Contributed by the National Young Lawyers
Melisa Tai was called to the Bar in August 2007. She is currently practising banking litigation and insolvency in a firm in Kuala Lumpur. Teo Nie Ching spoke to her recently.
A group of young Malaysians symbolically handed a yellow pillow and a bolster as a gift to Prime Minister on 4 January 2008. What’s your comment?
It is indeed a very creative way to tell the PM that he needs to ‘wake up’ to be more aware of the shortcomings and ills in the administration.
Though I do not
think the giving of pillow and bolster serves any practical purpose, nor will
the government be bothered with such gesture. As previously suggested by our
de facto law minister, if the people are unhappy about the running of the
country, it should be reflected in their votes. I would say it is now the high
time to cast our once–every–five–year vote to wake the government up from their
How would you rate our Prime Minster’s performance?
The PM has been slow in implementing the reform promises made since several years ago. I do see more openness and transparency since our PM’s administration. Even so, there is this perception that the PM is too concerned of the welfare of his family members, more than the welfare of the people. On top of that, I think the PM and the government should stop covering things up in the name of not causing panic among the public. The usual tricks employed would be to blame the media for allegedly blowing things out of proportion.
What’s your view on the “Boycott the Newspapers” Petition?
Impartial media is the essence of democracy. It is unfortunate that our mainstream media are very pro–establishment and biased. Quite a number of people in my circle have already abandoned the mainstream media and sought alternative news sources over the Internet. I usually visit independent news sources on the Internet for ‘the other side’ of the story. The mainstream media is totally guilty of dissemination of falsehood and misleading the public. The ill–informed public need to be made aware of the fact that they are paying for dishonest and imbalanced reporting. For these reasons, I am supportive of this Petition.
“When our authorities bully the most marginalised of communities, newspapers blacken these victims of marginalisation.” Do you agree?
To a certain extent, this is true. The newspapers do not seem to have the political will to highlight the plight or misfortune of the most marginalised communities in Malaysia; reason obviously because they are controlled and used as propaganda tools by the ruling coalition. However, I do recall reading news reports that among others, highlighted, the plight of orang asli communities or the Felcra settlers. These are the reports that have managed to catch the attention of the public and probably indirectly prevented the authorities from abusing their powers. I think the media, mainstream or otherwise, should impose upon themselves heavier burden and social duty to be the ‘voices of the marginalised communities’.
What’s your comment on the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as the Court of Appeal President?
Given my minimal experience in practice I do not think I am in the position to question the suitability, qualification nor integrity of person appointed to the bench as Court of Appeal President. Having said that, the major concern is of course the President’s involvement with the ruling party. The appointment will not be proper as the President is placed at a very sensitive position and his independence may be questioned throughout the tenure. In my view, this incident only further strengthened the stance of the Bar Council in setting up the independent commission for the promotion and appointment of judges.
Do you think it is prudent for the Bar to cancel the Human Rights Day march?
It is in my opinion, a prudent and rational move by the Bar Council to call off the march. I note that the purpose of the Freedom of Walk was to demonstrate racial harmony and that people can walk in unity for human rights. However, given the surrounding circumstances prior to the march, the purpose of the Walk might not be achieved. In particular, I felt that the heavy–handed tactics employed by the authorities in several previously held mass rallies was a major concern. I am with the Malaysian Bar President and I think that safety and interest of the public and members of the Malaysian bar should be the main priority.
Would this decision be contrary to the Council’s stance that the requirement for an application for a permit under the Police Act to hold this event, violates our constitutional right to peaceful assembly?
I agree that this decision is contrary to the Bar Council’s stance and that our constitutional rights were fettered, however I trust this is a decision that was arrived at after all issues of concern were duly weighed. Some have commented that the call off of the march is a sign of being intimidated and giving in to the authorities. I could not agree simply because, aside from insisting the march to go on when lives and safety are at stake, there are alternative ways to demonstrate our dissatisfaction and seek recourse when our constitutional rights to peaceful assembly were fettered.
What are your comments on the Hindraf rally?
