Contributed by Joachim Leong and Noor Arianti Osman
After three fulfilling days of talks on wide, encompassing topics that reflect the realities of a globalised world and how quickly the law, correspondingly, changes, it is only fitting to have our Chief Justice, YAA Tun Arifin Zakaria to give his closing remarks for the International Malaysia Law Conference 2012.
A large audience comprising members of the Judiciary, Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak, Sabah Law Association, distinguished guests and conference delegates were in attendance.
He began by thanking the Bar for letting him have the honour of giving the closing remarks and congratulated the Bar for having organised such a successful event. He also welcomed all the delegates from far and wide with an enthusiastic “Selamat Datang” and reminded them to not only come to be enriched by the law but also to experience our culture and the variety of food available here.
Sharing the Malaysian experience in clearing the backlog of cases from 2007, he mentioned his predecessor Tun Zaki bin Tun Azmi. It was he who had initiated the lengths they had gone and the strides they had made in reforming the judicial system to clear the backlog. They had to reinvent the judiciary system top-down, from the judges to the court orderlies. He thanked both the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and also the Bar for their support and cooperation in this reinvention.
Among the lengths they went into was a shift in the way case management was run where the judge was no longer a ‘silent umpire’. Judges not only have to ensure a level playing field but also to ensure that the court process is not trivialised or abused, he said. He stressed that public and private resources should not be wasted on the administration of justice.
Also, file management was markedly improved with file rooms reorganised and barcodes used to ensure files were moving and not left inactive. Those inactive ones were nudged out for rehearing or disposal.
Among the reform measures mentioned by the CJ are the establishment of specialised courts, use of electronic systems, expedited appeals through special panels, the introduction of mediation as a cheaper and quicker alternative, appointment of new lower court registrars and of course, the establishment of the combined rules, the Rules of Court 2012. In addition to that, criminal cases are also being cleared now with the introduction of witness statements, case managements and amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code with plea bargaining and more.
The strides made were evident when Malaysia rose to the 31st position in 2012, from 60th in 2009, in its ranking under the World Bank Doing Business Report for “Enforcing Contracts”. The World Bank even remarked that Malaysia had set a world-class example in judicial reform. These changes were necessary as the judiciary needed to be able to change to adapt to the needs of the business community, he highlighted.
He also revealed that they had just successfully tested an E-Appellate Court system that morning and this system will also be phased out soon.
Y.A.A Tun Ariffin also took the opportunity to announce that the Judiciary is considering to set up a special Court User Committee comprising the AGC, the Bar, the business community, NGOs and any others who use the court system. The committee would refine and reshape the court system to ensure better service for all court users.
He also cited our Prime Minister’s opening address on how the Malaysian Bar is an important partner in the law and the administration of justice. With both equally independent bar and judiciary, it would be possible to administer justice free from other influences, the CJ remarked.
He further ensured the audience that the judiciary would change with the times and a change of mindset would be required to move forward successfully with globalisation.