KUALA LUMPUR, Tues: Session Four of Day Two of the
Conference deals on the topic on the Role of the Bar in Upholding the
Constitution – Experiences from around the South China Sea which
distinguished speakers from our neigbouring countries were invited over to
present their thoughts.
Ahmad Basuni Haji Abbas, President of the Brunei Law Society, started off with his speech by informing the participants that Brunei is a country which is an ‘exception to the general rule.’ Unlike other neighbouring countries that Brunei is surrounded by, their system is absolute monarchy where the ruler is the supreme leader of the land and above the constitution that was devised.
Brunei’s constitution was proclaimed on 29 September 1959 and there was a revision in 1984 with more substantive amendments made in 2004 which emphasises on governance of the country. The Brunei Law Society was created by the Legal Profession Society Order 2003 which one of their main tasks was to assist the government in courts.
It was said that the Bench plays an active role in upholding the constitution in particular by safeguarding citizen's rights although it is not expressly provided in the Constitution. A case which exemplified this involves an individual who was properly arrested by a warrant of arrest issued by the court and the only issue was that he was only produced to court not in the immediate instance but the day after. The accused initiated action against the police in his own personal capacity even though knowingly that the odds are stacked against him as the King can do no wrong which applies equally to all his servants. The judiciary finding was that such a fundamental right of a citizen should not be taken away and allowed action to be taken against the police officer but in his own personal capacity and not the state.
In spite of the revisions to the Constitution and the efforts of the Brunei Law Society and the Courts to uphold it, Ahmad Basuni still admitted that ‘further provisions need to be amended in the Constitution in face of the changing world.’
The other speaker is Phillip Jeyaretnam a current President of the Singapore Law Society. He mentioned that the role of the Bar is to speak up wherever there are necessary matters affecting legislation and the administrations and practice of the law in their country. There was a case involving a legislation which they offer their advise and suggestion to the Government which subsequently attracted a public furore over it. The Government of Singapore in view of this scenario took steps to remedy any future similar incidents from occurring over again by commenting that only legislation submitted to the society that comments are to be made.
The next speaker, Tim Robertson a senior counsel from Australia mentioned that we share a ‘common heritage’ which is by adopting the English common law system. He sees no reason why that the institutions in his neighbouring countries should face impediments in pursuing justice when Australia Law Society, a voluntary society, does not face similar problems by being independent and self-regulatory.
Our past president, Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari contributes to this session by informing us the role of the Malaysian Bar as laid out in S.42 of the Legal Profession Act 1976. Many incidences were particularly mentioned, with the latest march which took place the previous month, to showcase how our Bar has seriously undertaken their role in ensuring that justice not only has to be done but seen to be done.