Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre: Calling all volunteer lawyers to take up Legal Aid Files
Contributed by Fadiah Nadwa Binti Fikri
Section 42 (1) (h) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 spells out the object and power of the Malaysian Bar to make provision for or to assist in the promotion of a scheme whereby impecunious persons may be represented by advocates and solicitors.
This particular section has crystallized an institution notoriously known as the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre which is self-funded by the sole contribution of members of the Bar. The Legal Aid Centre is run by the spirit of voluntarism of its lawyers.
Last year the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre (KLLAC) in particular disposed off 16,000 cases under its various programs. This achievement would not have materialized if it was not for the strong and undying commitment of the volunteer lawyers who were ever ready to assist the centre in taking up files in the course of promoting the right to legal representation as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
Given the increasing number of cases being referred to the KLLAC each year, the KLLAC urges dedicated members of the Bar to sign up as volunteers by taking up cases circulated on the unassigned list on the KL Bar Website every month.
The ongoing efforts and commitment in promoting legal aid have to be continuously supported by the members of the Malaysian Bar in the promotion of legal aid as a universally recognized fundamental right of every individual as enshrined in Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 14 (3) (d) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
This is in parallel with the resolution passed by the Malaysian Bar at the 49th AGM of the Malaysian Bar on 18th March 1995 (Motion 1) which states that “It is hereby resolved that every member of the Malaysian Bar shall take up at least one legal aid case or matter per year as and when required.”
To all dedicated lawyers, do call up the legal aid centre now and register your names on the volunteer lists. Together we strive for the promotion of legal aid by discharging our duties as agents of social justice and nation building.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Remember May 21st : ISA : OPERATION SPECTRUM
A group of Singaporean activists are campaigning against their government's ISA and are having a demo in Singapore on Thursday. It would be great if we can show solidarity through writing about it, spreading the word, etc.
Begin forwarded message:
> Here is the text for our coming demonstration against Operation Spectrum and the ISA. We hope that you could help us get this featured on GMI, Suaram and other relevant Malaysian organisations that are campaigning against the ISA in Malaysia. It would be good because we could highlight that the governments of both countries still retain this repressive law for their own political and social control, and that is protested against by Singaporeans and Malaysians alike.
> Please use the attached image as well.
> Remember May 21st
> On May 21st 1987, 22 young social workers, lawyers, businessmen, theatre practitioners and other professionals were detained without trial under the internal security law and accused of "being members of a dangerous Marxist conspiracy bent on subverting the PAP ruled government by force, and replacing it with a Marxist state." A second wave of arrests took place on June 20th the same year.
> The detainees were forced to make false confessions by the way of mental and physical torture. They were subjected to harsh and intensive interrogations, deprived of sleep and rest, some for as long as 70 hours in freezing cold rooms. All of them were stripped of their personal clothings, including spectacles, footwear and underwear and were made to change into prisoners' uniforms.
> Most of them were made to stand during interrogation for over 20 hours and under full blasts of air conditioning turned to the lowest temperature. Under those conditions, one of them was repeatedly doused with cold water. Most were hit in the face while others were assaulted on other parts of the body. Threats of indefinite detention without trial were also made to them should they continue to deny the intentions that they have been accused to harbour.
> They were then compelled to appear on TV with their confessions and were told that their release would be dependent on their performance on TV.
> On 21st May 2009, which marks the 22nd anniversary of 'Operation Spectrum', a group of concerned Singaporeans will be demonstrating against the treatment of the detainees who were detained without trial under the ISA. You are invited to come to Speakers Corner and remember this day with us.
> 6.30pm, 21st May 2009
> Speakers Corner, Hong Lim Park
> For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Spectrum
Posted by FadiahNadwa at 9:30 AM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
A MOCKERY AND A BLESSING IN DISGUISE!
Following the arrests made on previous night on participants at the peaceful candlelight vigil in solidarity with Bersih activist Wong Chin Huat, my friends and I were informed to be on standby for possible new arrests on the night of 7 May 2009.
I headed home after work and decided to go to the gym early that night at around 8pm, while being on standby to head straight to the police station in case arrests were indeed made. I kept looking at my handphone for any updates. It was 930pm and I decided to leave the gym. Five minutes after that, I got a message from Puspawati Binti Rosman saying that 14 people had been arrested by the Police. I forwarded the message to Murnie Hidayah Binti Anuar, asking her to come to the police station to render legal assistance to those who had been arrested.
