Inaugural Perak Bar Law Lectures 2013

I am pleased to address you at this Inaugural Perak Bar Law Lectures 2013. This is, indeed, a momentous event for the Lawyers of Perak and they have every reason to be proud of and to celebrate this occasion. This event, I hope, will be an annual feature in the calendar of the Perak Bar and I congratulate its Chairman and committee members for realizing the vision of cultivating a Bar that is dedicated to learning and the promotion of intellectual discourse.

  1. For my Keynote Address this morning, I should like to share with you some of my thoughts on Law, Justice and the Legal Profession. But fear not. For unlike my father, His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah, I am not a jurist. So I shall not venture to cross the boundaries to the unknown, nor even attempt to give a discourse on Jurisprudence, or even discuss Bentham, Dworkin, or HLA Hart.
  2. The current legal systems in the world have evolved over time. The laws and principles governing international activities have also evolved. Technology has contributed much in the globalization of many activities, and is paving the way for newer areas to emerge.
  3. Therefore, it may be said that one of the challenges facing the legal communities in the 21st century is how to facilitate this dynamic development process through a close interaction with Science and Technology, and more importantly, with an overriding moral and ethical approach.
  4. After all, Law is about preserving and enforcing the morals and values of any given society and universal values which are becoming more and more evident. A strong Judiciary and a sound Justice System are a pre-requisite for the growth and development of a nation; A nation must strive to give due respect to the freedom of individuals and it has to balance that freedom with that of the collective whole. In a democratic society such as ours, the legal system is the ultimate bastion that ensures fairness and Justice so that all are treated in a fair and equal manner. The courts and Lawyers, therefore, have an important role in preserving the rights, equalities and freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
  5. Every citizen wants purity in the legal system. As you are aware, there are several stakeholders in the legal system. Each stakeholder needs to work with a common vision for the coherent development of the legal system which has to be transparent and fair; The common goal of national development cannot disregard the need for a strong, fair and dynamic legal system which is integral to a prosperous and developed nation.
  6. As Lawyers, you are entrusted with upholding the law and justice. It, therefore, goes without saying that the profession should attract not only those with a high intellect, but, also those endowed with integrity and honesty.
  7. When ethical questions do arise, they are usually difficult, case specific , and do not lend themselves to easy answers. Indeed, sometimes, there is no precise “right” or “wrong” answer but often there is only a right approach that will at least result in a response that is informed by good faith and a clear conscience that one did one’s best.
  8. To develop ethical awareness in a given situation, one of course first needs to understand general ethical obligations. In this regard, it is vital for lawyers to be conscious that they have professional and moral obligations.
  9. Further, as lawyers, you embody a profession, and an honourable one at that. Despite some public cynicism about lawyers, what comes with such professional status is an ethical dimension that is an ever-present element of your daily work.
  10. All lawyers, whether in the public or private sectors, are bound by the letter and spirit of the legal professional rules of the various governing professional bodies. These, in turn are underpinned by common law and equitable principles as to duties that are owed by a lawyer to an individual client, to the community, the courts and to justice itself. As officers of the court, whether you serve in the Government service or the private sector, you owe an ethical duty to the court and a duty to do justice, which is in fact the paramount duty. It is not in conflict with other duties: as lawyers you primarily serve the interests of justice.
  11. The performance by counsel of his paramount duty to the court will sometimes, require him to act in a variety of ways to the possible disadvantage of his client. Counsel, both in the public service and in private sector should not mislead the court, or cast unjustifiable aspersions on any party or witness, or withhold any documents which detract from his client’s case.
  12. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that lawyers discharge their responsibilities in an adversarial context. However, it must always be ensured at all times that every case is presented to the court fairly and justly. Furthermore, the community is entitled to expect that cases will be presented fearlessly, vigorously and skilfully.
  13. The development of ethical awareness is, therefore vital in ensuring that cases are indeed presented to the court and dealt with fairly and justly to achieve the overriding objective of the proper administration of justice.
  14. Ladies and Gentlemen. At this juncture, I would like to add some brief comments on the role of the courts in meeting public expectations.
  15. Every society has laws in one form or the other: The ultimate aim of all laws is to ensure that every individual is entitled to equally and legitimately participate and share in all fields of human existence. Denial of that right would amount to a negation of the very logic of civilized existence. The courts are the forum in which individuals endeavor to enforce such rights without incurring undue delay or exorbitant costs, and as such it is imperative that the courts are able dispense justice speedily, efficiently, and at the same time without compromising the integrity of the legal process.
  16. Litigants should not come to court in vain. They come to seek justice. They have a legitimate expectation that the court will resolve cases justly. They hold the court in high esteem and reverence. To them the courts are the last bastion of their rights and liberties. The courts have a duty to hear them and dispense justice. The courts are there for that very purpose. Every litigant is entitled to his day in court. And it is imperative that throughout that process, the focus remains on the litigants and does not shift to the adjudicators.
  17. It is therefore imperative that lawyers and Judges alike must possess high levels of intellectual capacity, emotional and social intelligence to gain the stakeholders’ trust and confidence in the justice system. The role of Lawyers and Judges in the incremental development of the law and upholding justice, informed by the traits which I have just described, are integral towards achieving the ultimate objective of the supremacy of the rule of law in civil society. These traits will allow the legal profession to achieve greater heights. The challenges faced by the legal profession too can be easily identified and solved in time through perseverance and steadfast commitment to these ideals.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. I congratulate the Perak Bar for forging an alliance with the Victorian Bar of Australia and for being the first State Bar in Malaysia to have an associate foreign Bar. I take this opportunity to welcome the representatives from the Victorian Bar to our Silver State. I hope that your relationship with the Perak Bar will continue to prosper. I am indeed confident that the continuous exchange of ideas between the two Bars will benefit both parties significantly.
  2. On that note, with the recitation of Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, it is now my pleasure to declare the Inaugural Perak Bar Law Lectures 2013 officially open.
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