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MGG: Waking up to a familiar landscape
By M.G.G. Pillai
16/11/2001 12:36 am Fri
Thursday November 15
Waking up to a familiar landscape
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
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
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
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