civil society


The rule is that you don’t put all your years of accrued chips at the center of the table, where the wheel spins into a void. The Malaysian police, unfortunately, does not share this sentiment.

By banning Seksualiti Merdeka, the government and police have shown the world they are callous, intolerant and homophobic. Furthermore the ban is yet to be justified.

Following the ban, the organizers and other individuals have received threats, lewd and violent messages. Instead of protecting the rights of the minority LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Intersex, queer) the government has shamelessly endorsed the ongoing persecution and discrimination against the community.

Seksualiti Merdeka is an annual sexuality rights festival which focuses on the human rights of people who come from diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Malaysia signed on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and United Nations Charter before becoming a member of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, vowing to respect sexual rights as universal rights based on the inherent freedom, equality and dignity of all human beings.

In sharp contrast, organizers of the festival and Ambiga Sreenevasan, who was scheduled to officiate the festival, have come under police questioning. Ruling government-owned media organizations have ignorantly branded the festival as one that advocates free sex.

If this is not enough some individuals and organizations have gone berserk in the name of religion and called for further persecution against the LGBTIQ community and Ambiga. It is difficult to get angry with the foolishness displayed by these groups but it is sad to note they would stoop so low as to use religion to spread fear.

If we could all take a step back and stop labeling peoples’ sexuality, we would be able to see the importance of human relations. We would clearly see the need to respect the rights of all people irrespective of their sexual orientation and identity as it is an integral part of every one of us.

The government, instead of fanning hatred and inciting anger, could move to oppose all forms of stereotyping against the LGBTIQ community. It should condemn the bullying and name calling the community has had to endure and ensure they have equal access to education and employment opportunities including enjoyment of basic rights of equality and freedom of expression and association.

 

The members of the community are targets of verbal abuse, physical and sexual violence, harassed at the work-place, ostracized by their families and face hate crime–related sexual assault.

They occupy the lowest positions in the job market, face discrimination in schools and are unable to access public housing because of their sexual orientation.

In fact, they experience the worst forms of discrimination.

They need compassion and state support. Not further discrimination.

But, driven by the need to stay in power, the government has fashioned the controversy surrounding the festival for its own political mileage. Clearly the ban demonstrates the ongoing persecution against Ambiga who spearheaded the call for electoral reforms in the country.

The government is playing a dangerous game as it has carelessly pitted different communities against each other, while prime minister Najib Tun Razak trumpets his 1Malaysia policy, which aims at national integration.

If the government is serious about its commitment to human rights as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it must allow for a democratic space for vulnerable communities to engage in peaceful gatherings and revoke the ban on Seksualiti Merdeka.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang

Source: Guang Ming

2011-11-05 18:23

  • 馬力英迪亞:“我國的課題不再是宗教或種族,而是階級。不是上等或低級,而是錢。這是有錢與沒有錢之分的社會,所以知識份子都搞政治,因為只要你有錢,有影響力,就會受到保護。否則,就會面對困境。”(圖:光明日報)

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2006年麗娜喬伊(Lina Joy)改教、2008年拉惹柏特拉挑戰內安法令、2009至2010年趙明福驗屍庭,以及2010年伊斯蘭姐妹組織申請撤銷名稱禁令等備受爭議的案件中,總有一位年輕、俊俏、風度翩翩的律師在場。

因為在改教課題堅持憲法賦予的宗教自由,他被指責為伊斯蘭叛徒,還收到死亡恐嚇。不過,這一些都無阻他捍衛人權的決心。他就是大馬全國人權協會主席馬力英迪亞(Malik Imtiaz Sarwar)。

目前,他代表彭亨州勞勿武吉公滿居民起訴環境局總監批准澳洲金礦私人有限公司以山埃採金。這宗案件讓他更清楚瞭解,到了21世紀的今天,這個社會還是有階級之分,有錢的人才有保障,無權無勢的平民百姓隨時成為砧板上的魚。

馬力接受《光明日報―心光大道》專訪,一針見血地說:“很多時候,我國的課題不再是宗教或種族,而是階級。不是上等或低級,而是錢。這是有錢與沒有錢之分的社會,所以知識份子都搞政治,因為只要你有錢,有影響力,就會受到保護。否則,就會面對困境。”

站在捍衛人權的最前線,馬力英迪亞受到招攬,成為國內“第三勢力”

