Accessibility of Law in Commonwealth Countries in SoutheastAsia: From Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Perspectives
By Shaikh Mohamed Noordin
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are among the most economically advanced countries inSoutheast Asia. Incidentally, they are also the only three Commonwealth countries in this region.Law includes legislative and judicial rulings produced by law-making bodies with a duty to produceand promulgate law. It includes primary sources of law, such as legislation and case law
.In the world over, more often than not, free public access to law has become an increasinglysignificant indicator of national development. Investors seeking future investment possibilities arelikely to equate inaccessibility to information to incompetence or lack of development in thepotential investment country, or even worse, that a proper legal framework and transparency insuch countries are not in place, which may spell disaster for a developing country keen to attractforeign investment. It is the main intention of this article to assist researchers to identify thedifferent types of law, legal information and where such information may be found in these threecountries, as well as to suggest relevant links to other free-access international legal portals.Electronic-law resources in these jurisdictions began to be accessible in the 90s when the firstcommercial legal information provider, LawNet of Singapore was introduced in 1990 followed bythe CLJ Legal Network of Malaysia in 1997. The advent of new information technology has indeedfacilitated accessibility to state–produced legislation, court judgments and other legal informationfreely via the Internet. Such free dissemination of national laws on the Internet not only benefitslocal users, but also allows worldwide accessibility to such national laws.
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei share similar characteristics in their legal system, which is basedon the English common law, and a legacy of British colonial rule. Due to close proximity andvarious cultural similarities in legal and historical background, the laws in these countries are oftencross-referenced and expanded within these jurisdictions. The current laws in these countries arelargely founded on their respective constitutions, in their primary legislation, subsidiary legislationand also judge-made law. The laws in these jurisdictions originated and were enacted in threedifferent eras, i.e. laws promulgated pre-war, post-war and post-independence, and some stillremain in force today. Although the legal systems of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei arepredominantly based on English common law, there are also other secondary legal systemsconcurrently affecting certain sections of the laws in these countries, such as Islamic law andcustomary law.As common law countries, the doctrine of precedent in judicial decisions is very much applied,although reliance on common law in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei is declining since almost allareas of law are now legislated by statute. Occasionally, such legislation may still need clarificationand interpretation by the court as to its application and constitutionality. Hence, judicial decisions
The author is an active professional member of the Librarians Association of Malaysia (PPM) and was the firstChairman of the Committee for the Malaysian Law Librarian Group of the Association. He is the only Malaysian professional member of American Association of Law Librarians (AALL). He has many years experience inlibrarianship and, as Managing Librarian with Messrs Tay & Partners in Kuala Lumpur,is responsible for all libraryfunctions including acquisitions, collection, development, monitoring firm’s website and publications and overalllibrary and information services. He has contributed several other articles for publication in other journals.
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