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SLA's appeal is granted
Published on: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Court here allowed the Sabah Law Association's (SLA) application for permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision to allow foreign lawyers represent parties in arbitration cases in Sabah.

Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Ahmad Bin Haji Maarop and Datuk Zainun Binti Ali granted the application on Monday.

The apex court granted the application on the question of whether foreign lawyers can appear in arbitration proceedings conducted in Sabah, without applying for permission to the High Court.

The Court of Appeal had, on Sept. 24, 2012 unanimously allowed an appeal by Mohd Azahari Matiasin against the decision of High Court Judge Datuk David Wong on Oct. 26, 2010 which ruled that a Sabah advocate has an exclusive right to legal practice both "in and outside" courts and that includes the rights to represent parties in arbitration proceedings.

Justice Wong had ruled that foreign lawyers must apply to the High Court for permission because of the constitutional protection accorded to practitioners in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Court of Appeal in reversing the High Court ruling decided that the Sabah Advocates Ordinance has no provision that prohibits foreign lawyers to appear in arbitration proceedings conducted in Sabah.

According to the SLA, the court of appeal's decision is a matter of public interest as it affects the legal profession in Sabah, who see the decision as enabling foreign lawyers to practise in Sabah through "another door" and "eating into their rice bowl."

Datuk Stephen Foo, the former State Attorney General, Immediate Past President, Datuk John Sikayun and Sabah Law Association's President Datuk G.B.B. Nandy @ Gaanesh appeared for the SLA while the respondent was represented by lawyer Ho Kin Kong.

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