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Malaysia: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Malaysia

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Last updated:

Lauren Cummings, April 2019

About the author

This guide was created by Helen Gaterell, former Document Supply Services Supervisor at IALS Library.

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Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, consisting of thirteen states: eleven on the Malaysian Peninsular and two (Sabah and Sarawak) on the nearby island of Kalimantan. Both Sabah and Sarawak, as well as two peninsular states (Malacca and Penang) were British colonies, whilst the remaining nine states were hereditary principalities.

In addition to these thirteen states, Malaysia also has three federal territories: Kuala Lumpar, Putrajaya and Labuan. These territories, unlike the other sates, are governed directly by the federal government. 

Because of colonial influences and the development of different states at different times, the Malaysian legal system is primarily based on English Common law. However, it also recognises and includes native customary laws and provides for Islamic Law in all states except the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpar, Putrajaya and Labuan.

This guide attempts to unpack the country's legal materials and provide a guide to the Malaysian resources at IALS Library. 

Malaysian legal materials can be found at classmark GM4. This classmark is then further divided by state:






















Negri Sembilan


Straits Settlement (Malacca, Penang, Singapore)










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Federal Constitution

The written Federal Constitution of Malaysia is the supreme law of Malaysia. It establishes the country as a constitutional monarchy with an elected head of state (the Yang di-Pertuan Agong). The constitution is modelled on the British Westminster system of parliamentary government and it organises the three main branches into legislative, executive and judicial authorities.

The constitution came into force in 1957, when the Federation of Malaya gained its independence. The constitution was significantly amended in 1963 when Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined the Federation and modern Malaysia was formed (Singapore left the Federation in 1965, although Sabah and Sarawak remained).

The Constitution of Malaysia 1963 can be found in hard copy at IALS Library at GM4.C.1 AAA.

World Constitutions Illustrated, available on the database HeinOnline, is a reliable source for constitutions, and includes both current and previous versions. The Constitution of Malaysia can be found here, along with its amendments and amending laws. HeinOnline is available onsite to academic users and remotely for University of London staff and students with a valid IALS Library card.

Open Access The 2010 reprint is also available online as an open access PDF, provided by the Attorney General's Chambers of Malaysia. 

State Constitutions 

Each state also has its own constitution, some of which can be found online on the State Attorney Generals' websites:

Constitution of Brunei

Constitution of Sabah

Constitution of Terengganu

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The Malaysian judiciary is divided into the Superior Courts and the Subordinate Courts. 

The Superior Courts consist of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court (Malaysia and Sabah & Sarawak)

The Subordinate Courts in Peninsular Malaysia consist of the Sessions Court, the Magistrates' Court and the Penghulu's Courts.

The Subordinate Courts in Sabah and Sarawak consist of the Sessions Court, the Magistrates' Court and the Native Courts.

There is a parallel system of state Syariah Courts which has limited jurisdiction over matters of state Islamic (sharia) law. 


The Federal Court is the highest court. It has the power to hear appeals from the Court of Appeal, hear original matters and give opinions on any questions by Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The Court of Appeal generally hears civil appeals with particularly large claims (over RM 250,000) and appeals to criminal decisions of the High Court.

In the exercise of its original jurisdiction, the High Court has unlimited criminal and civil powers. The High Court has general supervisory and revisionary jurisdiction over all the Subordinate Courts, and jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Subordinate Courts in civil and criminal matters.

The Session Court is the highest of the subordinate courts. It has extensive but not unlimited criminal jurisdiction and can try civil cases where claims are less than RM 1,000,000. 

The Magistrates’ Court deals with minor civil and criminal cases. Each court is presided over by either a First Class (legally qualified) or Second Class (appointed, but not legally qualified) Magistrate. These two types of Magistrate have different jurisdictions and can only try certain offences or actions depending on the punishment or the claim.

