KOTA KINABALU: The proposed amendments to the Sabah Advocates Ordinance will pave the way for the formation of Sabah’s own statutory
body to regulate the legal profession in Sabah, said Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang.
He said that the State government through the State Attorney General office had already perused the proposed amendments by the Sabah Law Association (SLA), including provisions to set up the Sabah Law Society.
The Sabah Law Society is a full-fledged professional body governing the legal profession in Sabah equipped with powers to regulate their own affairs, including disciplinary actions against members of the bar in Sabah, he said.
“This is a very positive development. We have perused the proposed amendments and a paper has been tabled to the State cabinet which has already been approved. View consent has been given to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for the amendment bills to be tabled in Parliament in the coming sitting,” he added after officiating a Legal Awareness Weekend, organised by SLA, at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall here on Saturday.
The event was held to reach out to the public to provide better understanding on the legal profession in the State where SLA members and lawyers also offered free legal advice for the public during the weekend programme.
Also present were State Attorney General Datuk Mariati Robert and Yusri Abdullah, deputy director of Land and Surveys Department.
Meanwhile, SLA president Brendon Soh said that through the said amendments, the Sabah Law Society would make membership mandatory for all legal practitioners in the State, which would help change the landscape of the legal profession in Sabah.
“As we move towards a larger legal fraternity, the proposed amendments once passed by Parliament will give recognition and autonomy for Sabah to regulate their own lawyers.
“The proposed amendments are the result of the SLA having close cooperation with the Federal Attorney General Chambers over a number of years in order to ensure that the proposed amendments to the Sabah Advocates Ordinance, which would benefit the legal fraternity and correspondingly for the benefit of the members of the public,” he said.
He also said that the draft bill would need to be approved at the Federal level since the State Advocates Ordinance was listed under the federal list.
“The State Advocates Ordinance was formerly State legislation but declared federal when Malaysia was formed,” he explained.
Brendon added that with growing recognition on the need to have three separate statutory bodies for Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, the proposals have seen major progress at the federal level.
“We are pushing for more self-regulation, statutory body SLA with disciplinary board with powers to mete out the necessary punishment similar to the Bar Council Disciplinary Board and they have the powers to mete out punishment deterrents to lawyers found guilty of breaching the law,” he said.
Among other amendments sought would also be the creation of a Disciplinary Board, Disciplinary Fund, Compensation Fund (to compensate members of the public in appropriate cases), powers to operate a deceased advocate’s clients’ account and the ability of the Sabah Law Society to make rules regarding a minimum amount of insurance for every lawyer in the State, he said.