Zaid reaches out to media for law reforms

Posted by SM Maulana

By Debra Chong

PUTRAJAYA, June 17 – De facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim today reached to the Malaysian media to help the government educate the public on law reforms, justice and the legal system.

In an hour-long briefing to several journalists, mostly from the print sector, the senator noted that public perception on reform measures proposed to date seem to be focused on things that have already happened in the past – the appointment of judges, judicial commission, restoring judicial power to the courts.

“When we try to effect reform, a lot of people won’t like it. They will try to find excuses. My position is very clear. You cannot use the law as an excuse to cover your inefficiencies.

“It’s important the public is aware why we do this. The law plays an important role in our lives. We need the media to develop articles which put forward the arguments for reform on a constant basis; not just reporting on what we do and propose but to analyse.

“I need support. I want the courts to be user-friendly. We want to reform the court system so people will think it is accessible, quick and efficient. This is the crux of reform,” Zaid said after attending a meeting at his ministry in Precinct 3 earlier this morning.

A practising lawyer right up till his appointment to the Cabinet this year, Zaid is very aware of the weaknesses of the courts and the impact on the whole delivery system.

“I understand in Shah Alam, it is very serious. They have a backlog of 2,000 files,” he noted.

Zaid demonstrated his commitment to the cause by ignoring phone calls on his mobile phone and even delayed a meeting with a visiting ambassador to explain at length to the reporters and editors present what he hoped to achieve.

He offered up several possible topics, among them the subject of case postponements, why should court cases be postponed; alternative methods of settling disputes, such as pre-trial negotiations, plea bargaining and voluntary arbitration by experienced lawyers, which would save the court’s time; bail amounts, are they realistic? can they be lowered so those on remand can be kept out of overcrowded prisons and save taxpayers from the extra cost of feeding them; the difference between prerogative and accountability.

“I want you to bring it up regularly. You can be critical. You don’t have to praise me. I don’t even want that. I’m a public servant. If these things (discussions on reform) do not progress, you (go ahead) and attack me. (Say) ‘What kind of minister is this?’”

He even offered several sources of information: the members of the Working Committee on Backlog Cases, which he inherited, and the newly established Supreme Committee on Backlog Cases, which meet once a month.

The members include representatives from public and private sectors, such as the Solicitor-General, the court registrar, the Bar Council, Public Service Department and the Law Society of Sabah.

“If they don’t comment, you write down they don’t want to comment. Then I’ll comment on that,” he said.“I believe in one thing, when the system is more transparent, more accountable, then change will take place.”

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