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MGG: And so, the CLP exam is to be revamped ...
By M.G.G. Pillai

8/12/2001 2:32 am Sat

A berriboned Legal Profession Qualifying Board could not detect, or ignored, the corruption in its offices. It stonewalled all attempts to address the complaints since the Certificate of Legal Practice was introduced in 1984 for those who did not acquire their law degrees locally. When the Malay Mail got copies of its examination papers well before the date, the LPQB ignored them until it could no longer. But it would not go away. There is, in Bolehland, no smoke without fire. The LPQB then reacted in fright, haste and embarrassment, and decided only to ensure the CLP examinations should never be given the status it has. The director himself is now arrested, the shenanigans in the marking now admitted, while refusing to have the papers remarked. It puts conditions and shuts the door not in the interest of natural justice and equity, but to hope that by doing so the furore would die down.

It would not. Law suits are planned. Many believe the CLP is a deliberate attempt to ensure fewer non-Malays enter the legal profession. Especially since the local universities are meant, not to put a fine point to it, only for Malays: they are admitted if they have the minimum marks; the non-Malays if they have the highest. Since local university law graduates do not have to sit for the CLP, it is the non-Malay who is affected. With this official belief that entry into the professions must be restricted only to those who could afford it, it reduces the pool even further. Since few pass on their first try, it opened a market for bypassing the system. Since in whatever you do in Bolehland, you are a failure if you do not make as much money as you can, preferably illegally, the examinations were debased for filthy lucre.

All this comes to haunt the government. The de facto law minister, Dato' Seri Rais Yatim, after refusing to comment on it, cannot now be stopped from suggesting how the CLP could be rescued from its morass. He suggests, hectors and demands with no clear idea what but to show he had been in control at all times, and prevent the political fallout from it. So, he orders the CLP examination reviewed. A workshop is planned. The bureaucratic format to divert attention is in full force. He wants "feedback" on its relevance "in light of a changing legal profession". There are, you know, "so many aspects to look at", which he would not address when it was first brought to his attention. He, and his cabinet colleague, the UMNO youth chief, washed their hands off when some who failed asked for help. Now he wants answers by last night.

Yet another vaunted attempt to show it is at the cutting edge of professional competence falls by the wayside. As it must, when these examinations are to forcibly handicap the non-Malay so the Malay could dominate. Competence is not the issue. So, revamping the CLP would not work. The LPQB proved that having well-meaning high ranking officials mean nothing if all are Malay, and the occasional non-Malay, the chairman of the Bar Council for instance, bending over backwards to not want to rock the boat. The government believes if the members are well-intentioned, the system would work. It would not.

There must be, as I have argued earlier, on it people who while not lawyers are street smart to note the dangers as they arise. There must be on it those who know about the marking of papers and those who can be relied upon to keep the board within the straight and narrow. High ranking and well-regarded members -- how much higher can one seek than the Attorney-General and a competent federal court judge? -- alone are enough. So, if the Rais revamp is to mean anything, it must tighten and widen the composition of the LPQB such that problems are addressed and resolved within -- and not because it learns of them from newspaper reports what those who sit for CLP had known for years. Then there is the other intriguing question: if the Malay Mail did not go to town with it, would Dato' Seri Rais order the revamp? No.

M.G.G. Pillai