Law - History of Malaysia

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Date Submitted: 04/02/2011 05:13 PM

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Malaysia’s legal system is heavily influence by the legal tradition of the Common Law of England and the Rules of Equity. Both are enforced in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak as stated in the Civil Law Act 1956, Section 3(1)[1]. However, this legal system has also integrated certain laws of Islamic (Syariah) and Customary Law.

Before the British, other European travelers which are Dutch and Portuguese were in Malaysia but they did not attempt to control the people as their primary focus is more on trading[2]. For the Portuguese, they only administer their laws on their own people whereas the locals are being dealt with by community leaders and it is the same for the Dutch whereby the locals are govern by their own native laws/customs[3]. The Malay ‘adat’ (customary) law with certain Hindu-Buddhist elements which was slowly modified by Islamic law was evident in Malaysia[4] and this was prior to the British colonization.

The common law history of Malaysia started with the acquisition of Penang in 1786 and with the introduction of Royal Charters of Justice in 1807, 1826 and 1855[5] to the Straits Settlements consisting Penang, Singapore and Malacca. The Civil Law Enactment 1937 was introduced to the Federated Malay States comprising the states of Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan. The Unfederated Malay States, which consist of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor, became part of the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and is then covered by the Civil Law (Extension) Ordinance, 1951. Both enactments were then replaced by the Civil Law Ordinance 1956, which applied to all eleven states of the Federation. With the establishment of Malaysia in 1963, Civil Law Act 1956 came into force on 1 April, 1972 superseded the above ordinance and now covers both Sabah and Sarawak.

The sources of law for common law are generally from constitution, legislation and also judicial decisions[6]. Malaysia is a federation of thirteen states...