潛在候選人,隨時從法律平台躍身政治舞台。

號稱第三股勢力的馬來西亞公民自由運動(MCLM),公佈馬力是大選時的第一位候選人。不過,馬力受訪時強調,他出陣與否還需要看局勢,他也不希望成為政治人物。

“我不是會員,只不過接受推荐為有潛能的獨立候選人,也不一定上陣,要視乎當時的局勢、競選的選區及對手。如果反對黨委派的候選人擁有足夠的資格,我不要面對三角戰。”

他說,局勢一直在變,他的意願是要成為改革議程的一份子,即使不是國會議員,他還是可以為民服務。當馬來西亞公民自由運動成立時,是因為反對黨沒有專注在原本的改革議程,所以認為有必要發動一股新的力量。

針對話望生國會議員東姑拉沙里推出“獨立信賴之聲”(Amanah)的非政府組織,同樣自稱是第三股勢力,馬力認為,人民才是第三股勢力。

他表示,308大選發生的政治海嘯,不是一天或一件事引發,也不是因為興權會、凈選盟或其他,它發生是因為很多不愉快的事情累積起來,包括從麗娜喬伊改教案延伸的宗教、種族及貪污等課題。

電纜不會建在高級住宅區

他形容,不同的社群發生不同的課題,但最後形成一股力量,到了一天大家抓到一條繩子,一起拉,這就是第三股力量,就是人民的力量。所以,他呼吁人民積極投票,讓政治人物知道他們需要為人民服務。

馬力外表斯文,說話語氣溫和,但觸及司法課題,馬上展現律師辯才。身為勞勿武吉公滿新村反山埃 採金的代表律師,他說:“有人想到要在武吉白沙羅採金嗎?不可能。問題就回到,這社會是否還有等級之分?如果你有錢有地位,就受到保護。那些幸運地住在高 尚住宅區的人就不會面對這種問題。”他指出,政府作決定時,一直認為發展很重要,環境並不是優先的考量。政府沒有汲取霹靂州紅坭山稀土廠的教訓,而且還不 斷地重複,如澳洲萊納在關丹格賓設稀土提煉廠的個案,同樣沒有與居民好好溝通。

“政府並不能說居民沒有甚麼值得投訴,因為居民肯定關心他們的生活環境。我敢說,政府根本就是活在象牙塔內,完全與世隔絕,根本不瞭解外面的世界。”

他也提出另一個萬撓新村面對國能電纜的案例。“為甚麼國能不能另覓地方?太貴?這是居民生活數十年的土地,為甚麼不去其他地方?如果那是武吉白沙羅或東姑花園,你認為國能會在這些地方建電纜?不可能。”

他認為,國家制度並沒有保護人民,國家需要發展,但必須以環境為重,大家都不希望看到孩子去受污染的海邊玩耍,每天吸進有煙霾的骯髒空氣。

支持改教
接死亡威脅

馬力在麗娜喬伊改教案時,因為支持穆斯林改教的立場而收到死亡威脅,不過,他並沒有因此退縮,至今還是堅持立場。幸運地,事發至今並沒有發生任何意外,也沒有再接到死亡恐嚇。

“我的名字因為那宗案件被妖魔化,不過,對我而言,我還是繼續我的生活,我還是我。即使有類似案件,我還是會繼續支持,因為我堅持相信,所有人都有信仰的自由。”

馬力澄清,他不是麗娜喬伊的代表律師,他只是代表律師公會,他甚至沒有見過對方。很多部落客所寫的都不是事實,比如安美嘉(前大馬律師公會主席),有人指她有份參與麗娜喬伊改教案,事實上她沒有。

至於伊斯蘭叛徒的指責,馬力坦言:“初時,我的確有點在意,不過,如果他們瞭解我所做的,就不一樣了。最重要的是,親朋好友都瞭解及支持我。”

法律說明可改教

“我是律師,我的責任是維護法律及憲法所給予的保障。很多在另一方的人,也許他們不知道,或不想知道,即使是在麗娜喬伊案上,法律說明穆斯林有權改教,只不過他們必須通過伊斯蘭法庭處理。他們說,你怎可以支持改教、還有叛教等。這不是法律。”

他認為,唯一的爭議就是需要在伊斯蘭法庭處理、或是否需要通過法庭。其實,在1999年之前,如果穆斯林要脫教,他只要簽宣誓書及在報章刊登就可,根本不需要登記或申請任何文件。

“到了1999年,最高法院才發出指示,有意脫教者必須向伊斯蘭法庭申請庭令後才能宣佈脫離伊斯蘭教。對我來說,最高法院當時的決定是錯的。”

政治改革應講到做到

馬力承認,首相納吉宣佈的政治改革是很好的開始,至少認同內安法令及緊急狀態早已不合時宜,讓大馬人勇於為自己著想,有膽量去思考。

不過,他認為,這只是一小部份,如果首相認真改革,不只要看到表面,而是必須探討主要課題,也就是整個制度,重新檢討國會、州政府、司法機構、警方及總檢察署等。

檳是招標透明化好榜樣“政府必須自問,為何人民對這些機構沒有信心?

