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Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
My Lord Chief Justice and Honorable Judge of the Supreme Court
May it please Your Lordship.
May I thank Your Lordship for giving me the honor of participating in this year's Opening of the Legal Year Ceremony.
The statistics which Your Lordship have cited pertaining to the increasing numbers of cases dealt with by the courts are indicative of the advances being made by a developing country.
I join Your Lordship and the legal profession generally, in welcoming the newly established Law Society of Brunei Darussalam and the setting up of the pro tem Committee which in- due course will lead to the election and appointment of the Law Society Council under the provisions of the relevant legislation.
In the past I would usually have an informal consultative session with all the available members of Brunei Darussalam’s private Legal practitioners prior to this ceremony.
However today, I am happy to congratulate my leaned friend Mr. David Teo on being nominated to represent the views of the private legal profession by the pro team committee. Mr. Teo will no doubt in this address to your Lordship be touching upon matters pertaining to the legal profession as a whole.
In support of the remarks made by Your Lordship, I believe that there is already a need to introduce some ethical guidelines and regulation to the private practice of law, particularly from the standpoint of client, satisfaction.
A lawyer should not bite more than he can chew, in the sense that he or she should not take on more work than can be handled to the satisfaction of his or her clients.
The Law society is also charged with over seeing the discipline of members of the legal profession, including their conduct both inside and outside the courtroom.
This responsibility also includes the duty to take action or omission by lawyer which could bring disrepute to, and the professional as a whole.
I am confident that the Council when established, will ensure that it is disciplinary proceeding will be transparent so as to avoid any suspicion in the mind of the public that such proceeding are mere white wash.
With regard to the competence, of the legal practitioners in the public sector, I take note of Your Lordship's comments.
I hope newly qualified DPPs will take heed of views comments not so much as criticism, but more as a good dose of worldly advice. Whilst passing one's Bar examinations may be regarded as an outstanding academic achievement, the real hands on conduct of criminal prosecution demands practice and experience in order to b properly mastered.
In the conduct of criminal prosecutions, I am sure that the Attorney General in his capacity as the public prosecutor is constantly aware that Deputy Public Prosecutors have a duty acid responsibility to direct and guide the police investigations, officers, as to the ingredients of an offence required to be proven in order to satisfy a judge or magistrate beyond reasonable doubt of the commission of that offence by the accused.
However, whilst I most strongly support the independence and neutrality adopted by the courts, in the sense that the court should not lean in favor of either party in a case,
I hope that will not be incurring Your Lordship's displeasure by respectfully submitting a technical or procedural defect caused by the lapses of a prosecutor may properly be corrected by the judge in the interest of justice provided of course all the evidence adduced in court, conclusively prove by the prosecutions case
I make these remarks keeping firmly in mind, the cardinal principle of our criminal law, that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty acid that this principle should remain inviolate and then accused's rights in this respect should be safeguarded
Nevertheless, in the interests of justice for all, a balance must be struck between the need to protect the accused person’s rights, and the need to uphold the interests of the public at large, not forgetting the suffering of the victims of crime.
Of course, judges and magistrates should be highly commended for their vital roles in dealing with cases involving violence against the person particularly against women and children. In most cases the courts have rightly meted out deterrent sentences to serve as clear warnings to any potential violators lurking in our society.
I also strongly support the sentiments of the Attorney General about laws on paper being pointless without real, enforcement, particularly those relating to the safety of the public.
On the role of interpreters, I wish to echo Your Lordship's views on the importance of accurate translation, not just in the literal verbatim sense, but also in terms of properly conveying the meaning of a witness's statement.
In this regard, I would like to cite an instance in the days of the so called "Confrontation" between Indonesia and Malaysia.
At the time, it was reported that due to damage to the British Embassy in Jakarta by demonstrators, the then British Ambassador had to leave Jakarta.
During a stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the way back to England, he held a press conference during which he was asked by a reporter about why the late President Soekarno was so opposed to the formation of Malaysia.
I recall that the Ambassador's reply was as follows;
When the Ambassador's statement appeared in one of the Malay papers the nest day, it cited him as saying;
The free translation of which is that President Soekarno was angry at Tungku Abdul Rahman for not keeping a picture of the President.
I fully agree with Lordship that our interpreters should be well trained in the literal as well as colloquial nuances the languages that they need to translate, in order to avoid the serious consequences that misinterpretation can afflict upon parties in court pro tidings.
To stress how vital it is to translate accurately what a witness testifies in Court, I seek Your Lordship's indulgence for me to cite an incident in a murder trial in the Federation of Malaya.
A man was charged with murder. Witnesses testified that the accused person in a frenzied attack caused the unconsciousness of a fellow worker who later died in hospital.
The presiding judge was Malay. The DPP was also Malay. The Defense lawyer was Chinese. The accused was an Indian of Tamil extraction.
The Court interpreter was an Indian Muslim who was experienced and qualified in the English language in addition to other languages spoken in Malaya as it then was.
The accused opted to speak in Malay in which he was proficient.
As far as the DPP was concerned the case was straight forward and he had produced all the necessary witnesses to testify regarding the incident.
The judge called for the defense Counsel - informed the Court that his client the accused person insisted on giving evidence under oath from the witness box and that he wanted to give evidence in the Malay language.
Counsel's first question was; "Is it true that you hit the deceased until he became unconscious?.
Accused's Answer; "Yes that was true".
Counsel; "What caused you to do what you did to him?"
Accused;"Because he repeatedly pulled my coat in the presence of so many other workers while we were having our meal in the canteen."
This statement from the accused when translated into English caused a gasp and an uproar in Court including among members of the Jury.
Counsel; "Will you show the Court and the Jury how the deceased repeatedly pulled your coat?”
The accused hesitated; he became fidgety and looked around the Court but remained silent.
He then said he could not do the demonstration because of the presence of so many people.
Counsel asked the Court for permission to take off his jacket and offered it to the accused to do the demonstration but the accused declined the offer.
The Judge instructed the interpreter to approach the witness box and ask the accused why he was so coy about giving a demonstration.
The accused whispered to the interpreter something.
The judge immediately instructed the interpreter to tell the Court and the jury what the accused had whispered.
The interpreter announced with a straight face; "My Lord the witness said that what happened at the fateful incident was that the deceased had repeatedly pulled his `Kote'.”
After a brief adjournment the judge directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter that is to say culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
I cited this incident not meaning to treat this important occasion with levity.
My purpose is to strongly support Your Lordship's requirement that Court interpreters must not only be proficient in the languages they use but must have a keen sense of hearing.
I apologize to all the graceful ladies present if I offended their feminine sensitivities. However, I am sure that being modern and educated ladies, they would not hesitate to continue to subscribe to the important principle that men and women are equal before the law.
With the establishment of the Law Society and the upcoming election of its Council members, this will be the final occasion when I have the honor to address this court. However, I look forward to attending future ceremonies as a silent, but no less admiring spectator.
To conclude, it would be most remiss of me if I do not Your Lordship, the officers and staff of the Judiciary and the Attorney General and his staff for making this time honored ceremony another great success.
I look forward to maintaining my close working relationship with the Judiciary in the years to come, age and health permitting.
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