Monday, June 22, 2009

Malaysian Bar Arrest - UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats) letter
Monday, 22 June 2009 07:57am

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

The UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats) is profoundly concerned about the Malaysian government's recent arrest and temporary detention of five lawyers as they were waiting to represent their clients in custody at a local police station. The five lawyers, members of the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre, were arrested on the night of May 7, 2009, at the Brickfields Police Station in Kuala Lumpur, as they were seeking access to their clients who had been arrested earlier in the evening during a candlelight vigil. The lawyers were not released until late in the afternoon of May 8, despite the protestations of other bar members.

The arrest and detention of lawyers seeking to perform their duties of legal representation is a blatant violation of the rule of law. It both profoundly infringes upon the rights of lawyers to practice their profession freely and independently, and transgresses their clients' right to counsel. The conduct can only have a significant chilling effect on the rest of the bar and on others in society who might consider seeking counsel for their legal needs. It is inconsistent with a free and democratic government, and constitutes a gross violation of international norms of human rights.

The UIA recalls the Basic Principles on the role of Lawyers adopted in September 19901 by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders which stipulates :

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics (Rule 16).

They further state that where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities (Rule 17).

Adopted unanimously be the States represented at the Eighth Congress – among which Malaysia- the UIA considers that the said Principles have a normative value, on account of international customary law.

The United Nations General Assembly underscored the importance of these Principles in a resolution dated December 18, 1990 (A/RES/45/166) and invited governments to respect them and take them into consideration within the framework of their national legislation and practices.

The UIA, the world's oldest international law organization, with more than 300 Bars and Law Societies representing nearly two million lawyers, together with thousands of individual members from all over the world, counts protection of lawyers and their right to practice freely and independently as one of its core values, a basic human right and a cornerstone of the rule of law. It expresses its full solidarity with the Malaysian bar in protesting the illegal arrest and detention of the five lawyers, and calls for the following actions to be taken immediately:

1) any and all legal action against the lawyers should be dismissed;
2) an independent and thorough investigation should be undertaken into the conduct of the police officers and any other government officials involved in the arrest;
3) based on the results of that investigation, any officer or other official found to have acted improperly
should be appropriately disciplined;
4) concrete and transparent steps should be taken to avoid similar conduct in the future; and
5) the Malaysian government should reaffirm its commitment to the rule of law, the right of lawyers to practice their profession freely and independently, and the right to counsel of all Malaysian citizens.

Yours sincerely,

St├ęphane BONIFASSI

Friday, June 19, 2009



Aung San Suu Kyi’s Birthday Celebration: To commemorate the struggle for democracy


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The decision of the Nobel Committee mentions:[89]

“ The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

...Suu Kyi's struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression...

...In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means. ”

— Oslo, 14 October 1991


Last night, at about 1130pm all of us (Puspa, Farhana, Kak Lat, Sasha and I) had a meeting at Devi’s to finalize tonight’s event : Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th Birthday Celebration at Taman Jaya Lake, across Amcorp Mall at 8pm.

Some might ask, why are we celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday?

Today, 19 June 2009 marks the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi, or known as Daw Suu, a renowned political activist, fighting for democracy for Burma. Daw Suu was born in 1945 in Rangoon. Her father, Aung San founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.

In 1988, Daw Suu returned to Burma to take care of her ailing mother and by coincidence the long-time leader of the ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down, resulting in mass demonstration for democracy. Daw Suu, addressed half a million people at a amass rally in front of Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital, calling for a democratic government. However, the military junta took over and later the same month, the National League for Democracy (NLD) was formed, with Daw Suu as general secretary.

In 1990, the military junta called for a general election and NLD won a landslide victory. However, the victory was annulled by the military junta as they refused to hand over power to the legitimate elected government, the NLD. Daw Suu, who were supposed to assume the office of the Prime Minister was placed under house arrest at her home in Rangoon. On May 3, 2009, an American man, identified as John William Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake to her house uninvited and was arrested when he made his return trip three days later.[50]

He had attempted to make a similar trip two years earlier, but for unknown reasons was turned away.[19] It is unknown what his motives were. On May 13, Suu Kyi was arrested for violating the terms of her house arrest because the swimmer, who pleaded exhaustion, was allowed to stay in her house for two days before he attempted the swim back. Suu Kyi was later taken to Insein Prison, where she could face up to five years confinement for the intrusion

[source : wikipedia]

.........................................

Daw Suu’s struggle for democracy manifests the highest determination for the establishment of a just government, of the people, by the people, for the people. She is the closest living legend in the Asian region that one can look up to in the cause of fighting for democracy, justice and freedom. As a matter of convenience Daw Suu could easily opt for her own interest over the interest of the people she is fighting for, but that was not the case as she turned down the offer made by the military junta asking her to leave the country in exchange of her own freedom.

