with the Judiciary on many issues faced in the administration of justice in the State; and
8. organises a two (2) day practice and etiquette proficiency course for all chambering students intending to be admitted to the Sabah Bar.
The above is only an indication of some of the constructive and beneficial work that the SLA undertakes and thus we trust that this would therefore dispel and contradict the unjustified insinuations of the Complainant that the SLA is a “social” organisation
For the record, the SLA do sympathise with the predicament faced by the Complainant and it is precisely for this very reason that the SLA has been pursuing the amendments to the Advocates Ordinance (the statute that governs the practice of lawyers in the State of Sabah) to create a professional regulatory body called the Sabah Law Society where membership will be mandatory for all lawyers. The amendments will entail the formation of a Disciplinary Board having powers to fine, suspend or strike off a lawyer found guilty of breaching any rule. In addition, there would be the establishment of a Compensation Fund to indemnify members of the public who have suffered loss or damage as a result of an errant lawyer. It is perceived that if this amendment is passed by Parliament, the disciplinary process of a lawyer will be streamlined under the Sabah Law Society.
Moving forward, the SLA is in fact focusing on social responsibility by organizing two public events later this year designed to benefit members of the public. The first is “SLA Legal Awareness Weekend” scheduled on 8th – 9th October 2016 at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall, Kota Kinabalu where the SLA will organize free legal advice booths and free legal education lectures on topics such as Criminal Law, Conveyancing, Syariah, and Employment Law. The second event is the “SLA Legal Run” scheduled on 6 November 2016, which is a charitable run of 6 km and 13 km the proceeds of which will be donated to local charitable bodies including but not limited to the Sabah Cheshire Home and Bukit Harapan.
We trust the above clarifies the SLA’s stance on the article and will also serve to remind the Complainant and Editor that the SLA is always ready to serve the needs of its members and the public where possible. Meanwhile, we welcome any further enquiries and clarifications that the general public may have and these can be addressed to the Hon. Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 088 232662 / fax 088 232654.
En. Syarulnizam Salleh
Honorary Secretary (2015/17)
Sabah Law Association
1 August 2016
Sabah Law Association
Tel: 088 232 662
Fax: 088 232 654