Puspa was the first to arrive at the police station and at around 10pm, all of us gathered in front of the police station. We informed the police that we were the lawyers for those who have been arrested. We demanded the police to give legal access to our clients. The officer-in-charge told us that the investigating officer (IO), DSP Jude Pereira, was in a meeting at that point in time. We tried to stay in touch with our clients in order to obtain recent updates on their condition, and we gave them legal advice over the phone. Our clients informed us that the police had asked them to sign the certificates under section 28A(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), i.e. the waiver to the right to legal representation. We advised them not to sign the certificates.
After waiting for nearly an hour, we were informed that the IO’s meeting had just finished. We demanded to see the IO but to no avail. I called the IO’s number and when he answered, I demanded that he give us access to our clients since we had been waiting outside the gate for nearly an hour.
He said that he had invoked section 28A(8) of the CPC and that our clients had signed the certificates. I got so upset that I repeatedly told him that our clients had not signed the certificates. At that very moment, every one who was there could hear, loud and clear, the cries of our clients demanding their constitutional right to see their lawyers, as they shouted, “WE WANT LAWYERS!”
I told the I.O to come near the gate where we were standing as we needed to talk to him to clarify the situation. He came towards us and he repeatedly said that our clients had signed the certificates and he asked us to leave. When I asked him to specify the grounds for invoking section 28A(8) of the CPC, he said, “That’s the ground!”. And I responded, “What IS the ground? Can you please specify the ground??” He kept quiet as he was unable to answer that simple question. Dissatisfied with his response, we demanded to see the certificates ourselves. He just walked off, leaving us without any explanation.
A few minutes later, OCPD Wan Abdul Bahari approached the gate and ordered everyone to disperse in three minutes as what was happening outside the gate was allegedly an illegal assembly. I could see the press and those who were there leaving the place. Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal, Puspa, Murnie, Syuhaini Binti Safwan and I did not step back as we were fully aware of the fact that we were still on duty.
The OCPD counted to three, the gate was opened, and all we could see was the police officers coming towards us. We were all arrested. We were brought to the police station car park and asked to stay there. I got a call from Amer Hamzah Arshad asking me to tell the police that our lawyers wanted to see the IO. I called one police officer and told him that our lawyers needed to see the IO. Much to my surprise, he had the nerve to tell us that we were not under arrest. We asked him, “If we are not under arrest, that means we can walk out now right?” He just looked at us. What a mockery!
Each of us started to call our families and lawyers. While waiting for the IO to get back to us, we just couldn’t help but laugh over the arrests. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that we enjoyed being arrested, but it was just that the whole situation did not make any sense at all and the best thing that we could do was laugh over the ludicrousness of the institution called “Polis Di Raja Malaysia”, an institution that is supposed to uphold law and order in this country of ours.
“Violated” is the best description as to our feelings in relation to the whole scenario when law, fairness and justice were replaced with highhandedness, arbitrariness and gross violation by an institution that is entrusted to do the contrary. I could still remember, one month ago during a planning meeting on urgent arrest training at the Legal Aid Centre, one question that was raised was the possibility of lawyers being arrested whilst discharging their statutory duties. After what happened last Thursday night, the answer is yes, in line with the infamous tagline “MALAYSIA BOLEH” – anything is possible, including the deliberate breach of constitutional law, the highest law of the land.
We were kept in Brickfields Police Station until 4am. The waiting game was utterly exhausting and emotionally draining. The fact that we had the support from the conscientious members of the Malaysian Bar made us all stronger to face the situation. Knowing that the conscientious members of the Bar would always be there for us reaffirmed, and continues to reaffirm, our beliefs that the struggle must continue. The fact that all conscientious members of the Bar are behind us reaffirms that Rule of Law still has the chance to flourish.
We are lucky that we could see for ourselves, before our very own eyes, how degrading the conditions in the lock-up are. It struck me in the head that once you are being held in the lock-up, you lose your dignity as a human being. The unfair treatment given to us and our clients who first got arrested speaks for itself. They were yelled at and intimidated when statements were being taken down. Why the double standard? Can’t we all be treated as normal human beings? Does God treat lawyers and laymen differently? It’s a blessing indeed, to have experienced all this firsthand.
We don’t fight this battle just for us, it’s for humanity as a whole.
Posted by FadiahNadwa at 11:05 AM