She could have just accepted the offer and lived a normal life somewhere on the face of the earth, but clearly her priority has always been to stand by her principles and accede to her conscience. Living in the world that gloats over modernity and resorts to "my hands are tied" defence to barbarous and draconian acts which are best visualized back in the dark ages, and living a life when somewhere along the line hope is often lost, this kind of true story indeed is inspiring.

I would like to share a quote from her famous speech “Freedom from Fear” for us to ponder upon :-

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it”.

God forbid, little that we know that our fear to speak the truth and our fear to admit to what is right and what is wrong can hold us answerable before Him. Our inaction indeed is a crime by itself.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Of here and there.

I don't really know why lately I don’t have the drive to write on my blog. I guess I'm too preoccupied with so many things that have been happening around me. But life has been treating me well and I’m grateful for that. Last week was a week full of activities.

I still remember having the KLLAC management panel meeting, Stef informed every one that the Kuala Langat Local Council sent an invitation to KL Legal Aid Centre to send a speaker to talk about gansterisme and law at Dewan Orang Ramai Kampung Jenjaroom in Kuala Langat. One of the requirements was the speaker must be able to speak Mandarin as majority of the people are Chinese. My instant reaction was to look at Valen who was sitting across the room. It was a little bit funny that suddenly all eyes were drawn towards her, hoping that she would agree to be the speaker. After constant persuasion, she agreed on one condition, those who were involved in getting her to agree to be the speaker must tag along on Saturday night.

Sasha, Valen, Farhana, Farida and I began our journey to Kampung Jenjaroom at 6. We arrived at around 730pm. As were on our way to the nearest mosque, we spotted one durian stall by the road and decided to drop by afterwards. The durians were awesome, every one kept eating them like there was no tomorrow. The durian seller just laughed at our antics.

The talk began at 830pm and while waiting for the guests to arrive, we managed to distribute a few leaflets on legal aid, employment law, accidents and Malaysian legal system to the public. At about 9.00pm Valen started to deliver her talk. Even though she spoke in Mandarin and I could barely understand the content of her talk, I would have to say that she delivered her talk very well. Before we left, we managed to talk to a few local councilors who were present and they mentioned that they would love to have us to join the programs that they have arranged for the public.

At 1030pm, we left for Bagan Lalang to enjoy the seafood every one was craving since forever. The journey took almost 2 hours, ya, thanks to Sasha for driving negative 40km/hour!:P we ate and ate and ate. We all got home happily at 330am.

On Wednesday morning, a bunch of the first year students from Taylor’s College visited Legal Aid Room at Jalan Duta Court. After I finished my trial, I managed to spend some time with them. They were all eager to know about human rights and activism. I shared my experience with them and I was so happy to see the enthusiasm in each and every one of them to contribute something to the society. Murnie and Ravin came later and shared their experiences too. I find it refreshing to see these young people who are so concerned about the country and the people they barely know. I believe that one day, these young people would be in the frontline, doing the right thing in the name of principles and conscience. God willing.

In relation to our arrests last month, it was quite a relief to note that SUHAKAM will conduct a public inquiry on our arbitrary arrest in the course of discharging our duties to our clients after the Bar Council submitted a memorandum calling for a public inquiry. The Star, on 16 June 2009 reported Suhakam’s reaction on recent complaints lodged by the public on police highhandedness and blatant transgression on the right to counsel as enshrined by the Federal Constitution.

Seriously speaking, the police force, like it or not must respect this right. I believe every sane, reasonable and mentally unchallenged human beings can easily understand the provisions on fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, there’s no need to waste the tax payers money to employ some special officers to be on stand by at every police station to read out the provisions of the CPC and teach the Police what to do and what not to do.

All they need is a proper training on how to fight crimes and respect human rights at the same time which i believe all of them are well aware of as you can't just pick up any joe or any hassan, abu, or ah seng on the street and offer them a position where they have to uphold law and order right?.Read this and see for yourself what is hapenning at this very moment. Enough said on this we shall see what will happen next.

Last night, I had a meeting with GMI. Nalini and Kak Laila bought lotsa chocolates from Geneva and all of us just couldn’t stop eating them while having the meeting. Nalini reported to the committee members on what transpired at the United Nation Universal Periodic Report (UPR). GMI was given a slot at the UPR session to present on the current situation in relation to ISA detention. Kak Laila presented the report and supported by reports from the IHRC (Islamic Human Rights Commission). It was alarming to note that the delegation was shocked to learn that Malaysia still implements laws that licence detention without trial. Well, well well, a little reality check is timely I would say.