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An Overview of Malaysian Legal System and Research

By Shaikh Mohamed Noordin and Lim Pui Keng

Shaikh Mohamed Noordin has more than fifteen years of experience in law librarianship. He has been a
librarian in several law firms in Kuala Lumpur, and has contributed several articles in various law
librarian journals, locally and internationally.

Lim Pui Keng is Director and Legal Consultant at Advanz Fidelis Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.
Lim graduated from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom with an LL.B (Hons) in 1996 and was
admitted as an Utter Barrister to the Bar of England and Wales in 1997. Lim is a member of the
Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London and was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High
Court of Malaya in 1998.

Published March/April 2009

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Table of Contents

1. Origins of Modern Malaysian Law

2. Legislative Authority – Source of Primary Legislation
2.1 Legislative Sources
3. Executive Authority – Source of Subsidiary Legislation
3.1 Executive Sources
3.2 Ministries
3.3 Government Departments
3.4 Statutory and Regulatory Bodies
4. Judicial Authority – Source of Case Law
4.1 Judicial Sources
5. Legal Profession
6. Note on Finding Primary Malaysian Legal Sources

1. Origins of Modern Malaysian Law

It is important for researchers to understand that much of Malaysia’s history is related to Great Britain,
which established some of the earliest colonies on the Malay Peninsula. Although the Dutch and
Portuguese were the earlier colonial powers, the British, who had ruled Malaya for more than one
hundred and fifty years with just one short interruption during World War II, left a much greater impact
upon the law of the country. The legal history of Malaysia begins with the acquisition of Penang in 1786
and with the introduction of the Charters of Justice in 1807, 1826, and 1855.

The Federation of Malaya received independence from the British in 1957. On September 16, 1963, the
eleven states of the Federation of Malaya, the former colonies of Sarawak and Sabah on the western coast
of Borneo, and the State of Singapore united to form the Federation of Malaysia. In August 1965, however,
Singapore seceded from this newly-formed federation to become an independent republic. Malaysia, as it
is known today, consists of the eleven peninsular states that constituted Malaya (this is referred to as
peninsular Malaysia), Sabah, and Sarawak.

The reception of English law slowly evolved and developed during the period of British colonization.
However, the reception of English law only became statutory after the promulgation of the Civil Law
Enactment of 1937. There are three periods during which modern Malaysian laws were made. Pre-war
law was made during the decentralization of Malay states (1866-1942). The Malay states at that time were
divided into three groups of states: the Straits Settlement (SS) group of states comprised of Penang,
Malacca, and Singapore, the Federated Malay States (FMS), comprised of Perak, Selangor, Negeri
Sembilan, and Pahang, and the Unfederated Malay States (UMS), comprised of Johor, Kedah, Perlis,
Terengganu, and Kelantan.

Post-war law was made after the unification of all the Malay states except Singapore under a federal
administration (1946-1957), and Post-independence law was made after the formation of the Federation
of Malaya and Malaysia (1957 and 1963). Prior to independence in 1957, most of the laws of the United
Kingdom were adopted and either made into local legislations or simply applied as case laws. The
application of English law or common law is specified in the Civil Law Act 1956 as stated in Sections 3 and
5 of the said Act, which allows for the application of English common law, equity rules, and statutes in
Malaysian civil cases where no specific laws have been made. Similarly, in the context of civil law, Section
5 of the Criminal Procedure Code also states that English law shall be applied in cases where no specific
legislation has been enacted.
Malaysian law is also modeled on other jurisdictions’ laws, such as Australia and India. The Malaysian
Criminal Procedure Code was based on the Indian criminal code. Similarly, the labour law and the
Contracts Act are also based on the Indian model. Malaysian land law is based on the Australian Torrens
system. There are a number of laws made during the colonization that are still in existence and applicable
with certain modifications in line with domestic and current circumstances.

