Contributed by Liew Kok Heng, Writer/Editor, Bar Council Secretariat; photo by Jul Indra Tofan b Jahrul, Senior Administrative Assistant, Bar Council Secretariat
From left to right: Rajen Devaraj, Lukman Sheriff b Alias, A G Kalidas, HE Charles Hay MVO, Deborah Clarke, Ng Lee Lee, and Shahareen Begum
On 12 Apr 2021, the Office Bearers of the Malaysian Bar hosted a meeting with members of the British High Commission in Malaysia — British High Commissioner to Malaysia, HE Charles Hay MVO; Deborah Clarke, Director of Trade and Investment for Malaysia of the British High Commission; and Ng Lee Lee, Senior Market Access Advisor for the Department for International Trade of the British High Commission. The meeting was held at Wisma Badan Peguam Malaysia.
The purpose of the meeting was to further develop the discussions and progress made from the previous meeting on 3 Nov 2020, with a focus on the working group on legal services formed under the auspices of the UK-Malaysia Joint Committee on Bilateral Trade, Investment and Cooperation (“Working Group”).
In attendance for the meeting were A G Kalidas, President of the Malaysian Bar; Shahareen Begum, Secretary of the Malaysian Bar; Lukman Sheriff b Alias, Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council International Professional Services Committee; Rajen Devaraj, Chief Executive Officer of the Bar Council Secretariat; and officers of the Bar Council Secretariat.
Among the topics discussed were the percentage of equity partnership of the International Partnership (“IP”) under Part IVA of the Legal Profession Act 1976; the validity period of a qualified foreign law firm (“QFLF”) licence; the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”) trade agreement; prison reform efforts; and scholarships for Malaysian law students.
On the percentage of equity partnership and the validity period of a QFLF licence, the Bar Council International Professional Services Committee intends to improve the current equity partnership for Members of the Malaysian Bar and QFLF licence structure to make it more conducive to growth, in order to make Malaysia the regional hub for specific legal services. According to Lukman Sheriff, the Working Group would be a good start to discuss whether increasing the current equity ratio to 50:50 would attract more potential IP licences.
A G Kalidas added that for a more holistic approach, the Working Group should be composed of various stakeholders of the legal services, such as representatives from the Bar Council, Ministry of International Trade and Industry (“MITI”), Law Society of England and Wales, as well as the UK Ministry of Justice. Shared background and areas of expertise between Malaysia and the UK such as Shariah finance and arbitration, for example, should be identified for focus from which all parties could benefit.
He next pointed out that, as regards the CPTPP trade agreement, more discussion is needed to identify its benefits. He noted that Malaysian lawyers are poised with a competitive advantage over their regional peers in providing quality legal services.
On the issue of prison reform, HE Charles Hay shared the idea of a sentencing council, consisting of representatives from stakeholders such as the Judiciary, Attorney General’s Chambers, Bar Council, and the Prison Department of Malaysia. This is to further aid prison reform via the use of non-custodial sentences and community service orders, for example, to ensure smoother rehabilitation and reduce prison overcrowding. The British High Commission delegates added that they would be supportive in helping to create a sentencing council in Malaysia.
A G Kalidas informed the delegates that the Bar Council was instrumental with regard to a compendium in relation to the award of damages for injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents, and that there had been efforts to try to come up with a compendium for sentencing. He suggested that perhaps this effort can be revived by setting up an ad hoc committee which could also engage the Judiciary and the Prison Department on the matter. He noted the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) for sentencing guidelines in East Malaysia. On the use of the death penalty under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, he stated that the Malaysian Bar has been consistent in its calls for the abolition of the death sentence.
Regarding scholarships for Malaysian law students, the British High Commissioner elaborated on the Chevening Scholarship, which continues to receive numerous strong Malaysian applications. The delegates stated that they will send application notices and details to the Bar Council for Members of the Bar to apply. In addition, they also proposed to resume the judicial cooperation programme between Malaysia and the UK when conditions allow.
Ending the meeting on a high note, the British High Commissioner extended an invitation to the Office Bearers for a follow-up meeting in the near future, as a step forward from today’s positive discussions.