BN MPs question Bar Council’s ability to regulate foreign firms
KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — The credibility of the Bar Council was at stake as several members of Parliament (MPs) questioned the proposal to give the Council the power to issue licence to foreign legal firms to practice in Malaysia as stated in the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012.
When debating the Bill, Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan (BN-Kota Belud) and Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Independent-Pasir Mas) agreed that the proposal was inappropriate as it involved a big responsibility and it was feared that it a conflict of interest would arise.
Khairy also questioned the Council’s ability to come out with a transparent decision, especially with its tendency to support the opposition.
He also slammed the Bar Council and the Malaysian Bar, which he said were seen as not proactive in preparing the legal community in the country to face liberation of the sector.
“I don’t see the Bar Council or any legal organisations in the country which had came out with a master plan for the liberation and I’m not sure if the Bar Council can regulate themselves,” he said.
The proposed amendment will give the Bar Council the power to issue licences to qualified foreign legal firms to practise in this country.
The Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012, aimed at liberalising the legal profession in Malaysia, was debated after being read for the second time by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong at the Dewan Rakyat today.
The proposed amendment was to promote Malaysia as a major hub for international Islamic finance, as well as to expand the expertise and specialisation of the legal profession.
Khairy said the move to liberalise the profession was timely, but it must be implemented in a meticulous and strategic manner.
A policy must be formulated to set the objectives of the liberalisation, especially in terms of sharing structures and the permitted practice areas.
“We don’t want to see only junior lawyers sent here by the foreign firms, while all the major works are given to Singapore and Hong Kong. If that is the case, there will not be any knowledge transfer with the local firms. So, we have to have this aspect as part of the terms and conditions,” he said.
Abdul Rahman, when interjecting in Khairy’s debate, said the power should not be given to the Bar Council, which he described as another component of the opposition pact, besides being partisan and biased.
Ibrahim, on the other hand, said issues and complications, including cronyism may arise if the power is given to the Bar Council.
“I’m worried that certain quarters will spin the issues, saying that cronyism exists in the issuance of the licence to foreign law firms. Maybe the local lawyers will claim that they are being sidelined,” he said.
He also asked whether the foreign lawyers would be compelled to learn Malay language before they could practise in this country.
Ibrahim also called on the government to speed up the process to set up the Legal Academy, saying that the responsibility to issue the licence to foreign law firms should be entrusted to the academy.
The sitting continues tomorrow. — Bernama