然後設法找出問題及解決方案。比如2004年警方投訴及違例獨立委員會(IPCMC)主要是加強人民對警方的信心,政府不能逃避委員會的總結及建議。如果政府認真改善,法律是一回事,執法方面又是一回事。”

“除了制度,另一重要課題就是貪污。政府必須證明他們反貪的堅持,只公佈反貪污委員會每年上升的提控數據不夠,政府必須在採購、財務及招標方面更透明。檳城州政府是很好的榜樣,在過去3年改善很多,並受到國際承認是低貪污的州屬。”

雖然不知道新法令內容,但馬力認為,新法令至少在面對恐怖份子之前,必須確認誰是恐怖份子。

提出異議或批評政府的人不應該是恐怖份子。

“不過,1960年提呈內安法令時,當時的副內長即納吉父親敦拉薩保證,它只是用來對付馬共份子,但過去多年,它用在很多地方。所以如果政府認真,首先就是透明處理新法令,與各相關單位討論,包括律師公會、反對黨及非政府組織。”

太扼殺人民交流空間

馬力認為,要瞭解馬來西亞並不困難,要管治多元種族國家也不是很難,只要堅持、包容、耐心及敏感。不過,多年以來,很多事情變得很複雜,都是因為政治人物。

他說,在七八十年代,穆斯林要脫教並不是大課題,而且只是少數人,但當政治與宗教混為一談,這就成為一個有用的政治課題。當敦馬哈迪還是首相,安華擔任副首相的時期,就是很多問題的開始,伊斯蘭組織運動就是一個打擊伊斯蘭黨的伎倆。

“事實上,一般大馬人可以融洽相處,發生在這個國家的所有種族課題,都是因為種族政治,由一些不負責任的政治人物引發出來的課題。如果政府處理不當,情況更糟糕,因為政府會塑造出一個架構管制大家。”

他指出,政府也在製造更多法令或條例來區分人民,扼殺了更多人交流的空間,比如阿拉字眼的案例。從聖經是否可以使用阿拉字眼開始,突然間變成所有非穆斯林禁止使用這字眼,而且這是政府的決定。

“你知道此案如何開始的嗎?它是由內政部長宣佈聖經不能再使用這個字眼,即使它已經用了很久, 現在突然有問題。接著,問題帶上法庭,法官判決傾向教會,政府就批評法庭裁決,認為這不對。最後,政府指示所有非穆斯林不可使用阿拉字眼。我們從沒問題、 到小問題、現在成為大問題。”

709凈選盟集會有必要

709凈選盟大集會時,馬力是大馬律師公會觀察員,冷眼旁觀整個局勢。他指政府忽視批評,對話會失敗,政府或選委會顯得誠意不足,所以當天的集會是有必要進行。

他認為,每個人都有捍衛的權利,集會權利。和平集會並不會擾亂公共秩序,不過在政府眼裡,反對政府的集會都威脅和平。

“709集會也成功傳達訊息,讓政府知道,有足夠的人民強烈認同我國選舉改革的需要;709也證明人民可以舉行和平集會,擔心演變成騷亂的人,只是為了阻止它進行。”

“最重要的是,集會後更多人提出改革選舉制度的要求,政府設立國會特選委員會檢討。如果沒有集會,政府並不會採取這些行動。”

總檢察長不應擁檢控權

馬力表示,其實很多法令在保護人權,比如扣留者有權召見律師,只是執法的警察知識不足,沒有遵守。最好的案例就是之前有一批律師被扣留,警方表示他們不需要律師,但被扣者就表明要律師。問題在於有些警察缺乏知識、培訓不夠。

警有必要重新瞭解憲法他認為,政府將政治及統治國家的界線模糊,在其他國家,尤其是先進國家,政治與統治的界線很清楚,反觀我國公務員尤其是警察,他們在維持公共秩序及國家安全時,不是在維護人民利益,而是國陣利益。

