12 December, 2009

Court documents must be in English in Sabah and Sarawak. The spirit of 1Malaysia ?

A Malaysian court's decision to reject opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's appeal on the ground that it was not filed in Bahasa Malaysia has been contested by two states which insist that they will receive court documents only in English.

Sabah and Sarawak states Friday said they were not affected by the Court of Appeals decision to strike out Ibrahim's appeal case because it was not drafted in Bahasa Malaysia, The Star said Friday.

'The position is the opposite in Sabah and Sarawak where any document filed in the courts shall be written in the English language (and may be accompanied by a translation in the national language) as required by the Rules of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court,' Sabah Justices of Peace Council secretary Lawrence Thien said.

Ibrahim's suit claiming damages for defamation against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was rejected by a Court of Appeal headed by Justice Abdul Malek Ishak who termed Ibrahim's appeal 'defective' as documents were not submitted in Bahasa Malaysia.

The judge said the filing of the memorandum in the English language constituted an injustice to Dr Mahathir and that it was an abuse of the process of the court.

'The supremacy of Bahasa Malay-sia or the Malay language in our courts cannot be denied,' said the judge.

Joining issues earlier, a leading Malaysian Indian lawyer-lawmaker urged that the constitution should be amended to make English the second official language to enable its free use in courts. Karpal Singh, who is also the Democratic Action Party (DAP) national chairman, said while there was no doubt that Bahasa Malaysia united the people in the country, it was the English language which united nations throughout the world.

He said as a result of English not being given its rightful place in court proceedings, foreign investors, including multinationals, resorted to arbitration instead of referring disputes to courts in the country.

'This is not a step in the right direction as it reflects a loss of confidence in the judiciary,' The New Straits Times Friday quoted him as saying.

Karpal Singh noted: 'It is curious that in emphasising the supremacy of the Malay language in the courts, he has written his judgment in English.

'I would have thought that there was more than a need for him to have written his judgment in Bahasa Malaysia in view of the strong language he used in support of it.'

Malaysia was a British colony with widespread use of English before becoming independent in 1957. Besides English, Malay, spoken by the majority population, Chinese and Tamil are in use in the multi-ethnic society.

- Malaysia Sun



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