An understanding of the basic arrangement of the current Malaysian legal system and the concept of
separation of (law-making) powers will assist you in understanding how Malaysian legal resources are
organized and found. Although the Malaysian legal system is predominantly based on English common
law, there are also other secondary legal systems concurrently affecting certain sections of the law, such as
Islamic law and customary law. Therefore, it is also important for researchers to note which jurisdiction
and group of people that the law was designated for and whether the laws are still in force.

The legal system of Malaysia was modeled after the English legal system which practices parliamentary
democracy and is ruled by a Constitutional Monarchy, with His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the
King) presiding ceremonially as the Head of the country. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected by the
Conference of Rulers for a five-year term from among the hereditary Rulers of the nine states in the
Federation which are ruled by Sultans. The states are Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan,
Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. In the other states, namely Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Sabah and
Sarawak, the Head of State is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor of the State. The Yang di-Pertua
Negeri is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a four-year term.

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia clearly divides the law-making authority of the Federation into its
legislative authority, judicial authority and executive authority. The separation of powers also occurs both
at federal and state levels. The federal laws enacted by the federal assembly, known as the Parliament of
Malaysia, apply throughout the country. There are also state laws governing local governments and
Islamic law enacted by the state legislative assembly which applies in the particular state.

2. Legislative Authority – Source of Primary Legislation

Legislative authority is the power to enact laws applicable to the Federation as a whole under Article 66(1)
of Federal Constitution. At the Federal level, the legislative power is vested in a bicameral Parliament
headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and comprises the Dewan Negara (House of Senate) and Dewan
Rakyat (House of Representatives). The Dewan Negara has 70 members, of whom 44 are nominated by
the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and 26 elected by the State Legislative Assemblies. The Dewan Rakyat is
fully elected and has 222 members. The duration of the life of each Parliament and State Legislatures is
about five years and is split into one-year sessions, after which the session is terminated or prorogued,
usually in September.

The distribution of law-making authority between the Federal and State Governments is enumerated in
the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, and is set out in a Federal List, State List and a
Concurrent List. The main subject areas of the Federal List are external affairs, defence, internal security,
civil and criminal law, citizenship, finance, commerce and shipping industry, communications, health,
and labour.
The State List comprises matters such as land, agriculture, forestry, local government, riverine fishing,
Muslim law, etc. The Concurrent List, under authority of both the Federal and State Governments, covers
social welfare, scholarships, protection of wildlife, and town and country planning. Should any
inconsistency between federal and state law exist, federal law takes precedence over state law.

The Parliament generates a great number of publications containing law, primarily the federal statutes,
which are officially published in the Government Gazettes by the Government Printer. Most such
publications are available commercially on the Internet and through official websites.

2.1 Legislative Sources

Official Sources:

Website of the Parliament of Malaysia

The Malaysian Parliament website offers the largest number of full texts of Acts of Parliaments
enacted since 1990 in pdf format, free of charge. The only obstacle to finding the Acts of Parliament
from this website is that one must know the name of the Acts in order to find it. The Acts are currently
available only up to the year 2000. The Bills on the other hand, are quite current.

Constitution of Malaysia
1. Source 1
2. Source 2
3. Source 3

Laws of Malaysia (LOM) Series in Numerical Table Index

This website is a good starting point to find Acts of Parliament; there are numerical and alphabetical
indexes to help researchers find new and revised Acts promulgated after 1 January 1969, also known
as ‘Laws of Malaysia’ (LOM) series. The LOM series is a compilation and reprint of laws published in
volume form pursuant to Section 14A of the Revision of Laws Act 1968 [Act 1]. It is the only official
and authoritative publication of the laws of Malaysia. The LOM series incorporates all principal laws
of Malaysia enacted after 1969, as well as pre-1969 laws which have been revised by the
Commissioner of Law Revision.

Laws of Sarawak
Contains only the list of Sarawak State ordinances.