“警方有時出現混淆,因為媒體及政府一直將兩者混為一談,認為國陣就是政府,如果批評國陣就是批評政府,問題就這樣延伸。”

他指出,所有機構,包括警方有必要重新瞭解憲法、國會,以及分清政治與統治的界線。政府也有必要成立國會遴選委員會研究司法運作,總檢察長及總警長不能由首相一人控制。

“總檢察長及總警長是合約式聘用,不是說他們有利益衝突,而是那種情況下造成的衝突,你不會想要與雇主搞對抗,所以要塑造空間給他們,讓他們自由思考,為人民著想,這很重要。”

他說,英國政府已取回總檢察長檢控權,交給獨立的檢控公共委員會。總檢察長只是政治委任,檢控委員會直接向國會交代。我國不應再卡在1957年的局勢,既然首相作出大膽宣佈,如果我國要做,是可以做得到。

爭取人權須取平衡點

政府草擬新反恐法案,首相署部長納茲里指法案仍然允許政府未經審訊扣留。馬力不認同這一點。

“也許還是需要預設性防範,讓警方採取防範行動,比如發現炸彈現場扣留嫌犯,但不能超越法律界限,而且司法及執法單位可以維持密切合作。如此一來,可克制恐怖份子,也不必犧牲基本人權,或者說只有在真正有必要時才犧牲。”

“有人認為爭取人權就是要百分之百的捍衛,這也是不對的。我們必須探討甚麼是基本權利,再確保個人行為不會干擾到基本權利。比如在美國或英國,你可以扣留7天,但沒有提控就不能再延長。法庭有權決定是否有必要再扣留,不是因為部長喜歡就可以。”

他說,如果政府認為案件敏感,涉及恐怖份子,還是有其他方式,包括在內庭聽審,但必須要有法官在場。法官不能只是橡皮圖章,如之前的內安法令,部長作決定,法官卻說不能做甚麼,這是錯的。

他希望任何修訂或新法的設立都能考慮到國際人權標準。恐怖主義是任何人都關心的課題,但其他國家不會設有類似內安法令的條款,即使英國的反恐法令,他們可以找到平衡點,相信我國也應該可以做到這一點,最重要的是新法令不能再成為政治武器。

受叔叔影響當律師

現年41歲的馬力,叔叔是在總檢察署工作的律師,兩人關係密切,對他影響很大。所以,馬力自幼就希望成為律師,這是他的願望。

馬力在中學時獲得東盟獎學金赴新加坡讀書,當年這獎學金只提供理科系,馬力只好選修數學。不過,他知道理科並不適合自己,只是父母認為理科更有前途,所以在中五大馬教育文憑及中六都報考理科系。

不過,馬力在完成A水平後即轉讀法律,第一張學位文憑是在國際伊斯蘭大學考取,過後再考獲香港大學第一張碩士學位文憑,然後在哈佛大學考獲另一張國際人權法律碩士文憑。他都是以雙聯課程進修,一邊工作一邊讀書,所以不是一直在海外。

他在過去10年都很忙,沒有進修時間,所以目前考慮進修博士學位。“不過實在很忙,沒有太多時間。我是執業律師、社會活躍份子、還是國家人權協會主席。”

他說,他視已故大馬律師公會前主席拉惹阿茲為偶像,與後者在一些案件中共事,學習到很多。他對於越來越多年輕律師積極維護人權感到開心。

與哥賓星是世交

馬力的父親來自巴基斯坦,在檳城理科大學當教授,是馬來傳統藝術的權威,母親是家庭主婦,所以馬力在檳城長大,中學時就讀私人學校。

他的同學都是有名的人,當中就有馬大法律系副教授阿茲米沙隆,哥賓星(蒲種區國會議員)是他的學弟,彼此自幼就相識,而且兩家是世交。

“大家都很頑皮,但都是好朋友。七八十年代的檳城,就是快樂成長的好地方,多元種族,但沒有遇到不和的問題,各種源流學校,大家在一起互相信任彼此瞭解。”

他形容檳城是一個很特別的地方,可能因為是小地方,專業及學術界的圈子很小,大家可以交流,塑造出的文化,就是每個人都可以有意見。雖然移居吉隆坡,馬力的老家還在檳城,偶爾回鄉休假。

他只有一名擔任專科醫生的哥哥。父親退休後獲馬大聘用,現在吉隆坡國際伊斯蘭大學執教。

種族問題是政治作怪

來自書香世家,自幼接受良好教育的馬力認為,我國教育素質使種族問題更加混淆,教導經過篡改的歷史,只是為了取悅單一政黨,卻給下一代留下謊言。

“如果你教導他們,各族人民都可以和平相處,513只是小問題,只是政治課題,不是種族騷亂,最後大馬人都會認為,過去的不是因為種族,而是政治在作怪。這比新一代認為,華人很糟糕,印度人都不是好人,不是更好嗎?”

