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MGG: Political quiet, public disquiet - time to choose
By M.G.G. Pillai
4/12/2001 1:56 am Tue
Political quiet, public disquiet - time to choose
1:20pm, Fri: The helter-skelter dissembling in the CLP fiasco is
telling. He who should have surfaced early, the de facto law
minister Rais Yatim, adds to the general confusion when he asserts
the Legal Profession Qualifying Board is both independent and not
On Nov 28, he said an independent body is planned to supervise
examinations conducted by the board implying the LPQB is not; in
the next breath he says he cannot interfere because it is.
And jumps on his usual high horse: "We cannot afford to allow
people to go on saying that this had been happening for a long
time...this kind of talk will put us down into the 'longkang' (drain)."
Yet his silence, until now, was just that. He well knew about it; he
refused to interfere when some students approached him.
Now he accepts that the rumours had swirled around the
examination since its first in 1984. It went undetected for 18 years
and would have for years more but for the Malay Mail article.
As usual, the solution only guarantees further problems of this kind.
The cabinet is now involved. Why?
As usual, the solution only guarantees further problems of this kind. The cabinet is now involved. Why?
Rais now talks of involving the government and professionals in the
But he does not address the central issue: Would this address the
integrity of the examinations itself?
What he proposes is piecemeal tightening of the procedures as
they are breached. When what he should is investigate why in
every examination in Malaysia - SPM, STPM, CLP, whatever -
question papers can be bought, marks adjusted, if not for a fee than
with official collusion to have as many of one group pass with flying
This is the root cause of why the LPQB is hoist on its petard. A few
rumours would suffice: was not Mr Khalid seconded to the board in
1984 so that as many ITM law graduates could pass it?
When ITM became a university, its graduates did not need to sit for
the CLP. But he remained to create an empire of his own. Why was
he allowed to?
When there is a hidden agenda, as in this, why blame the board,
which in fairness is not involved in this larger political machination,
for what happened?
What Rais should fight for is an independent board of such probity,
with, as I suggested earlier, enough tension amongst them so that it
would discharge its functions as it should.
This may be unacceptable politically but the government must
decide if what it wants is political quiet or public disquiet. It is
confused about which it wants.
There must be members on the board who would question and
challenge every decision, and this means its members should be
selected from the wider circle than senior Malay worthies, as the
It should be looked at not from the angle of ensuring fewer
non-Malays make the cut, but that those who pass represent the
finest of the crowd rushing to get into a much envied profession.
It is this, not the integrity of the board, that allows not just the
director to tamper with the results at every stage. What he did, as
the board acknowledged, blatant forgery.
For this to be put right, there must be a sea-change in attitudes.
Alas, I cannot see that in this mindless rush to correct a wrong by
tinkering with the inessentials.
Much play is made of the integrity of the members of the board. But
no mention of the integrity of the director. Or why he was
unsupervised all these years.
The government is forced to move swiftly to perfume the stink
surrounding the CLP because in years past, it ignored the blatant
corruption about it. This practice of 'marking up' and 'marking
down' of marks is not unusual in Malaysia or indeed in any
examination. Not only in Malaysia.
It is a device to ensure a consistency in marking, and maintain
standards, and is not dependent on negotiations with the students.
It apparently was here. Which is why the practice is decried now.
In other words, the government closed a blind eye to the blatant
departures from the norm at one time because it favoured one
group of students, and again when the officials decided to benefit
What Rais should recommend to the cabinet is a detailed look at all
professional bodies, best handled by a royal commission or a
berriboned body, and opt for a system whose members are chosen
for their competence, not for their race.
If selected for the latter, it diminishes its impact even if they are of
utmost probity and leaders in their profession. If the appointment is
flawed, everything else would break up in due course, as now in
the LPQB. What happened cannot be unusual.
Which is why in the changes Rais envisages, the boards should be
selected for no reason than to ensure the highest possible
standards and recognition; he should also make it compulsory for
all law graduates, from local and foreign universities, to sit for the
qualifying examinations to enter the profession. And external
examiners to oversee the markings.
For it is clear to all that the standards of markings in local
universities are not what we are expected to believe.
The CLP examinations have become an excuse to further the rot in
the system, and those affected are those who could not study in
There are too many exceptions to the rule in who would have to sit
for the examinations. There should be no exceptions, and all face
the same test. Besides shutting the barn door after the horses had
What is at stake is more than the public disquiet at the quality of our
professionals, but the general cynicism that there is a price for
everything. Which is why the CLP debacle is symptomatic of a