Laws of Sabah - Sabah LawNet

The Sabah LawNet belongs to the Sabah State Attorney-General's Chambers, which includes a
database of updated Sabah Law. These laws include the State's Enactments, Ordinances, Rules,
Regulations, and By-Laws. It is comprehensive and easy to use and is geared toward government
officers, practicing lawyers, legal advisors, academics, law students, and the general public who have a
daily need to refer to Sabah laws.

Sabah State Government Gazette

The Sabah State Government gazette website belongs to the State Government Printing Department.
The legislation in the website is published every Thursday and is available from the year 2000.

Official Government Portal for Malaysia – “Legal Maters@MGovernment”

The link allows one to check lists of statutes on Property, Health, Consumer, and Employment law.

Commercial Sources:

Government Gazette
Commonly known as LawNet, this website commercially provides authoritative texts of the Laws of
Malaysia. It started its operation in 1998 and has since included Updated Acts of Parliament,
Principal Acts (Original), Amendment Acts, Ordinances, Bills Supplement, Updated Rules &
Regulations, Legislative Supplement (A), Legislative Supplement (B), Federal Constitution, Criminal
Procedure Code, Penal Code, National Land Code, Rules of Court, Court Forms and General Order.
LawNet launched its electronic Gazette (e-Gazette), an electronic version of the Malaysia Gazette
printed by the Government’s printer (PNMB) in 2001.

CLJ Legal Network (CLJ Online)

This website consists of all Federal legislation of Laws of Malaysia series from Act 1 to the present
day. There are over 700 such enactments currently available to subscribers. In addition, selected
subsidiary legislation is also available. Any new enactments are put online as soon as they become
available. All legislation is consolidated - i.e. amendments are incorporated into the principle Acts
soon after they are in force.

3. Executive Authority - Source of Subsidiary Legislation

The Executive is vested with the authority to govern and administer the laws by way of delegated and
drafts Bills as provided under Article 39 of the Federal Constitution. The power to govern that is vested in
the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, however, is exercisable by a Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime
Minister. The Cabinet is answerable to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the head of Executive Authority in
the country. Each executive act of the Federal Government flows from his Royal authority, whether
directly or indirectly. However, in accordance with the principle of a democratic ruling system, the Chief
Executive is the Prime Minister.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong appoints a Cabinet - a council of Ministers - to advise him in the exercise of
his functions. It consists of the Prime Minister and an unspecified number of Ministers who must all be
members of Parliament, either the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) or Dewan Negara (House
of Senate). The Ministers hold different portfolios and are collectively responsible for all decisions made
by the Cabinet, which is the highest policy-making body in the country.
To ensure the smooth enforcement of the law, the Government has set up various agencies to achieve its
objectives. The government agencies are comprised of three main components, namely ministries,
departments, and statutory bodies. At the ministerial level, the functions of the main agencies are to
formulate, control, and implement government policies; while at departmental levels the agencies are
responsible for implementing all the policies. Agencies of statutory bodies are semi-governmental in
structure and are responsible for carrying out duties assigned to them to meet the government's policies.

3.1 Executive Sources

Federal Government website comprises all the ministries’ websites.

States Government websites comprise all the state governments’ websites.

Prime Minister’s Office website.

3.2 Ministries

Ministries are the highest bodies in the federal administrative machinery. Each ministry is responsible for
formulating, planning, controlling, and coordinating government policies pertaining to its functions. It is
also the responsibility of the ministry to control departments and statutory bodies under it. A ministry is
normally headed by a minister who holds a certain portfolio.

The organizational structure of the ministries is divided into several divisions or units depending on their
size. In view of the present legal system, ministries are divided into two groups, namely self-law-making
ministries and non-law-making ministries. Whether or not a Ministry is self-law-making is based on the
size of the ministry concerned. The purpose of establishing self-law-making is to ensure the smooth
running of its administration and expedite its legal processing. In the case of non-lawmaking ministries,
the Attorney General's Chambers would be responsible for its law drafting arrangements of the ministries
3.3 Government Departments

Government departments are the second highest agencies, responsible for implementing government
policies. Most of these departments were established during the colonial era. During British rule over
Malaya, government departments were set up to implement policies and enforce the law of the ministries
concerned; they continue to play the same role today.