他說,如果塑造一個錯誤的觀念教育下一代,他們就會無法正常地在多元種族社會下評估問題。

至於各源流學校的存在是否有必要,馬力認為,如果這些學校是社會所要求的,沒有人應該阻止它存在。否則,何以現在還有這麼多人,包括非華人將孩子送進華小,因為他們始終認為華小的素質更好。

“我認識的馬來人,有許多將孩子送進華小,他們說,上華小的孩子更勤力、有紀律及有機會學習華語。課程綱要一樣,孩子都考到A,還要求甚麼?有甚麼問題?如果其他小學與華小的素質一樣,在華小還可以學多一種語言,不是更好嗎?”

後記:他外冷內熱重情義

專訪在馬力的律師事務所進行,那是一間位於高級住宅區內的公寓單位,環境清幽。室內家具以原木為主,沒有一般辦公室的冷冰冰,反而有種溫暖如家的感覺。三十多年歷史的建築物,還有跟隨他12年的秘書小姐,可想他是多麼重情義的人。

雖然以捍衛人權出名,但他言詞並不激昂,無論在庭內外,都是一副官仔骨骨形象,談吐斯文優雅,堅持以理服人。

他是身上流著巴基斯坦血統、擁有土著地位的律師,改教課題導致他成為穆斯林攻擊對象,但他最在乎的只是――“我在乎的人能夠瞭解我”。馬力就是這樣一個外冷內熱,至情至性的新男人。

姓名:馬力英迪亞(Malik Imtiaz Sarwar)
年齡:41歲
家庭背景:未婚,父母、哥哥
職業:執業律師、大馬全國人權協會主席
學歷:1993年國際伊斯蘭大學法律學士
1997年香港大學法律碩士
2005年哈佛大學國際人權法律碩士文憑(光明日報‧作者:李翠媚)

 

Source: Chinapress

Source: Nan Yang San Pau

Source: Malaysiakini

DAP leaders today scoffed at the seat allocation on the proposed Parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, saying it is not necessary to have an independent MP on the panel.

They said the composition of MPs on the nine-member panel – five from BN, three from Pakatan Rakyat and one independent – would only favour the BN since most of the independent members of the Dewan Rakyat support the ruling coalition.

mtuc syabas pc 091007 charles santiago Klang MP Charles Santiago (right) said the line-up was “not acceptable”, stressing that it would be more balanced to have equal representation between Pakatan and BN and for the committee to have one co-chair from either side.
He also urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to give his “guarantee” that no elections are called until the committee is done with its work and its recommendations are adopted.

“@najibrazak needs to guarantee no PRU 13 b4 PSC electoral reforms recommendations are implemented. o/wise PSC smokescreen n PR exercise,” he said in a series of tweets.

Malaysia’s Parliament is ‘weak’

Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran questioned the need for an independent MP on committee, which, he stressed, should convene now and not wait until the start of the next Parliamentary meeting.

“Based on composition alone, there should be more representatives from Pakatan Rakyat from three as proposed,” he said, adding that while he welcomed the move, he hoped that the Parliament and public would not be hoodwinked by its formation.

“I am also worried as the Parliament (system) as it is now is structurally weak. I have seen many times the speaker play a role which is subservient to the executive. I am worried the PSC may turn into that.”

a kugan detention death funeral ummc to puchong 280109 m manogaranManogaran (left) said the members of the PSC should look at and enforce the demands made by Bersih 2.0 and also the recommendations made by Suhakam in its 2007 report, as both are overlapping demands.

He also urged the formation of a royal commission of inquiry to investigate into allegations of foreigners being given identity cards as he had come across two cases of foreigner given ICs and asked to vote for Barisan Nasional in Penang.

“This shows that this is happening and an RCI should be formed or the PSC should look into this immediately,” he said, adding that Malaysian overseas should also be allowed to cast their votes in line with exercising with their democratic right.

EC must change its mindset

DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke, meanwhile, told off the Election Commission, saying the panel has no business in deciding the make-up of the committee.