The Penghulu’s Court is the lowest level of subordinate court in Peninsular Malaysia. A Penghulu is a headman appointed by the state government. Any person charged with an offense before a Penghulu’s Court may elect to be tried by a Magistrates’ Court. The criminal jurisdiction of a Penghulu’s Court is limited to the trial of offences of a minor nature which can be adequately punished by a fine and has the power to hear civil matters when the claim does not exceed RM 50.

The Native Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction but concerns only native law and customs and some matters involving land disputes

The Syariah Courts consist of a Court of Appeal, a High Court and Subordinate Courts. It has some civil and criminal jurisdiction, only applicable to Muslims and usually concerning matters of family law.

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Federal Legislation

Primary and secondary legislation is produced both at a federal and state level, with the exceptions of the three federal territories of Kuala Lumpar, Putrajaya and Labuan who do not have state assemblies and are governed directly by the federal government. The Constitution states that a federal law shall prevail over any inconsistent state laws, including sharia laws.

Primary legislation

IALS library holds hard copy Malaysian legislation from 1877-1992:

The Laws of the Federated Malay States, 1877-1920 (RES GM4.E.1) and Federal Enactments 1909-1941 (RES GM4.E.2)

The Laws of the Federated Malay States, 1935-1939 (GM4.E.1) and Malaysia Acts, 1946-1992 (GM4.E.2)

More recent legislation can be found online (further information below)

Subsidiary legislation

IALS library holds the following in hard copy:

Rules, Orders, Etc., 1909-1939 (RES GM4.E.4)

Subsidiary Legislation, 1947-1992 (GM4.E.4)

In the latter half of the 20th century, subsidiary legislation began to be published in two parts PU(A) and PU(B) (PU stands for 'Pemberitahu Undangan' or 'Legal Notification'). The Legislative Supplement A contains all Royal Proclamations, orders, rules, regulations and by-laws, whilst the Legislative Supplement B contains all subsidiary legislation other than that which is required to be published in the Legislative Supplement A and generally deals with appointments and notifications. Therefore, researchers may note that there are volumes marked 'A' and 'B' at the GM4.E.4 classmark.


Attorney General's Chambers of Malaysia - Laws of Malaysia  provides full texts of laws in force in 2009, arranged numerically from no. 1 of 1968 to no. 701 of 2009. All laws from no.702 of 2010 are also listed, but only some of these are available in full text. The LOM series is a compilation and reprint of laws published in volume form and is the only official and authoritative publication of the laws of Malaysia.

e-Federal Gazette Official website for Malaysian federal legislation, made available by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. Provides individual primary and secondary laws from 26 April 2011 onwards. The site is available in English or Bahasa Malaysia. Users are reminded that the legislation downloaded and printed from this portal do not constitute copies of the Gazette printed by the Government Printer.

CommonLII contains some selected legislation from 1914-2006 (last updated: 2010).

LexisNexis is available onsite to library members (offsite access to academic members based at IALS) and contains the Unannotated Statutes of Malaysia (English), the most important Federal Laws of Malaysia, as published in the English language in the government gazette. The Principal Acts are updated with the latest amendments available and received from the supplier.

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State Legislation

Each of the thirteen Malaysian states has its own state legislative assembly which has the power to enact state laws. (The three federal territories of Kuala Lumpar, Putrajaya and Labuan do not have state assemblies and are governed directly by the federal government). State laws only apply in the particular state and the Constitution states that a federal law shall prevail over any inconsistent state laws, including sharia laws.

Consolidated state laws

IALS has consolidated State Enactments in hard copy from 1959-1974 (at GM4.E.6) and consolidated State Subsidiary Legislation from 1951-1978 (at GM4.E.8).

Malaysia Central provides links to each of the states' government websites, some of which publish state legislation. Those that do are linked below.

IALS also has some, mainly historical, hard copy legislation from each state:


Brunei laws: 1906-1930 and 1952-1955 in RES GM4a.E.1 and The laws of Brunei Darussalam: in force on the 1st day of January 1984 in GM4a.E.1.