Usually the functions of a department are related to certain policy determined by the Government. The
daily activities of a government department involve direct rendering of services to the public. The services
rendered include security, social development and other social services. A department is headed by a
Director-General who is responsible to administer the law under the purview of his or her department.
Some of the departments include legislation administered and enforced by them in their websites:

Department of Environment
The duty of the Department is to administer and enforce the Environmental Quality Act, 1974
(Amendments 1985, 1996), and Section IV of the Economic Exclusive Zone Act, 1984. You can
check the list of environmental law that is administered by the Department on this website.

Royal Customs and Excise Department

This is an important revenue-collecting department under the Ministry of Finance, which
determines and imposes duties on goods coming into Malaysia. The website contains various
Customs duties, regulations, guidelines, and procedures for public reference.

Immigration Department of Malaysia

The main function of the department is to issue Visas, Passes and Permits to foreign nationals
entering Malaysia and to enforce (all provisions of) the Immigration Act 1959/63 (Amendment
Act 2002), the Passport Act 1966 (Amendment Act 1996) and Immigration Regulations 1963. Its
website focuses more on the corporate profile of the Department.

Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia

As DCA is a regulatory authority, its main function is to ensure that the aviation service providers
conduct their activities in accordance with appropriate regulations. All the relevant aviation law
can be accessed from this website.

Marine Department Malaysia

The Maritime Department is responsible for the formulation of policies, planning, research, and
coordination regarding maritime matters including ports development, shipping industry,
licensing of domestic shipping, and seamen affairs. The aim is to increase the effectiveness and
efficiency of utilizing port facilities. Its website includes full-texts of maritime legislation and
regulations. The National Maritime Portal provides other source of law on shipping.

Road Transport Department of Malaysia

The Road Transport Department (RTD) was established in 1937, under the Traffic Enactment
1937. On 1 April 1946, the RTD was set up specifically to coordinate all aspects relating to
transportation nationwide. In line with its function, various acts relating to road transportation
were regulated under provisions such as the Road Traffic Ordinance 1958 and the Road
Transport Act 1987.

Department of Statistics Malaysia

The Department of Statistics was established in 1949 under the provisions of the Statistics
Ordinance 1949 and was then known as the Bureau of Statistics. In 1965, the name Bureau of
Statistics was changed to the Department of Statistics, Malaysia operating under the provisions of
the Statistics Act 1965 (Revised 1989). In the government organizational structure, the
Department of Statistics, Malaysia is placed under the Prime Minister's Department. The website
is a good source of statistical data of Malaysia.
3.4 Statutory and Regulatory Bodies

The setting up of a statutory body is governed by law. Statutory bodies are established with the objective
of implementing certain duties and responsibilities in line with government objectives. Corporations are
set up to take over the duties and responsibilities of certain government departments. Each public
corporation has officers of its own to manage it. The chief administrator of a public corporation is
conferred and empowered to enact rules and regulations and to monitor his governing bodies to ensure
smooth administration in accordance with the objectives. As public regulatory bodies, the law is publicly
available information, as the following prominent websites demonstrate:

Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank)

Bank Negara Malaysia is the central bank of Malaysia. It was established on 26 January 1959,
under the Central Bank of Malaya Ordinance, 1958, Act 519. The website includes full-texts of all
banking and financial legislation.

MIDA - Malaysian Industrial Development Authority

The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) is the government's principal agency
established under Act 397/1965 for the promotion and coordination of industrial development. It
is the first point of contact for investors who intend to set up projects in manufacturing and
related support services sectors in Malaysia. This is a useful site for foreign investors.

MATRADE was established on 1 March 1993 under the Act 490/1992 as the external trade
promotion arm of Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). MATRADE
functions as a focal point for Malaysian exporters and foreign importers as a source for trade-
related information. This is an informative site for Malaysian exporters.