Commenting on a Berita Harian report today quoting EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, Loke said the senior EC officer’s statement was “uncalled for” and reeked of political mileage.

Loke acknowledged that the committee is open only to MPs, but stressed that it would still need to get feedback from the public and civil society groups such as Bersih 2.0 to make sure the committee’s recommendations would cover the interests of all Malaysians.

“If non-governmental organisations, especially Bersih (2.0), are not included in the committee’s consultation process, the formation of the committee would be meaningless.

“The EC needs to shift their paradigm in (thinking that) the electoral system only involves political parties and politicians. The electoral system involves every citizen and all parties should work together to create a clean and fair electoral system that would spearhead a mature democracy.”

July 23, 2011

JULY 23 — Good Morning! Chancellor, vice chancellor and graduating students.

It is so good to be back!

I am deeply moved by the conferment of this honour upon me. That it comes from my alma mater is especially significant for me. That it comes at this time is almost providential, for it allows me and all lawyers to reflect on our roles in the societies we live in.

For this honour and this moment of reflection, I extend my grateful thanks to the Council and Senate of the University of Exeter.

Tired of injustice and oppression, people the world over are crying out for truth, goodness, justice and universal love and understanding.

The events in Malaysia over the past six weeks culminating in the rally for free and fair elections on the 9th of July, has taught me so much more than I could have ever learned in the last 30 years as a practising lawyer.

My team and I faced first-hand the full force of the unleashed power of the state, and I realised then the importance of the independence of the Institutions of government, particularly the judiciary, to check such abuses of power.

I also realised how real and present the absence of the Rule of Law can be.

In countries where the Rule of Law reigns strong and true one probably does not even talk about it. But in countries that veer towards Rule by Law, talking about getting back to the basics is crucial.

In many countries, Rule by Law is reflected in the existence of repressive laws that violate the fundamental rights of its citizens. One example of this is preventive detention laws that lock people away without affording them the basic right to a trial. There are many examples of such oppressive laws worldwide and they are not confined to underdeveloped or developing countries.

As lawyers, we are in a unique position. Our years of legal study and practice teach us to see and appreciate the fundamental role that the Rule of Law plays in guaranteeing that the state governs its citizens in a just and democratic manner.

Who better to remind those in power of their responsibilities to their citizens than lawyers trained in understanding the difference between “Rule of Law” and “Rule by Law”?

Our role as lawyers must therefore extend far beyond traditional legal practice.

Here, I make no reference to rules, guidelines, documents, or declarations. My only reference point is our conscience. Can we as lawyers, ever sit back and watch the erosion of fundamental liberties of the people around us and do nothing? Clearly, silence in these circumstances, is not an option.

When I graduated from this university about 30 years ago, things were of course very different. Today the Internet and social media has empowered people with a continual flow of unfiltered and up-to-date information. No longer can the manipulation and control of information be effectively used by those in power to suppress either thought or action.

You are in a world where you know instantly of injustices taking place in any part of it. In this global village drawn together by so many factors, we are one. We can reach out to each other using these new means of communication and we owe it to each other to stand together for what is right.

You may say, “But I studied law to be a solicitor or barrister and to earn money for a decent standard of living”. There is nothing wrong with that, I assure you. I run a commercial litigation practice in a partnership of four where we also do public interest litigation. The two can co-exist quite comfortably.

The point I make is this.

You are graduating from one of the best universities in the country if not on the planet! You are special. And you are now a proud member of an army of people that is equipped with all that is necessary to both practise law and to fight injustice.

I urge you to use this arsenal of knowledge and your passion for justice to fight for those who are downtrodden.

You have already heard of the events of July 9th in Malaysia. Whilst it brought out the worst in some, it brought out the best in others and this is where our hope lies.

There were some in government who opposed the methods used to shut us down. Even doctors left their comfort zones to speak up against injustices. And of course there were the lawyers and the independent media who stood on the side of truth and justice.

However, the real heroes of that day are our friend and supporter Allahyarham Baharuddin Ahmad who paid the ultimate price in fighting a noble cause, the six members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia who, as we speak, sit in solitary confinement under preventive detention laws and finally the brave people of Malaysia who overcame their fear of intimidation and harassment to uphold their fundamental rights.

With all my heart I dedicate this honour you have bestowed upon me to them.

* This was the acceptance speech delivered by Datuk Dr Ambiga Sreenevasan upon her conferment with the Honorary Doctorate Of Laws, University of Exeter.

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