MALAYSIAN LEGAL SYSTEM Legal history STRAITS SETTLEMENTS PART2
A powerful Malay kingdom until 1511
Under Portuguese rule 1511-1641
Under Dutch rule 1641-1795
1795 – British was given temporary
possession of Malacca by Dutch
1818 – repossessed by Dutch
1824 – permanent possession by British
(Anglo-Dutch Treaty 1824)
1826 – became part of Straits Settlements
Was part of Johor
1819 – Sir Stamford Raffles established
Singapore as a trading post.
Singapore then was largely uninhabited.
There were about 150 Malay fishermen under
the authority of the Temenggong who was an
official of the Johor Sultanate. There were
also some Chinese inhabitants.
Treaty between Sir Stamford Raffles (EIC) and
Sultan of Johor for British to possess Singapore
1824 – British acquired permanent possession of
By the treaty of 19 November 1824, the Sultan of
Johore and Temenggong agreed to ‘cede in full
sovereignty and property to the Honourable the
English East India Company, their heirs and
successors forever, the Island of Singapore …’
Granted by King George IV on 27 Nov 1826
To extend provisions of 1st RCJ to cover
Malacca and Singapore
Established a new Court of Judicature for
Penang, Malacca and Singapore.
The court was renamed “Court of Judicature
Prince of Wales Island, Malacca and
The Charter introduced the General Law of
England (as it existed in 1826) into the Straits
Settlements i.e. Penang, Malacca and
Regina v Willans
Issue: whether a statute passed in England in
1824 was applicable in Penang
Maxwell R: Whatever law the second Charter
introduced into Malacca, was introduced into
every part of the settlement; and as it has been
decided that the law of England as it stood in 1826
was brought by it into Malacca, I am of the opinion
that the same law became, by the same means
the law of Penang.
Rodyk v Williamson
Malkin R held that with the introduction of
the Charter, it supersedes Dutch law and the
law introduced was English law.
The introduction of the King’s Charter into
the Settlements had introduced the existing
law of England and had abrogated any law
Dutch law was ignored.
Choa Choon Neo v Spottiswoode
Court ignored Chinese customary law on the
making of a devise giving property for
Court held that the devise is not charitable
(applying English law).
“It is clear that in England [such devise] would
Granted in 1855.
To restructure the administration of justice
Before 3rd RCJ, there was only 1 Recorder handling
cases in the Straits Settlements who visited Malacca
and Singapore twice a year.
After 3rd RCJ, 2 Recorders were appointed;
For Penang: McCausland as Recorder and assited by a
For Malacca & Singapore: Maxwell as Recorder and
assisted by a Registrar.
Supreme Court of Straits Settlements
(abolished the Court of Judicature of
Penang, Singapore and Malacca)
Court of Quarter Session (criminal cases only)
Recorders of the former courts became
Recorder for Penang became Judge of Penang
Recorder for Malacca and Singapore became the
Chief Justice of the Straits Settlements
(i) the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlement;
(ii)Courts of Requests at each of the
(iii)Courts of two Magistrates, at each of the
(iv) Magistrates’ Court, at each of the
(v) Coroners’ Courts, at each of the
(iv)Justices of the Peace
Came into force on 1st January 1879
Section 6 of CLO allows for continuous
reception of English commercial law into the
Thus, enabling the court to apply English
The Courts of Judicature established in the
Straits Settlements were to administer the
principles of common law and equity which were
then in force in England 'as far as local
circumstances will admit'.
Application of English Law must be subject to
local circumstances and conditions.
There is a need for modification – cannot be
accepted in totality.
It has been repeatedly laid down as the
doctrine of our law that its rules are not
applicable to such races when intolerable
injustice and oppression would be the
consequence of their application.
that law is subject, in its application to the
various alien races established here, to such
modifications as are necessary to prevent it
from operating unjustly and oppressively on
Thus, in questions of marriage and divorce, it
would be impossible to apply our law to
Mohammedans, Hindus and Buddhists, without
the most absurd and intolerable consequence, and
it is therefore held inapplicable to them.
Privy Council said:
In applying this general principle it has been
held that statutes relating to matters and
exigencies peculiar to the local conditions of
England, and which are not adapted to the
circumstances of the colony, do not become a
part of its law, although the general law of
England maybe introduced into it
Royal Charter of Justice 1807
“so far as the local circumstance will admit”
“so far as local conditions and inhabitants will
“so far as the several religions, manner and
customs of the inhabitants will admit”
Such modifications were primarily in family law
and related subject matters such as
marriage, divorce, adoption and succession.
For example, Chinese polygamous marriages
were recognised so as to allow secondary wives
and their children to be provided for under the
Statutes of Distributions.
E.g. The Six Widows Case (1908)
Cheang Thye Pin v Tan Ah Loy (1920)
Khoo Hooi Leong v Khoo Chong Yeok  AC
Sahrip v Mitchell – Malay custom on acquiring
ownership of land was recognised.
Chulas v Kolson – it was recognised that a
married Muslim woman had the capacity to
enter into a contract in her own name.
The Six Widows Case (1908) – recognised
polygamy among the Chinese.
Cheang Thye Pin v Tan Ah Loy (1920)
Khoo Hooi Leong v Khoo Chong Yeok 
In the Goods of Abdullah
Fatimah v Logan
Ong Cheng Neo v Yeap Cheah Neo
Choa Choon Neo v Spottiswoode
Explain the significance of the Charter of
Justice, 1855 in the transformation of the
administration of justice in the Straits
As Malacca and Singapore were a ‘ceded’ and
not a ‘settled’ British colony, the laws of the
local inhabitants shall continue to be
enforced in the above territories unless
modified by the new sovereign.
With reference to decided cases, discuss the
extent of the application of the unmodified
local laws during the British administration of
the above two colonies.
With regard to the reception of English law into
Penang vide the Charter of Justice 1807, analyse
critically the court’s decision in the following
Kamoo v Thomas Turner Bassett (1808) 1 Ky. 1;
Regina v Willans (1858) 3 Ky. 16;
Ong Cheng Neo v Yeap Cheah Neo & Ors (1872) 1
Ky. 326 (PC).
It was observed from the analysis of the
cases in the Straits Settlements that there
was a general reluctance to accommodate
local circumstances and the needs of the local
inhabitants though judges repeatedly
proclaimed the policy of modifying the
application of English law to prevent injustice
Comment the above statement in light of
Explain the reasons for the justification for
the introduction of the First Charter of Justice
1807 to Penang
Do you agree with the argument that the
introduction of English Law in the Straits
Settlements had reversed totally the
application of local law among its inhabitants
and that English law was applicable in all