Securities Commission
The Securities Commission (SC) was set up under the Act 498/1993 on 1 March 1993, marking a
significant milestone in the Government's commitment to have a central authority in the
regulation and development of the securities and futures industries in Malaysia. This is the best
site for searching securities law in Malaysia.

The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia

The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia is one of the main revenue collecting agencies of the
Ministry of Finance. The Department of Inland Revenue Malaysia became a board on 1 March
1996, and is now formally known as The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia. The Inland Revenue
Board was established in accordance with the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia Act 1995, Act
533. This is the best website for information on Malaysian taxation regulations and procedures.

Labuan Offshore Financial Service Authority (LOFSA)

LOFSA was established as a single regulatory agency on 15 February 1996 under Act 545/1996 to
be responsible for setting national objectives, policies and priorities for the orderly development
and administration of the Labuan International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC). This website
contains full-texts of all offshore legislation.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is the regulator for the
converging communications and multimedia industry established under Act 589/1998 on 1
November 2001. The website contains full-texts of Malaysian cyber law.

Companies Commission of Malaysia

This is the first agency or Federal Statutory Body under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and
Consumer Affairs established on 16 April 2002 under Act 614/2001. The site facilitates company
searches and the full text of the Companies Act.

Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia

The Intellectual Property Division (IPD) was first established on 27 October 1990 and is now
governed under Act 617/2002 under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs,
Malaysia. The Corporation is responsible for the development and management of the intellectual
property system in Malaysia.

Human Right Commission of Malaysia

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) was established by Parliament under
the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597. The Act was gazetted on 9
September 1999. The full-text of the Human Right Act is included in the website.

Government Machinery

4. Judicial Authority – Source of Case Law

The Judiciary is empowered to hear and rule on civil and criminal matters, and to decide on the legality of
any legislative or executive acts as provided under Article 125A of the Federal Constitution. It is also
conferred authority by law to interpret the Federal and State Constitutions. The courts can pronounce on
the validity of any law passed by parliament and they can pronounce on the meaning of any provision of
the constitution. The jurisdiction of the Malaysian courts is determined by the Courts of Judicature Act
1964 for Superior Courts and the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 for Subordinate Courts.

The Malaysian Courts of Justice are made up of the Superior Courts and the Subordinate Courts. The
Superior Courts are comprised of the Federal Court (the highest court), the Court of Appeal, and the two
High Courts. By virtue of Act 121(1) of the Federal Constitution, judicial power in the Federation is vested
on two High Courts of coordinate jurisdiction and status, namely the High Court of Malaya for Peninsular
Malaysia and the High Court of Borneo for Sabah and Sarawak.

The Federal Court of Malaysia is the Supreme Court and highest judicial authority in the country, as well
as the final court of appeal in Malaysia. Before 1957, the name "Supreme Court" was used to refer to the
highest court for Malaysia just below the Privy Council. The Supreme Court was renamed the Federal
Court of Malaysia effective from 24 June 1994, and is now the final court of appeal for Malaysia. The
Federal Court reviews decisions referred from the Court of Appeal; it has original jurisdiction in
constitutional matters and in disputes between states or between the federal government and a state.
Before 1 January 1985, the Federal Court was the highest court in the country but its decisions were
further appealable to the Privy Council in London. However, on 1 January 1978, Privy Council appeals in
criminal and constitutional matters were abolished, and on 1 January 1985, all other appeals i.e. civil
appeals, except those filed before that date, were abolished.

The Subordinate Courts in Peninsular Malaysia consist of the Sessions Court, Magistrates' Court, and the
Penghulu's Courts. The Subordinate Courts in Sabah and Sarawak consist of the Sessions Court,
Magistrates' Courts and Native Courts. In the hierarchy of Subordinate Courts the lowest is the
Penghulu’s Court. A Penghulu is a headman appointed by a state government. The criminal jurisdiction of
a Penghulu’s Court is limited to the trial of offences of a minor nature which can be adequately punished
by a fine not exceeding RM25.00. In addition to the above, there is also a Juvenile Court for offenders
below the age of 18.

