Attorney-General (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali has instructed the National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK) officials to prepare a report following claims that the legal aid scheme is on the verge of collapse.
A statement from the AG’s Chambers said as chairman of YBGK, Apandi viewed the matter seriously as he wanted citizens to have access to justice.
“The AG views the matter seriously and calls for the YBGK to prepare a comprehensive report.
“This is to identify problems accurately and find solutions to improve the scheme. We also do not want problems to recur,” the statement added.
Apandi, who took office in July last year, said he was committed to see that the YBGK operated efficiently to ensure needy Malaysians obtained legal assistance and a fair trial in line with rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
The statement came in response to a FMT report on Tuesday that the government initiated legal aid scheme for the poor and needy had hit a snag as lawyers were reluctant to represent clients.
The reason is that the government has been slow in settling payments for services rendered since early this year.
Selangor Bar Committee Chairman Salim Bashir had said close to RM822,000 had yet to be settled, while his Negeri Sembilan counterpart Joseph Mathews had said the amount owing to lawyers there was RM106,000.
FMT understands that the total amount owed to lawyers in the peninsula between January and August is about RM3.4 million.
Salim had said the state legal aid committee had to literally beg its members to represent suspects and accused persons.
“But we cannot force lawyers to take up the briefs because it is voluntary,” Salim had said.
YBGK was incorporated as a company in January 2011 for charitable purposes, to assist those with an annual income of RM36,000 to get legal assistance in criminal matters.
Prime Minister Najib Razak launched YBGK in 2012 and the Cabinet then approved RM5 million as an initial grant.
Lawyers through the YBGK would provide legal assistance during arrest, remand, bail application and trial – with the exception of capital punishment cases.
Between April 2012 and November last year, YBGK rendered legal assistance in 514,497 cases.
FMT Reporters Online