by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Petaling Jaya
on Saturday, 18 January 1997

The MSC International Advisory Panel comprising the Who’s Who in the world IT industry is a great coup for Malaysia

The International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the Multimedia Super Corridor, comprising the Who’s Who in the world IT industry, which held its first meeting yesterday under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed at the Stanford University in California, is undoubtedly a great coup for Malaysia.

The primary responsibility of the IAP is to provide advice and counsel to the Prime Minister and the Malaysian Government on strategic issues related to the MSC, such as infrastructure and the environment, policies and cyberlaws, marketing and incentives, and the development of domestic industries.

The views and concerns expressed by the panelists should be given serious attention, such as the shortage of skilled workers, how to market the products from the MSC to neighbouring countries, how the proposed cyberlaws could be taken outside MSC and the country, doubts as to whether the proposed MSC with a liberalised environment could be achieved within the present structure or time frame, the unpredictability of the IT industry, etc.

Equally pertinent are advice about the difference between the Silicon Valley and the MSC, as the former is “totally uncontrolled” and that for Malaysia to attract the entertainment industry to the MSC, “the creative people must be given a lot of freedom”.

While the MSC is being promoted internationally as a IT “hub” of the 21st century, no time should be lost to launch a nation-wide campaign to promote a Malaysian citizenry whose IT-literacy and competency is comparable to the best in the world.

The MSC can only succeed to become regional IT hub if it is backed up nationally with the necessary infrastructure, including a nation of knowledge workers. Otherwise, there will be be a glaring, unhealthy and even dangerous contrast and divide in Malaysia - between the hi-tech in the MSC and the low-tech or even non-tech outside the MSC.

In the remaining three years to the next millennium, all sectors of the Malaysian society should make a national commitment to acquire greater competence and promote wider usage of IT.

In keeping with the aim to make Malaysia a regional IT hub, the courts should aim to become one of the world’s premier judicial systems on on-line usage

For instance, yesterday’s Utusan Malaysia carried a report of Mahathir’s visit to California to promote MSC under the heading: “Mahkamah Siber pertama di Malaysia” with the report:

“California 16 Jan - Malaysia mungkin akan muncul sebagai negara pertama di dunia mewujudkan Mahkamah Keadilan - Siber yang menjadi rujukan antarabangsa dalam mengambil pelbagai isu mengenai siber.

“Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ketika mengumumkan demikian berkata, kerajaan sedang memikirkan kemungkinan pewujudan mahkamah tersebut memandangkan cabaran, penyalahgunaan dan gejala negatif berkaitan siber semakin kompleks dan sukar ditangani.”

The question is whether the Malaysian judicial system is ready to become a pioneer in IT usage as to be recognised internationally as a leader in electronic innovations?

The Chief Judge of Malaya, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin launched the Malaysian Bar Website during the launching of the Malaysian Bar’s 50th anniversary celebrations two weeks ago, but the Malaysian Bar website would not be functional until later in the year. The Malaysian courts themselves have no websites.

We must recognise that as at present, the courts in other countries are much more advanced in electronic usage.

A few days ago, for instance, it was reported in the local press that by the beginning of this year, all lawyers in Singapore would be required to submit all their court papers electronically and that a 50 per cent surcharge on existing rates would be levied on attorneys who file old-fashioned paper documents after March 8.

A computer database containing all of Singapore’s legal statutes is expected to be available over the Internet soon, allowing lawyers to conduct legal research electronically.

The Australian High Court went online last October. It does not just have a homepage, but provides stacks of information on what the court does, has been doing, and will do soon in the business lists. There are also transcripts of recent speeches and, most impressive of all, the full text of all court decisions from 1947 to the present.

The full business calender of the cases of the Australian High Court, whether hearing “by videolink” from Adelaide on Monday, 3rd February, 1997, or sitting in Canberra on 4th February 1997, in Sydney on 13th and 14th February 1997 and Melbourne on 14th February 1997 are all available on the Internet. All court forms are also available electronically on-line.

In the United Kingdom, even the ancient House of Lords has gone on-line, making its judgments available on the Internet.

In keeping with the aim to make Malaysia a regional IT hub, the courts in Malaysia should aim to become one of the world’s premier judicial systems on on-line usage. Towards this end, the Malaysian Courts should set up a task-force to be able to go on-line by this year itself.