Brunei enactments: are laws enacted before 1st January 1984 which are not included in the Laws of Brunei in the Revised Edition of 1st January 1984. IALS has 1906-1951; 1956-1971; 1978 (no. 1-14); 1979-1983; 1985 (no. 1) at RES GM4a.E.2.

Brunei subsidiary legislation: 1956-1984 (incomplete) at GM4a.E.4.

Online: Texts of acts (revised) and orders are available on the Attorney General's Chambers website.


Johore laws: The laws of the state of Johore in force on the 1st day of January, 1935 at RES GM4b.E.1 and A chronological table of Johore enactments: together with appointments, rules and notifications thereunder in force on the 31st December, 1938 at RES GM4b.E.1.

Johore enactments: 1907-1935, 1937-1939 at RES GM4b.E.2 and 1940-1971 (incomplete) at GM4b.E.2.

Johore subsidiary legislation: 1936-1937 at RES GM4b.E.4 and 1965-1971 (incomplete) at GM4b.E.4.


Kedah laws: 1934-1940 at RES GM4c.E.1.

Kedah enactments: 1906-1915 at RES FOL GM4c.E.2, 1916-1943 at RES GM4c.E.2 and 1948-1990 (incomplete) at GM4c.E.2.

Kedah subsidiary legislation: 1926-1935 (incomplete) at RES GM4c.E.4; 1935-1941 at RES FOL GM4c.E.4 and 1942-1991 at GM4c.E.4.


Kelantan enactments: 1904-1912 at RES FOL GM4d.E.2; 1913-1984 (incomplete) at RES GM4d.E.2 and 1986-1990 at GM4d.E.2.

Kelantan Subsidiary legislation: 1927-1984 (incomplete) at RES GM4d.E.4 and 1987-1991 at GM4d.E.4.


Malacca enactments: 1948-1990 (incomplete) at GM4e.E.2.

Malacca legal notices: 1964-1990 (incomplete) at GM4e.E.4.

Negri Sembilan

Negri Sembilan laws: 1883-1902 at RES GM4f.E.1.

Negri Sembilan enactments: 1896-1922 at RES GM4f.E.2 and 1949-1990 (incomplete) at GM4f.E.2.

Negri Sembilan orders and regulations: 1883-1895 at RES GM4f.E.3.

Negri Sembilan rules under enactments: 1903-1909 at RES GM4f.E.4 and 1974-1991 at GM4f.E.4.

Sabah (or North Borneo)

Sabah was known as 'North Borneo' between 1888-1963, during which time it was a protectorate of the United Kingdom and, later, a crown colony. After 1963 it merged with a number of other states to join the Federation of Malaysia as the state of Sabah

IALS library holds a large amount of material for North Borneo in its collection, with proclamations, ordinances and rules in different titles and volumes dating from around 1881-1953 (incomplete) at RES GM4g.E.1 and RES FOL GM4g.E.1.

North Borneo ordinances: 1890-1946 (incomplete) variously at RES FOL GM4g.E.2 and RES GM4g.E.2.

North Borneo subsidiary legislation: 1915-1948 (incomplete) variously at RES FOL GM4g.E.4 and RES GM4g.E.4 and 1951-1956 at GM4g.E.4.

Sabah laws: 1963-1990 at GM4g.E.2.

Sabah subsidiary legislation: 1985 and 1987 at GM4g.E.4.

Laws of Sabah - Sabah LawNet belongs to the Sabah State Attorney-General's Chambers, which includes a database of updated Sabah Law. These laws include the State's Enactments, Ordinances, Rules, Regulations, and By-Laws. It is comprehensive and easy to use and is geared toward government officers, practicing lawyers, legal advisors, academics, law students, and the general public who have a daily need to refer to Sabah laws.

Sabah State Government Gazette website belongs to the State Government Printing Department. The legislation in the website is published every Thursday and is available from the year 2000.


Pahang laws: 1896-1951 (incomplete) at RES GM4h.E.2 and 1974-1990 (incomplete) at GM4h.E.2.

Pahang subsidiary legislation: 1974-1991 (incomplete) at GM4h.E.4.


