Feeling miserable and hopeless? Don't know what to do with your problems? CHELSEA L.Y. NG suggests that you try logging on to one of the many state bar websites because the pointers may be just a click away.
A HIGH Court judge once told a litigant to get a counsel to represent him in court instead of acting like a “lawyer buruk”. The judge had reasons to make the statement in open court.
The litigant had been doing all the wrong things. He had been sending the judge a narration of his side of the story without giving a copy of it to the other party in the child custody dispute, his ex-wife.
“You cannot send me all these letters and I cannot read them. Whatever you want to tell me, you have to tell me in court,” said the judge.
“And whatever you send to me, you have to send a copy to the other party’s lawyer.”
The man said he wished to hand in the letters as exhibits but was told this could not be done.
“Let me advise you to get a lawyer or to seek legal aid if you cannot afford one,” the judge said to the man who was fighting for the custody of his child.
This scenario has been happening in court in many types of cases spanning from civil to criminal, though it is not rampant.
The man may not be blamed too for his blunders because he might not have the resources to hire a lawyer or simply did not know where to begin his search for one.
Another reason could be that people have been watching too many TV shows depicting court drama.
Whatever the reason, all is not lost yet.
In order to help such “lost lambs”, many state bar associations have come up with their rescue plans. Some have started the dock-brief projects through their respective legal aid centres.
Under such programmes, volunteer lawyers and chambering students are stationed in designated courts to offer free on-the-spot legal services to the needy.
Other services include prison visits and legal representation at a nominal fee, or free of charge, depending on the situation.
The common aim of such facilities is to reach out to those who feel they might not have the means for proper legal representation or those who feel intimidated by the legal system and have no one to turn to in their desperate moments.
However, such help is available only in certain courts of some states. So, what should other desperados who are at the end of their tether do?
Well, the Internet seemed to be a fine place to visit because most of the state bars have their own websites and some do provide very informative materials, such as law awareness sections, on their portals.
One such portal is the Johor Bar’s (www.johorebar.org.my), which boasts of the most powerful source of legal information in Johor.
The information provided covers a wide range of topics including arrest and remand, bail, police investigation, giving evidence in court, court proceedings, sale and purchase of houses, legal aid, custody and maintenance, divorce, Muslim and non-Muslim inheritance laws, employment, will-making, road accidents, workmen’s compensation, legal costs, making a complaint, the Malaysian court system, and seeing a lawyer.
Though the information given is general and not intended to provide any legal advice, it could at least narrow down the area of a potential litigant’s search before meeting his lawyer.
Another informative website is the Penang Bar’s, which can be accessed at www.penangbar.org.
Useful addresses and telephone numbers such as that of notaries public in the state, valuation department, stamp office, land offices, state legal advisor, and the Industrial and labour courts are displayed and updated periodically.
The portal’s most useful service is legal aid, which is run by the Penang Legal Aid Centre (PLAC). Facilities include fixed and mobile legal aid clinics to serve the needy.
Also available is information relating to the courts such as addresses, telephone numbers, cause list and the state High Courts’ judgments.
The next website to look at is the Selangor Bar’s, which can be reached at www.selangorbar.org.
If one goes to the sidebar titled court notices, one can find information on notification from the Selangor authorities such as Computerised Land Registration System (better known as CLRS), the latest update from the Shah Alam Land Registry, gazette dates for lost or missing titles and matters pertaining to stamp duty.
Also available in the site is a diary of events for the next few months. In the last 12 months, there were seminars or talks on various topics ranging from matters pertaining to stamp duty and compulsory acquisition of land to that of matrimonial law and industrial relations. Found in the diary is also a Law Awareness campaign in conjunction with the National Legal Aid, Law Awareness at Schools project.
For next year there is already a programme on Law Awareness concerning the single mothers project of the Women and Family Development Ministry.
The Malaysian Bar itself also has a string of useful links to offer its members and the public.
Log on to www.malaysianbar .org.my and you may find what you are looking for.
The web site provides a wonderful source of information on the Malaysian Bar and the activities of the legal profession.
One can learn at one go all salient features of the profession, the role and function of the Bar Council, of its office bearers, of its rulings, of its activities and of its various committees and press statements on current legal issues.
According to its vice-president, Yeo Yang Poh, the features provided by the web site would be improved from time to time to stand as a conversing medium between the Bar Council and its members, and with the public.
“The Bar Council has always recognised its societal role. We welcome the views and participation of the public and hope this web site will serve as a forum to provide useful information within and without the profession,” he said.
“We encourage the public to visit the website, and that of the states, in their quest for information relating to legal or social matters.”
Yeo added that there was a constant need to replenish information on the site so as to keep it up-to-date.
He said many of the articles run by the site, such as those derived from its publications like Infoline and Insaf or from papers presented in certain events organised by the Bar, could help the public find the clue they had been looking for to track down a way to solve their problems.
Apart from Internet facilities, Yeo said, there were various other campaigns that had been carried out by the Bar to help the poor and ignorant. These activities are normally posted on the Net.
“We have an annual event called the Law Awareness campaign. It is held for one week in the third quarter of the year annually.
“What we do is that we will set up booths at shopping malls, markets and Felda settlements - places where access to lawyers is not there. We take queries from the public and we give them free legal advice and information on services,” said Yeo.
So, for those who are still looking for a needle in a haystack, why not start clicking today.