Monday smile – Malaysian judge worshipped by lawyer

muruganI did enjoy a recent article “Language makes the law” in which former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi talks about the importance of English and its impact on the Malaysian legal system. In particular the following…

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Superior courts allow lawyers to submit in English but counsel were doing it in BM that day. While the female young lawyer spoke confidently, opposing senior counsel just did so-so in his basic BM [Bahasa Malaysia].

But when he said: “Yang Arif, saya berdoa” (Your Honour, I pray for), the late Justice Hashim smiled and interjected: “Tak payah berdoa Encik …” (No need to pray Mr …).

Not understanding, the lawyer continued: “Ya, Yang Arif. Saya berdoa” (Yes, Your Honour. I pray for) so Justice Hashim interjected again: “Tak payah berdoa Encik… Saya bukan Tuhan, saya hanya hakim. Memohon cutup.” (No need to pray Mr … I’m not God. I’m just a judge. Asking will do.).

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The article also raises some interesting points such as:

How would you learn English Common Law without learning English?“,

BM documents filed in the subordinate courts are apparently drafted quite well but those in the higher courts are often a literal translation of the English, just to comply with procedural requirements“,

and regarding interpretation of statutes – “judges generally refer to the English version but “if a statute is ambiguous, we have resorted to the BM copy for a better interpretation and understanding of Parliament’s intentions“”.

Last but not least: “law is language. Language makes the law and how you express yourself makes the law“.

Do you have any comments?

4 thoughts on “Monday smile – Malaysian judge worshipped by lawyer

  1. This reminds me of the Algerian legal system where the new generation of lawyers and attorneys use Arabic, while the most experienced lawyers use French. The same with judges, it creates a cacophonia in courts and tribunals that is hilarious sometimes.

  2. If the BM version gives a better or clearer understanding of the law, why not use it from the beginning instead of the English version?

    • When it comes to the Algerian experience, it is up to the judge to decide whether the documents presented should be in the national language (arabic) or if they can stay in the original foreign language (french, spanish, english…), it all depends on the personal understanding of the judge. At a certain time, all documents presented before a court had to be in Arabic, which led to a flourishing of the profession in Algeria, as the need for legal translators grew rapidly, but now, it is no more the case. The stated reason was that all these translations costed too much to the citizen.

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