It’s an anti–discrimination rally. There won’t be fire without smoke. However, I personally felt that the whole Hindraf action is clouded with too many political agendas and hidden motives. Majority of the 30,000 participants of the Hindraf rally were not aware of the contents of the Hindraf memorandum to the British Prime Minister, and probably majority of them would not have agreed with the memorandum if they knew.
Do you think by participating the rally people are “betraying their own country” hence their citizenship should be revoked?
Since always, our government has been overly sensitive to public opinion and more often than not, used threat to silence its oppositions and critics. It is ridiculous that some politicians construe this expression of grouses as betrayal. People are now taking their grouses onto the street and I see this as a form of revolution. To me, it meant one good thing, that we Malaysians have become more expressive of our view and stance.
A Customs officer confiscated copies of the Bible from a woman at the Low–Cost Carrier Terminal and the Internal Security Ministry seized Christian children’s books with drawings of prophets from a bookshop in Kuala Lumpur. What’s your comment?
I doubt this is the first, nor will be the last incident in which government agencies have displayed their insensitivity when handling religious issues and materials. I understood that those items have been returned, in response of protest by the Christian Church of Malaysia and after much pressure is imposed. The question here is, why should religious materials, other than Islamic religious materials, be subjected to the scrutiny of the Control Division of Publications and Al–Quran Text of the Internal Security Ministry?
Do you think we have sufficient understanding and respect towards different religions in our society?
Our society has been very giving and tolerant. On the surface, multi–racial and multi–religious harmony seem to be our way of life here in Malaysia. However, I think if you look deeper into the situations, there have been many events which the authorities have fuelled religious intolerance in Malaysia. Recent acts including demolition of Hindhu temples, as well as ban of the word Allah from Malay–language Christian literature amounted to a certain degree of intervention of religious practices and violation of constitutional rights to freely profess religion. Religion is a very tacky issue for handling, why do we not have religious affair departments for other religions?
Since 2002, the Bar’s annual expenditure has been more than income in the Main fund, resulting in deficits. What’s your comment?
Being a junior member of the Bar, I have to admit, this issue of the Bar’s financial position only came to my knowledge very recently. The Bar is important as a professional association and it focuses on the needs of its members. I think the responsibility of maintaining a healthy funding of the Bar should not fall solely on the shoulders of the Treasurer and office bearers, but must also be coupled with assistance from all the members.
Do you think the Bar should raise the subscription fee next year?
A raise would be justified since the last increase was more than 10 years ago, and also to take in consideration inflation, higher costs of living, growing of number of staffs, maintenance and administrative costs.
Any other solutions that can solve this dilemma?
The Bar Council intends to propose an increase of 50% for annual Main fund subscription in the coming AGM, that is from RM350 to RM700. Perhaps the Bar Council’s Treasurer can consider looking into imposing several different rates of Main Fund subscription for lawyers according to their years of practice. Members can contribute more to the Main Fund according to their seniority in the practice, which usually corresponds with their raise in income.
Other YL Personalities:
Vincent Tan Boon Siang
Muhammad Syamsulfaiz Zainuddin
Ummi Kalthum Bt Zakaria
Mohd Taufik Bin Md Tahir
Goh Chuan Chean
Hemalatha Parasa Ramulu
Kho Yieng San
Ng Li Lin
Karthigesan a/l Shanmugam
Juna Binti Jusoh
Albert Ding Choo Earn
Sulaiman Bin Abu Bakar
Nasdrul Umur Bin Shamsulhuda
Sandesh Kabir Singh
Edelina Sophia Binti Sophian Pulle
Mohd Busyairy Bin Che Muda
Wong Fook Meng
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri
Lee Chooi Peng
Angeline Cheah Yin Leng
Mishant a/l Thiruchelvam
Shahrizal Bin Mohd Zin
Rezalman B. Bahran
Gavin Tang Cheng Loong
Noreen Ahmad Ariff
Nadia Ashikin binti Maduarin
David Dinesh Mathew
Nizam Bashir Bin Abdul Kariem Bashir
Amer Hamzah Bin Arshad
Ernie Suffiani Binti Salim
Ahmad Syukri Bin Yusoff
Dipendra Harshad Rai
Soo Wee Loon
Aminuddin bin Abdullah