Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural nation in which Malays, Indians, Chinese and people of various other ethnicities live together. To more effectively in breaching the language barrier, interpreters definitely play an important role here.
However, it appears that there is a shortage of court interpreters in the country, especially in the Tamil and Chinese languages.
According to The Sun Daily, the lack of career prospects and low salary has attributed to this shortage. In fact, prior to the minimum wage for RM1,500 that came in force on 1 May, the starting salary for court interpreters is set at a RM658.72.
Thus, people with such skills often choose a different career path with better remuneration packages.
Speaking to the English daily, lawyer Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo said the shortage of interpreters in courts could lead to injustice as the language barriers could interfere with the court’s ability to accurately weigh the facts based on witness testimonies and inflict sentences.
“Hence, interpreter services in Malaysia are a must for equal access to justice and should be maintained and continued for as long as our country retains its present cultural and linguistic complexity,” she said.
She then pointed out that there have been instances when defendants who presented themselves before the courts without translation services were unable to protect or enforce their legal rights, adding that this led to dire consequences to their lives, liberty, family and property interests.
Kokila said that the legal system must strive to ensure that all defendants understand the charge they are facing, as well as the full implication of the charges and how a defence may be raised.
Meanwhile, Former Bar Council president Salim Bashir agrees with Kokila and said that this problem has remained unaddressed for a long time.
Salim suggested that the government increases the professionalism in the career of interpreters by providing adequate training as well as increasing the remuneration for the position to attract more people to join the interpreting service.