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ATimes: New scandal hits legal fraternity [CLP]
By Anil Netto
5/12/2001 1:52 am Wed
December 4, 2001 atimes.com
New scandal hits legal fraternity
By Anil Netto
PENANG - Before the recent outrage over the controversial
replacement of Malaysia's attorney-general could subside, a fresh
storm has plunged the legal fraternity into renewed turmoil.
The integrity of Malaysia's qualifying examinations for lawyers, the
Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP), has been called into question with
revelations of tampering of grades and possible examination leaks. A
week ago Monday, 921 law graduates had their CLP exam results
reinstated after they had been annulled two weeks earlier. The Legal
Profession Qualifying Board admitted that the main reason it had
nullified the July examinations was that grading marks had been
tampered with - though the impression given earlier was that there
had been a leak. An unspecified number of answer scripts had been
illegally marked down or up.
Fingers pointed at board director Khalid Yusoff, whose duty it was to
submit master result sheets to the board. "Upon investigations to verify
the effect of [alleged exam leaks], board members found a substantial
number of irregularities between marks awarded by examiners and
those disclosed by the director," said board secretary Abdul Wahab
Said. The established practice, he said, is that the director oversees
the CLP examinations and then tables the examination results for the
To clear up the mess, the board reissued the results using the actual
marks awarded by the examiners: 113 students who passed in the
main examinations in July found to their dismay that they had now
failed; the number of clear passes was slashed by about half from 232
to 119; those with conditional passes fell from 228 to 170; while the
failures soared from 461 to 632. Those with conditional passes can
re-sit the examinations. The October supplementary Evidence paper,
however, was nullified. The overall pass rate slumped from 25.2
percent to 12.9 percent - said to be the lowest in the CLP's history.
That did not go down well with everyone. "Why did the board go only
half way to re-grade or rectify the marks-tampering in the CLP
examinations this year, adjusting the answer scripts 'illegally marked
up' but not those 'illegally marked down'?" asked Lim Kit Siang,
chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party. In a statement,
he called the affair a great injustice to "victims who deserved to pass
but whose results had been tampered into failing".
Law graduates have to clear the CLP before they can be admitted to
the bar and enter public practice. While studying for the CLP, lawyers
do their "chambering" with a legal firm, often in return for low wages.
But the CLP examinations have been notoriously difficult to pass, with
only a small minority clearing it at their first attempt. Many Malaysian
graduates who obtained their law degrees from England, for instance,
have thrown in the towel after failing the CLP examinations despite
the hard work they had put in. Hundreds of law graduates give up
after a couple of attempts at the CLP and some of them move on to
fairly successful careers in the private sector as legal advisers,
human-resources managers and directors, company secretaries, and
The ramifications of the CLP scandal go well beyond the tampering
with results. The affair throws into question the validity of the CLP
results in recent years and undermines the image of the legal
profession. No one can be sure whether grade-tampering was carried
out in previous years or if it was only confined to this year's CLP
examinations. It also casts doubts on the integrity of other public
examinations in the country, especially in the light of previous
periodic leaks involving school examination papers.
It has also highlighted the authorities' apparent impotence in tackling
abuse of power and high-level corruption. What is galling for some is
that so far no action has been taken against the culprit(s) responsible
for the grade tampering, though several others were arrested for an
alleged leak. Outgoing Attorney-General Ainum Mohd Saaid, the
board chairman, said the qualifying board had yet to decide on
Khalid's status as director.
What's more, efforts to stamp out corruption are often hampered by the
apparent impotence of the Anti-Corruption Agency in tackling
high-level corruption especially if they involve prominent figures.
"The Qualifying Board and the police are treating Khalid Yusoff, the
CLP examinations director, with kid gloves when he should have
been sacked from the CLP secretariat, arrested and prosecuted for
being responsible for the CLP marks-tampering scandal," said Lim.
Some argue that the CLP examinations fiasco is just a symptom of a
larger malaise plaguing the country. In a system where ethics are
sometimes nudged aside, where quick returns and profits tend to
override everything else, and integrity and hard work are not always
recognized, it is not surprising that such a scandal could happen.
The CLP scandal is another blow to the morale of the legal fraternity,
still recovering from the news that Gani Patail, a leading member in
the team that prosecuted jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, is
to take over from Ainum as attorney-general midway through the
latter's term of office.
It will take much time and a lot of damage control to improve the
battered image of the legal fraternity in Malaysia.