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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Malaysia: Free legal aid for the low-income group

PUTRAJAYA (Aug 15, 2011): Malaysians who get hauled in court over criminal cases will be provided free legal aid if they have an income of less than RM25,000 per annum under the National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK).

However, those earning between RM25,000 and RM36,000 will need to make a token payment of RM300 for the same benefit.

YBGK alternate director and former Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan who represented Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail told a press conference today that this legal aid will commence operation nationwide in October.

“Every Malaysian arrested and remanded will be given immediate legal representation. Currently we have around 1,000 YBGK lawyers and we are targeting some 3,000 lawyers to be YBGK members from our own pool of volunteers in the Bar Council, as well as from the government.

“YBGK is also targeting for around 500 lawyers to assist in Syariah criminal cases. Currently, 80% of Malaysians go unrepresented when they are arrested.

“This is also a good exposure for our young lawyers because they can earn up to RM250 a day handling remand cases and in a month earn around RM2,000 to RM3,000,” said Ragunath, adding that previously lawyers would handle the case on a pro-bono basis, making it difficult because resources are limited.

According to Ragunath, the lawyers attending to the remand cases will be paid by YBGK and it has already received a RM5 million launch grant by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Training will also be provided for YBGK lawyers as the Attorney-General wants quality legal aid for Malaysians.

However, he admitted, that he expects “hiccups and shortcomings” at the start of the operations.

“There will be short comings in between but when launch we want to make sure it will be a seamless nationwide service. In between, we will have issues to iron out and we accept whatever short comings and find ways to improve.

“But for it to become successful we’re going to need the support of everyone and it is better that we have this instead of nothing at all,” he said adding that he encourage local universities to set up legal aid centres.

“We are starting this from university level, there’s a pool of legal qualified people who are lawyers in universities as lecturers so we see them as a waste of talent and resource. Now we are looking at how to handle this and take them as either a lawyer or adviser.

“We are encouraging universities to set up legal aid centres backed by Bar Council and Attorney-General Chambers. This is the first time we’re bringing in Academia into the legal services, it is an important step as well,” he said.

In arrest and remand cases, police officers or those arrested can contact YBGK at their toll free hotline of 1-800-88-92-45 or fax at 1-300-88-92-45 to receive legal assistance from the list of duty solicitors. The Foundation’s website is at www.ybgk.org.my


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