PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 — The government has approved a grant of RM7 million to the National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK) this year for lawyers to represent those in need in criminal cases, said Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun.

Idrus said this is an illustration of the government’s continuous commitment and willingness to acknowledge legal aid services to ensure equal access to justice for those in need of legal redress.

“On the robust partnership between the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), the Bar Council and other members of the legal fraternity through YBGK, as the chairman of YBGK, I am glad to announce that over the years, the number of services provided by YBGK has tremendously grown from 91,544 in 2013 to 215,990 in 2020.

“This growth resulted in an increase in YBGK’s expenses from approximately RM2 million in 2013 to RM9.1 million in 2020. Consequently, the government has also raised the grant given to YBGK to cover those expenses. The total amount received by YBGK since its inception is RM58,089,200,” he said in his speech at the opening of the Legal Year 2022 here, today.

Meanwhile, Idrus said these past two years had witnessed the three components in the administration of justice — the Judiciary, the AGC and the Bar, working together to overcome the unforeseeable challenges brought about by the pandemic.

He said the three components in the administration of justice indeed echo the same aspiration, desire and vision to uphold the rule of law and to maintain integrity of the legal profession whilst embracing the new normal.

“I do not wish to see a decline in public confidence in any of these three components, as the public views us as interrelated and not distinct.

“Hence, the Judiciary, the AGC and the Bar must come together with one vision and one aim, and join hands to create a conducive working environment towards attaining justice in these trying times,” he said.

Idrus said in addition to the Covid-related legal work, they (AGC) kept the legal machinery running in a relatively different operating environment.

“We never abandoned our core work. It is by no means an easy feat. At this point, allow me to quote Sir Francis Bacon, the Attorney General of England in the 17th century, who described the duties of my office as ‘the painfullest task in the realm’. This saying holds true, especially in these trying times.

“I am indeed humbled and heartened to witness my officers who have had painstakingly braced the challenging situation and ensured that work continued in innovative ways.

“They were quick to adapt. Remote hearings, appeals, meetings and even international conferences and negotiations were conducted via various online platforms almost seamlessly,” he said.

At the same event, president of Malaysian Bar AG Kalidas in his speech said the Bar had also engaged with the authorities regarding the continued access to legal services during the “Lockdown Period” in mid-2021.

He said the Bar made firm representations that lawyers be allowed to continue providing their services, and be able to effectively represent their clients.

“As the criminal justice system continues to function, equally, lawyers must be able to do so as well. Further, in the case of our YBGK lawyers, they are called to represent the accused in court.

“Without the YBGK lawyers, these persons will likely go unrepresented as they have no other means to obtain legal representation,” he said. — Bernama