Penang enactments: 1948-1951 1974-1990 (incomplete) at GM4i.E.2.

Penang subsidiary legislation: 1974-1990 at GM4i.E.4.


Perak laws: 1877-1903 (incomplete) at RES GM4j.E.1.

Perak enactments: 1897-1898 at RES FOL GM4j.E.2 and 1899-1920 at RES GM4j.E.2; 1948-1952 at FOL GM4j.E.2 and 1974-1991 (incomplete) at GM4j.E.2.

Perak subsidiary legislation: 1974-1991 (incomplete) at GM4j.E.4.


Sarawak orders and ordinances: 1936-1957 (incomplete) at RES GM4k.E.2 and 1946-1947 at RES FOL GM4k.E.2; 1958-1991 at GM4k.E.2.

Sarawak subsidiary legislation: 1963-1910 Orders which have not been cancelled: issued by H. H. The Rajah of Sarawak or with his sanction at RES GM4k.E.3.

Sarawak subsidiary legislation: 1947-1958 RES GM4k.E.4 and 1959-1991 (incomplete) at GM4k.E.4.

Sarawak Lawnet is the official Sarawak Government website for Statutes of Sarawak and is provided and maintained by the Sarawak State Attorney-General's Chambers.


Selangor laws: 1877-1899 at RES GM4l.E.1.

Selangor regulations passed in council: 1890-1909 (incomplete) at RES GM4l.E.2; 1949-1951 at RES FOL GM4l.E.2 and 1910-1990 (incomplete) at GM4l.E.2.

Selangor subsidiary legislation: 1974-1991 (incomplete) at GM4l.E.4.

Singapore and Straits Settlements 

Although a separate country now, Singapore became a Malaysian state between 1963 and 1965. IALS has a substantial amount of Singaporean legislation, which is explained in our Singapore Libguide and is located at GM4m. Historical material from the Straits Settlements is also discussed in the Singapore Libguide, and is located in IALS library at GM4n.


Perlis Laws: 1905-1920 at RES FOL GM4o.E.2, 1921-1954 at RES GM4o.E.2 and 1974-1990 at GM4o.E.2.

Perlis subsidiary legislation: 1934-1938 at RES FOL GM4o.E.2 and 1974-1991 at GM4o.E.4.


Trengganu enactments: 1910-1925 at RES FOL GM4p.E.2; 1926-1951 at RES GM4p.E.2 and 1955 only at GM4p.E.2.

Trengganu subsidiary legislation: 1990-1991 at GM4p.E.4.

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Case Law

The Malayan Law Journal (FOL GM4.J.1) provides full text reports of cases from the Federal Court, Court of Appeal, Malaysian High Court (in all states). IALS library has Vol.1 (1932) - current. The same volumes can also be accessed onsite through LexisNexis (via the Electronic Law Library), along with the Malayan Law Journal Unreporteds (March 1991-current) The Malayan Law Journal Unreported (MLJU) is a series of unreported raw judgments from the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court not found on MLJR. These judgments do not carry headnotes but have been included for online research.

Court reports (often not reported elsewhere) will also be found in Singapore Journal of Legal Studies. It is available in print at GM4.J.10 (IALS Library has 1959-current) and some selected open access articles are available on the journal's website. The journal is also available on Westlaw and on HeinOnline (1959-current) though the Electronic Law Library. It was previously titled University of Malaya Law Review (Vols. 4-32, 1962-1990) and Malaya Law Review (Vols. 1-3, 1959-1961).

Historical cases can also be found in The Law Reports of the Federated Malay States, which reports on cases from 1906-1941 (available at IALS at RES GM4.G.1) and The Law Reports of the Malayan Union (1946-1947) at RES GM4.G.1.

State Reports

IALS holds a small number of case reports from individual states:

Brunei: The Brunei Law Reports (IALS has 1965-1986) at GM4a.G.1 and Judgments of the Courts of Brunei Darussalam (IALS has 1987-2013) at GM4a.G.2.

