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CJ: Lawyers should write more legal books

Published on: Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Local legal practitioners are urged to develop the legal literature of Sabah and Sarawak with reputable publishers like Thomson Reuters.

Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tun Arifin Zakaria made the call when launching the legal book 'The Constitutional Rights of Sabah and Sarawak' written by Sukumaran Vanugopal, a practising lawyer in Sabah, at the Hyatt Kinabalu Wednesday.

It was well attended by Federal Court judges, High Court and Lower Court judges, Sabah Attorney General and lawyers.

"The legal literature of Sabah and Sarawak is still in a nascent phase and the participation of leading publishers like Thomson Reuters in further developing the range of law publications in Sabah and Sarawak is certainly important."

"A good knowledge of the constitutional rights of our East Malaysian states is certainly fundamental to the practice of law in these states and to the overall development of the law here.

"The industry of Vanugopal in authoring this book in time for the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia last year is to be lauded," commended Arifin.

"The book devotes an entire chapter towards a careful consideration of The Cobbold Commission Report, the IGC Report and the Federal Constitution to trace the special constitutional position and guarantees for the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

"The book further examines the Federal-State relationship and the distribution of legislative powers and executive authority.

Its consideration of the issue of inconsistency between Federal and State laws will no doubt be of great assistance whenever the issue arises before the court.

"So, too, is its treatment of the key constitutional provisions including the powers and functions of the Head of State, the prerogative powers of the Head of State and any judicial review thereof, the appointment and dismissal of the Chief Minister by the Head of State, the position and functions of the Chief Minister and the functioning of the legislature," Arifin said.

According to Sukumaran, his book has two objectives. Firstly to trace the constitutional history and development of Sabah and Sarawak from the time they were administered by mutineers and bounty hunters who subsequently became Rajahs and zealous company administrators, to the dawn of Malaysia.

Secondly, to trace how the constitutional development of the nation as a whole and of the states in particular, have altered the initial constitutional guarantees accorded to Sabah and Sarawak.

"In a modest way, if I may say, as a third objective, the book discusses a theoretical framework, based on the positivist school of jurisprudence, to entrench the guaranteed constitutional rights and safeguards accorded to the East Malaysian states on a more solid foundation in view of the fact that the doctrine of basic structure has not taken a firm foothold in our country.

"Though recent decisions certainly point towards that direction," said Sukumaran, who also paid tribute to his pupil-master Datuk Joseph Ambrose Lee for the genesis or seed to write the book and former State Attorney-General Stephen Foo for suggesting the name for the book.

Asked on the current hot topic in the social media of Sabah and Sarawak being equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia, the author said, from his research, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman made it clear that Sabah and Sarawak were to join the Federation as the 13th and 14th States of Malaysia which was also a hot issue in the last general election by Star and SAPP.

However, Star and SAPP supremos Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Datuk Yong Teck Lee, who were at the book launch disputed the author's claim and demanded proof.

"Tun Fuad (Donald Stephens) rejected it (as chair of the Malaysia Consultative Committee).

He made it clear that Sabah and Sarawak were not joining as the 13th and 14th states of Malaysia but as equal partners," Dr Jeffrey asserted.

Rachel Jaques, Thomson Reuters' Publishing Director for South East Asia acknowledged that she was told of the same sentiments when in Sarawak.

Klaus Pfeifer, Thomson Reuters' Managing Director, Legal, Global Growth & Operations Asean/North Asia, in his address to the gathering, is proud to support and advance the development of legal literature of Sabah and Sarawak, as his firm seeks out other writers like Sukumaran for collaboration.