All members of the judiciary are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the
Prime Minister and after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. The number of Judges is fixed by
the Constitution. The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, who exercises direct
supervision over all courts. Currently, the law provides seven other judges of the Federal Court, besides
the Chief Justice of Malaysia, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, and the
Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, ten judges for the Court of Appeal, forty-seven Judges for the High
Court in Malaya, ten judges in the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, and eleven Judicial Commissioners
in the High Court in Malaya, and two in the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, although this may be
altered by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by way of an order.
Selected court cases are reported in any of three major law reports in Malaysia e.g. Malayan Law Journal
(MLJ – 1932 to present), Current Law Journal (CLJ - 1982 to present) and All Malaysia Reports (AMR –
1992 to present). Only a small portion of latest cases of the superior courts are available in the Court
website as below.

4.1 Judicial Sources

Malaysian Court Homepage

This website contains Malaysian judicial information and links to recent judgments and superior courts
rules and other related information as follow:

Court Rules
• Court of the Judicature Act 1964, (Revised 1972) Act 91
• Rules of the Federal Court 1995
• Rules of the Court of Appeal 1994
• Subordinate Courts Rules Act 1955, Act 55

• Federal Court Latest Judgments
• Court of Appeal Latest Judgments
• High Court Judgments
• Kota Kinabalu High Court Judgments

Sabah Law Courts

This website contains information on Sabah courts, such as how the courts function and how cases are
being dealt with. This site covers the courts in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and Labuan, including
the courts in the various districts. Recent judgments can also be obtained from here.

Sarawak Law Courts

Contains similar information to the Sabah Law Courts’ website, set up with the aim of promoting
transparency and informing advocates and the public how the courts function and how cases are being
dealt with. This site covers the courts throughout Sarawak.

Syariah Court of Federal Territories

The establishment of the Syariah Court of Federal Territory was first made under Section 44(1) & (2)
Selangor Islamic Administration of Islamic Law Enactment (1952). However, it was revised by the
Federal Territory Order (1974). This website helps us to understand the syariah court procedures and
contains other administartive information.

Industrial Court of Malaysia

The Industrial Court was established in 1940 under the Industrial Court of Inquiry Rules but it did not
function due to Japanese Occupation. The Industrial Court’s objective is to set up principles and
guidelines for labour law in the private sector through decisions and awards handed down by the court
which will set precedent to be followed in the practice of labour law and industrial relation system. The
present Industrial Court is instituted under the Industrial Relations Act 1967. This website gives further
explanations on the Industrial Court’s functions, activities, and jurisdiction.

Intellectual Property Court

The concern for the increase in piracy of copyrighted materials and counterfeiting of goods in Malaysia
drove the country to establish an Intellectual Property Court. The Malaysian government has approved
the establishment of fifteen (15) Sessions Courts with criminal jurisdiction known as “Sessions Court
(Intellectual Property)”, one (1) in each state including in Putrajaya. In addition, six (6) High Courts with
both civil and appellate jurisdictions known as “High Court of Malaya (Intellectual Property)” or “High
Court of Borneo (Intellectual Property)” as the case may be, would be established in Kuala Lumpur,
Selangor, Johor, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak, with one (1) court already operational in the Kuala Lumpur
High Court as of 17 July 2007.

Tribunal for Consumer Claims

The Tribunal for Consumer Claims is an independent body established under Section 85, Part XII, of the
Consumer Protection Act 1999 which came into force on 15 November 1999 with the primary function of
hearing and determining claims lodged by consumers under the Act and subject to the provisions of the
Act. Before the establishment of the Tribunal, all disputes between a consumer and a supplier or
manufacturer had to be brought before a civil court, which often involved protracted trials and high legal
and other costs, not to mention the long delays. This website is useful for those intending to file claims
under the Tribunal.