Johore: The Law Reports of the State of Johore (IALS has 1915-1940) at RES GM4b.G.1

Sabah: Cases on Native Customary Law in Sabah (IALS has 1953-1972) GM4g.G.1 and High Court of North Borneo Law Reports (IALS has 1939 only).

Sarawak: Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei Supreme Court Reports (IALS has 1928-1963, incomplete) at RES GM4k.G.1 and RES GM4k.G.3.

Singapore and the Straits Settlements: more information about these cases can be found in our Singapore Libguide


SCC Online contains the full text of the judgments of the Federal Court of Malaysia, Court of Appeal, and selected judgments of the High Court. SCC Online is available at IALS Library to all readers; remote access is available to students and academics with current IALS Library cards.

As well as those cases available on the commercial databases, CommonLII makes available some decisions from the Court of Appeal, the Federal Court and the High Court. CommonLII also publishes some decisions of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.

The Chief Registrar's Office provides links to the different state court websites, where some selected judgments are available.

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Digests and summaries

IALS holds Mallal's Digest of Malaysian and Singapore Case Law (1808-2006). This multi-volume digest reports on decisions of the Malaysian and Singapore Superior Courts and appeals to the Privy Council. It summarises cases by subject and allows finding of cases on specific issues or topics. IALS's collection provides coverage of law cases from 1808 to 2006, with the 4th edition on the open shelves at FOL GM4.H.3 and superseded volumes at RES FOL GM4.H.3. There is also an accompanying looseleaf, which updates Mallal's Digest: Mallal's Current Law (1997-2006) at FOL GM4.H.3.

The Federated Malay States Digest is a historical digest of reported cases decided by the Supreme Courts of the Federated Malay States, Johore and Kedah from 1907 to 1935 and is available at GM4.H.1.

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Halsbury’s Laws of Malaysia published by LexisNexis (which is equivalent to the Halsbury’s Laws of England) provide narration of the law, whereby statements of the law are substantiated by authorities in the form of cases, legislation and rules of court where applicable. Volumes are regularly reissued in order to keep the set up-to-date. IALS has a 'current' set at GM4.H.4 as well as pre-current editions at RES GM4.H.4.

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IALS Library holds textbooks on a wide range of subjects within Malaysian law. These can be found at the classmark GM4.C and GM4.D. IALS also has access to a number of e-books on Malaysian law, which can be found in the Library Catalogue.

Some materials specific to Syariah Law in Malaysia can also be found at the GM4 classmark, however IALS has a more extensive section on Islamic Law (not specific to Malaysia) at classmark SI5. 

Some examples of titles include:

Constituting Religion: Islam, Liberal Rights, and the Malaysian State, Tamir Moustafa, (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Constitutional Conflicts in Contemporary Malaysia, H.P. Lee, (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Employment Law in Malaysia, Sharifah Suhanah Syed Ahmad, (LexisNexis, 2012)

Banking Law, Pheng, Samen and Detta, (LexisNexis, 2012)

Copyright Law in Malaysia: Cases and Commentary, Ida Madieha bt. Abdul Ghani Azmi, (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012)

Shariah Rulings and Opinions on Ijarah, Musharakah and Mudharabah, ed. by Wan Abdul Rahim Kamil Wan Mohamed Ali, (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012)

Land Law in Malaysia: Cases and Commentary, Teo Keang Sood and Khaw Lake Tee, (LexisNexis, 2012)

Resolving Child Custody Disputes: the Law and Practice in Malaysia, Mehrun Siraj, (LexisNexis, 2012)

Human Rights Law: International, Malaysian and Islamic Perspectives, ed. by Abdul Ghafur Hamid (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012)

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The Malayan Law Journal (FOL GM4.J.1) contains articles alongside case reports. IALS holds vol. 1 (1932) to current. Articles are paginated with Roman numerals to distinguish them from the case reports. From January 2002 onwards, separate 'Article Supplements' have been published on a monthly basis. IALS binds the article supplements at the end of each volume. Some Malayan Law Journal articles are available online on the LexisNexis database as Malayan Law Journal Articles (abbreviated as MLJA or MLJART).

