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MGG: Waking up to a familiar landscape
By M.G.G. Pillai

16/11/2001 12:36 am Fri 2001/11/2001111501.php3


Thursday November 15

Waking up to a familiar landscape

M.G.G. Pillai

1:08pm, Thu: It is an open secret that those who sit for public examinations could, for a fee, get the question papers in advance. The authorities turn a blind eye, if only because those who set the papers often held special coaching classes and give out as test questions what they would answer in the examinations.

In some instances, this was officially encouraged, like those who took the special university entrance examinations in Malaysian universities. My sons, when they sat for the SPM and STPM, would tell of the examination papers that could be got for a price.

I saw several papers, well after the result, and for which parents paid RM200 and more per paper. It is now taken as granted that the SPM and STPM papers are routinely leaked, and nothing is done about it.

It affects other examinations, too. There is not one public examination for which one cannot buy the examination papers in advance. This may not be true in every case but the average is good enough for a sub-industry to develop.

The authorities do not seem to care; they insist the papers are prepared in high secrecy, and do not investigate further. The papers are bought and sold well before they are due, and no one bothers about it.

Beyond reproach

It has become part of the landscape. The authorities spring to action when this practice is highlighted. As on Oct 29, when the Malay Mail reported that question papers for the Certificate of Legal Practice, which law graduates from foreign and private educational institutions must obtain before they could practise law, in July had been leaked. And had been for years.

Few pass it the first time they sit; many get through only after their third or fourth attempt. This puts tension amongst the lawyers-to-be so high that they resort to bribery: the papers are not cheap but cost less than if they had to re-sit.

So, the Malay Mail report shocked many, said what most knew, but it passed without comment, as if the paper was naive to have reported what everyone else knew.

Not one minister called for an inquiry. Whether a Keadilan official called another a "pariah" in a closed-door meeting was deemed more important for them to comment. Apart from a few questions from opposition leaders as Lim Kit Siang of the DAP, it was ignored, until the Legal Profession Qualifying Board decided to punish those who sat for the CLP this year - those who passed or referred in one or two subjects - by ordering them to resit. But it did not say what it would do to check the persistent belief that the questions are routinely leaked and available at a price.

The CLP is to restrict new lawyers by making their entry as difficult and unfair as is possible. Nothing wrong with that. You must be prepared to pay the price, and that the examinations would be fair and above board. If they are not, as now, it denies you the constitutional right to property, which includes the right to earn a living.

This is why qualifying boards jealously regard their right to decide who could join the profession or trade. And why entrance to one is jealously guarded as a privilege. But you are right to assume they would conduct their affairs beyond reproach. The Legal Profession Qualifying Board did not. Why did they overreact to a press report, when they would surely have known of what it now wakes up to for years.