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MGG: The CLP Mess: Why Is The Government Silent?
By M.G.G. Pillai
21/11/2001 3:27 am Wed
20 November 2001
The CLP mess: Why is the government silent?
By: M.G.G. Pillai
Why is the government silent about the CLP scandal? It is clear
by the day the blame for it is not with the clerks and law
students, who are the focus of the police investigation, but
those who allowed this. The de facto law minister, Dato' Rais
Yatim, pitches in only when he is cornered to demand those in
charge be investigated as well. Once, you could get question
papers for a few hundred ringgit. It is about RM5,000 now. The
Law Profession Qualifying Board was aware of it for years. But
it needed proof before it would investigate. Why? Is it not in
its interest for the examination it conducts be beyond reproach?
When the scandal hit the streets, did it investigate
thoroughly, as it must, to nullify the CLP results in July and
October? Unlikely. It could not in the fortnight between the
Malay Mail Report of 29 October and its decision. It takes
longer when one wants to check one's results with the Board. It
was caught flat-footed. It found not the occasional corruption
that could be stopped, but a wide-spread malignant cancer it
could not stop. Then it battened its hatches and refused even to
answer telephones. No one talks. Rumours spread in a vaccuum.
Inexcusable is how cavalierly it announced its decision: A
press release that raised more questions than answers. The
qualifying body for a profession must at least advise each
candidate by letter what it intends to do. It did not. One can
guess why. The results are so messed up that even the Board did
not know if a student passed or failed, so thoroughly it has been
Corruption in five steps
Corruption is at the base of every scandal. It does not
matter if it concerns the Bakun Dam or the CLP examination. It
is a way of life. It is then rich to assume the LPQB did not
know of it in its bailliwick. Especially when on it are those
whose official task includes ridding the country of corruption.
How did it work with the CLP examinations? It worked at every
level. First, the papers could be bought, the first link in the
chain that must end in the offices of its executive director.
Second, after the examinations, the markers would pass those who
made it worthwhile for them to; some have called the students to
demand money for a pass. Third, the marks are altered, with
money changing hands, when they are keyed into a computer.
Fourth, names are dropped of whose who pass, for yet another
round of pickings from those prepared to pay. Fifth, if all this
fails, one could, I am told, buy the CLP certificate for sums far
more than what it cost one to pass the LL.B examination itself.
About a thousand sat for the July examination, and a few
hundred the referral in October. The LPQB thought it affected
only the October examination, and panicked it involved the July
one as well. It is, in other words, a big racket. Lawyers in
practice cannot distinguish between "plaintiff" and "defendant"
and knows the law even less. Law is where, the young lawyers
believe, millions can be made before they turn 30, and then into
business to make even more. It is this culture that turned the
judiciary into the mockery it once was. And touts aka clerks in
the LPQB direct students to lawyers who conduct CLP classes on
the quiet, and who remarkably spot the examination questions time
after time. Why are they allowed to do this? The names are
known to every tutorial college, and many a lawyer. How is it
that the LPQB did not?
An impossible quandry
The students are put into an impossible quandry. They have to
sit for the examinations in January. But they also look to legal
moves to clarify the confusion. About half the 231 affected have
been taken the Short Call, which allows them to appear in High
Court chambers and in magistrate's courts. They are told they
now cannot, though there is confusion here: since the LPQB
refuses to do things properly, some judges continue to admit
lawyers, others not. It points to the LPQB not having made its
decision to nullify official.
This time, it blew open. The government is caught between two
stools. And it cannot wish the scandal away. The CLP is
discredited. How many lawyers practice who passed this way? One
would never know. But this belief that papers could be bought
has been around since the CLP examination was introduced. The
authorities closed a blind eye.
It is in this confused state of affairs that those affect
move the courts. Three broad actions are considered under
constitutional and administrative law, some court actions have
been filed, the police have said they would charge six - a clerk
and five who sat for the CLP. This is the token the authorities
offer in a mess. But they are not who are responsible for this
mess. They are bit players who are caught. Last year, a CLP
student called on the CLP executive director to complain of
leaked papers a fortnight before the examinations. Khalid Yusof
took pains to explain why this was not possible. And did