Jernal Undang-Undang Journal of Malaysian and Comparative Law is published annually by the Faculty of Law at the University of Malaya and is available in hard copy at IALS library GM4.J.6 (vol. 1 1974 - current). A small number of volumes (2002, 2004, 2005) are also available on CommonLii.

Survey of Malaysian Law (IALS library, GM4.J.8, 1977-1988) was published annually by faculty staff at University of Malaya's Faculty of Law. It commented on cases and legislation from the years 1977-1988.

The Malaysian Journal of Law and Society (JUUM) (1997 - current) is available online and published annually by the National University of Malaysia. It publishes research that focuses on Malaysian and Syariah law. Full-text is accessible from 2003 - current. 

Other journals are available that are published in Singapore and focus more on Singaporean law, but do also discuss Malaysia and other foreign, common law jurisdictions:

Singapore Law Review is Asia's oldest student-run legal publication, managed exclusively by the students of the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law. This journal ran before Singapore's independence and was called Me Judice (IALS Library has an incomplete collection from 1960-1967 at RES GM4.J.3). The Singapore Law Review is available in print at GM4.J.5 (IALS Library has 1969- current). The journal is also available on HeinOnline.

Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review of Singapore Cases is an annual summary that evaluates decisions of the Singapore courts in the preceding year. Selected cases from other jurisdictions impacting local law are also discussed. It is available on HeinOnline (2000-current).

The Singapore Journal of Legal Studies is one of the oldest legal journals in the British Commonwealth. It has traced the development of common law in Asia, particularly, Singapore and Malaysia and now prints articles on both domestic and international legal developments.  It is available in print at GM4.J.10 (IALS Library has 1959-current) and some selected open access articles are available on the journal's website. The journal is also available on Westlaw and on HeinOnline (1959-current). It was previously titled Malaya Law Review (Vols. 1-3, 1959-1961) then University of Malaya Law Review (Vols. 4-32, 1962-1990), both available at IALS at GM4.J.2.

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Online resources

GlobaLex Online article to Malaysian sources of law written by Dr. Sharifah Suhanah Syed Ahmad who is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya in Malaysia. The guide was published in 2012 (and updated in 2014) on the Globalex website and made freely available by the Hauser Global Law School Program at the New York University School of Law. The author provides an overview to past legal systems of Malaysia and their legal sources including the Malacca Sultanate and the British era. There is also an introduction to modern sources of Malaysian law including the constitution, English common law and the position of Islamic law.

CommonLII contains some, often incomplete, materials including: legislation, Court of Appeal cases, Federal Court Cases, High Court of Malaya cases, High Court of Sabah and Sarawak cases, and selected journal articles from the Journal of Malaysian and Comparative Law.

CLJ Law database of Malaysia is an online database offered by Malaysia-based company CLJ Legal Network on a subscription basis. IALS library does not have a subscription. This English-language database aims to provide all Malaysian cases and federal acts. New bills, acts, subsidiary acts and amending acts are listed as they become available. The database provides links to a number of freely accessible legal resources.

Eagle-i is a free to use dedicated portal to high quality legal information sources on the web, developed by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Select Malaysia from the drop-down list of countries and there are a number of links to reliable online sources.

FLAG Database The award-winning FLAG Foreign Law Guide gives legal researchers details about holdings of foreign, international and comparative law in the UK's academic, national and specialist law libraries.

The Attorney General's Chambers of Malaysia hosts a number of open access resources including case reports and legislation.

e-Federal Gazette Official website for Malaysian federal legislation, made available by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. Provides individual primary and secondary laws from 26 April 2011 onwards, plus an online version of the revised Laws of Malaysia (‘LOM’), which consists of statutes in force, whatever the date. The site is available in English or Bahasa Malaysia. Users are reminded that the legislation downloaded and printed from this portal do not constitute copies of the Gazette printed by the Government Printer.

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