The Perak Bar launched the Perak chapter of the National Legal Aid Foundation (Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan) and the Perak Legal Aid Centre at its headquarters in Ipoh recently. The event, attended by members of the state’s legal fraternity, was most timely as the Perak Bar celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year.
Perak Bar Chairman, Vivekanandan Periasamy, in his opening remarks, said that in 2013 the foundation assisted 8889 persons in remand cases, 514 when they were charged in courts, 1129 during mitigation and 326 during bail. Bar Council members made 32 prison visits.
He also announced that the Perak Bar is planning to set up the first Syariah Legal Aid Centre in Malaysia. The Syariah Legal Aid is aimed at providing, among others, free legal advice and services to single mothers and divorcees at the syariah courts.
“We also intend to set up the first of its kind International Centre of Learning for International Arbitration and Mediation to cater to the Asia Pacific region. And we have, in the presence of the Regent of Perak and the Menteri Besar, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with the Victorian Bar, Australia who will provide us the teaching support and knowledge transfer.”
President of the Malaysian Bar, Christopher Leong, proposed that the services of the foundation be extended to non-citizens as well. According to him, many foreign workers lack monetary resources to acquire legal services.
He said the matter had been raised with Attorney General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and the Bar Council would support the AG in this issue.
The National Legal Aid Foundation was formed in 2011 following the huge number of individuals who were unrepresented in the civil courts each year. It is an independent body that provides free legal representation for those who are unable to engage their own lawyers.