Regional Centre for Arbitration Kuala Lumpur

In Malaysia, disputes can be settled through various means and the Regional Centre for Arbitration Kuala
Lumpur (RCAKL) was established in 1978 to offer another avenue of dispute resolution outside the court
structure. The website offers useful information about the arbitration procedures in Malaysia.

5. Legal Profession

Lawyers in Malaysia can practice in the government or private sector. Lawyers in the government sector
are administered by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. They are transferable within the AG’s
Chambers department or can be seconded to any of the state government as legal advisers. There is no
division of legal profession in the private practice. A practicing lawyer is known as an advocate and
solicitor and normally does all the work done by barristers and solicitors in England. There is one Bar for
Peninsular Malaysia namely the Bar Council of Malaysia and a separate Bar each for Sabah and Sarawak,
those being the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak respectively. A
member of the Peninsular Malaysia Bar is not entitled to practice in Sabah and Sarawak. No member of
the Bar in Sabah or Sarawak is entitled to practice in the other state or in Peninsular Malaysia. The Bar
Council is given statutory powers to regulate the profession and acts as a general watchdog on
professional etiquette and standards.

Malaysian law schools and the professional training of lawyers are modeled on the English system.
Present admission requirements admit graduates from Malaysian law schools as well as graduates from
Singapore, England, Australia and New Zealand. Admission to the role of advocates and solicitors is
restricted to Malaysian citizens or permanent residents of Malaysia, and a person admitted to the Bar has
the exclusive right to appear and plead in all courts of justice.

Useful legal sites:

Attorney General Chambers of Malaysia
Judicial and Legal Training Institute
Legal Affairs Division
Legal Aid Bureau
Bar Council of Malaysia
• Kuala Lumpur Bar
• Selangor Bar
• Penang Bar
• Johore Bar
• Pahang Bar
• Malacca Bar
• Kedah/Perlis Bar
Sabah Law Association

Law firms in Malaysia

• Malaysian Bar – Legal Firms Directory
• Law firms – Hieros Gamos Legal Firms Directory
• Legal 500 – Malaysian Law Firms

Legal Education (in public universities)

• University of Malaya – Faculty of Law
• Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – Faculty of Law
• International Islamic University Malaysia - Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws
• Universiti Teknologi MARA Faculty of Administration and Law
• University Utara Malaysia – Faculty of Public Management and Law

6. Note on Finding Primary Malaysian Legal Sources

Most of the Malaysian laws originate from any of the three principal sources of law-making authorities:
the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Laws can be easily traced by knowing their principal sources.
Although Malaysia has yet to have a one-stop center for free access to law, more and more of the laws are
now freely available in the Internet through various government websites. However, there are two
common limitations which can be discerned. Firstly, most of the laws in the Internet are current law,
promulgated post-independence. Secondly, the statutes presented in these government websites are
mostly the principal statutes as they were originally enacted and in a non-consolidated form, except
where released in reprinted versions. Subsequent amendments of the law may be available in a separate
text. It may be quite difficult at times to determine whether a legislative text is current, accurate, and
complete when referring to these principal texts alone. The same goes for judicial decisions. Normally,
only raw judgments are provided on the court websites without any editorial features such as head notes
and other annotations. This certainly does not assist researchers in finding out more about the case, such
as whether the case was further appealed.

Other than on the websites of the three law-making institutions where law is officially made accessible to
the public freely i.e. on (i) the Attorney General’s Chambers’ website, (law-making institution for the
Executive); (ii) the Parliament’s website and (iii) the Court’s websites, there are some ministries,
statutory agencies, Bar Councils and local governments which may also include their relevant law and
regulations on their respective websites. To access these websites, one may either choose to access them
through legal portals, hosted locally or internationally, or one may access them directly from the websites
of law-making institutions in their jurisdictions. Although they are not designed for sophisticated or
exhaustive research compared to the service provided by commercial legal providers, these free-access
sites are still the best alternative for Malaysian legal resources that are currently available.