Sultan appoints first Bruneian Chief Justice
By Ignatius Stephen

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday appointed Brunei's first local Chief Justice at a swearing-in ceremony at the Istana Nurul Iman, which marked a legal milestone for the Sultanate.

And it was not one but two as His Majesty also appointed the country's first woman Attorney General.

The appointment of Dato Seri Paduka Awg Hj Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Hj Kifli, 56, as the Chief Justice was effective Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009 replacing Dato Seri Paduka Mohammed Saied, who had completed his term of appointment.

Meanwhile, by command of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the Prime Minister's Office announced that His Majesty has consented to appoint Yang Arif Datin Paduka Hjh Hayati bte Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Dato Seri Paduka Hj Mohd Salleh, High Court Judge as Attorney General, effective Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009.

The ceremony began with the reading out of the letters of appointment by the Grand Chamberlain, Pg Penggawa Laila Bentara Istiadat Diraja Dalam Istana Pg Hj Alauddin, followed by the recitation of the oath before His Majesty by Dato Seri Paduka Awg Hj Kifrawi as the new Chief Justice.

After the ceremony, His Majesty granted an audience to the newly appointed Chief Justice. Also present were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah.

Members of Brunei legal profession hailed the appointments as "historic events".

Dayang Rokiah Swed, now in private practice with Daud Ismail and Company and one of Brunei's longest legal practitioners both in the government and now in private practice said, "They have the best background for the jobs.

"Both are of even temperament and are most likeable. We, the legal community wholeheartedly welcome both appointments.

"I have worked under Dato Paduka Kifrawi for ten years from 1986 to 1996. I have met with much kindness and consideration during my time with him.

"Particularly we appreciated his acute sense of humour," she added.

She described Datin Hjh Hayati, under whom she also worked, as a most polite and cheerful person. "She is also very fair and equal in her dealings."

Lawyer Yusof Halim of Cheok Sankaram & Halim said, "They are the best for the jobs. It will be a new beginning for all of us. Their wisdom and even temperament will surely go a long way as guidance for all of us."

The new Chief Justice, Dato Seri Paduka Haji Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Haji Kifli SPMB, SNB, PJK, PIKB, PKL was among others the Chairman of the Asean Law Association.

He received his legal education from the University of London and Gray's Inn. Having served 20 years in the Brunei Government as Principal Counsel, Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Intermediate Court, Probate Officer, Official Receiver and Magistrate, Dato Kifrawi was appointed Brunei Attorney-General on February 1, 1999, a position he held until his appointment as CJ.

Dato Kifrawi has been involved in the Asean Law Association since the 6th Governing Council Meeting at Cebu City, Philippines in November 1985.

Meanwhile, Justice Datin Paduka Hjh Hayati obtained her early education from SMRIF, STPRI and SOAS College in Bandar Seri Begawan.

She went on to pursue her 'A' Levels at Exeter College of Further Education, UK under a Brunei Government Scholarship in 1974 and thereafter graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Law) Degree in 1979.

In 1980, she qualified as a Barrister-At-Law of Lincolns Inn. She began her legal career with the Attorney-General's Chambers as a Deputy Public Prosecutor and Legal Counsel.

Later, she was transferred to the State Judiciary Department as a Magistrate, and subsequently as Chief Magistrate/Deputy Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Chief Registrar/Intermediate Court Judge and Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court.

On January 1, 2001, she was appointed by His Majesty as a High Court Judge, the first woman to be honoured with such appointment. On July 15, 1999, she was awarded The Most Honourable Order of the Crown of Brunei, Second Class (DPMB) which carries the title Datin Paduka by His Majesty.

Apart from her judicial duties, she is a member of various committees, including The Law Revision Committee, The National Education Council and a member of the 'Badan Perencana Kemajuan Jangka Panjang', the body responsible for formulating Brunei Darussalam's long-term development and for monitoring its implementation. She is also Chairperson of the Working Committee on Legal Profession Act. - Borneo Bulletin (5th August 2009)