This item has been updated since initial publication.
Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Zain Al–‘Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz;
The Honourable Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong;
Yang Arif Tan Sri Dato' Seri Abdul Hamid bin Embong, Judge at the Federal Court;
Judges of the Court of Appeal and High Court;
Honourable Senators and Members of Parliament;
Christopher Leong, President of the Malaysian Bar;
Brendan Navin Siva, Chair of the IMLC Organising Committee;
Your Excellencies, High Commissioners and Ambassadors;
Members of the Bar; and
Ladies and Gentlemen;
1. We have arrived at the culmination of the 2nd edition of the Malaysian Bar’s signature International Malaysia Law Conference ("IMLC") 2014, themed “Reshaping the Legal Profession, Reforming the Law.”
2. Over the past two days and today, we have had a record number of approximately 900 participants attending this Conference. This surpasses by far the attendance of any of our previous law conferences. It is a monumental achievement for us.
3. The Bar Council is proud that we have been able to build on the knowledge and experience of our past conferences, particularly the inaugural IMLC that took place in 2012 as it was that watershed event that reinvented our previous Malaysian Law Conference philosophy and transformed it into the present model. Whilst IMLC 2012 gave us many "firsts", IMLC 2014 has undoubtedly cemented the philosophy and significantly raised the bar for the future.
4. In all, the shift of focus has been a resounding success and it bodes well for the Malaysian Bar’s efforts to meet the evolving needs in the legal environment, particularly in light of the recent liberalisation of the legal services sector in Malaysia, as well as the many challenges to the rule of law that continue unabated.
5. We are also pleased that in this 2nd IMLC, we have forged a collaborative relationship with the Law Society of Singapore (represented here by its President, Mr Lok Vi Ming SC), the Hong Kong Bar Association (represented by its Council member, Ms Kim Rooney) and the Australian Bar Association (represented by its President, Mr Mark Livesey QC).
Speeches and Presentations
Ladies and gentlemen,
6. IMLC 2014 took off on 24 September after the President of the Malaysian Bar, Christopher Leong, invoked Winston Churchill who said, “To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often.” Our President’s speech very aptly set the tone for the Conference.
7. It will not be possible at this late hour of the conference to summarise everything that has been said, discussed and debated. I am afraid that that would be a grave injustice to the wealth of knowledge and experience that has been displayed in the five plenary sessions and 24 subject streams in the eight breakout sessions.
8. But I must congratulate our more than 90 speakers for their tremendous scholarship and erudition in their presentations. They have all contributed to a lively discourse on a range of issues that have edified the participants. We have received many positive reports and feedback from delegates who have been quite amazed by the standards and quality on display at this conference. Again, well done and syabas to all the speakers and moderators.
9. Permit me to highlight several of the speeches that we have heard over the past three days.
10. The Malaysian Bar is privileged to have had our Chief Justice, Yang Amat Arif Tun Arifin Zakaria, deliver the Opening Address. His Lordship succinctly outlined the challenges facing the legal profession such as the multi–jurisdictional nature of today’s disputes or transactions; the evolving role and expectations of a lawyer in society; standards of conduct and learning at the Bar and the Judiciary; continuing legal education; and the use of technology.
11. Our Chief Justice spoke candidly about the role of the lawyer in a democracy, and the role of the legal fraternity in Malaysia in terms of being vigilant in adhering to the rule of law as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
12. In “upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour”, as set out in section 42(1) of the Legal Profession Act 1976, His Lordship noted that society looked to members of the legal profession “not only to protect the development of the law, but to safeguard the process of democracy”. The lawyer assumes “a special role in safeguarding the sanctity of the legal system and more importantly to uphold the rule of law”.
13. Yang Amat Arif Tun Arifin also recognised and acknowledged in his speech that the Judiciary could not “discharge its duties and administer justice without the participation of a competent Bar”.
14. His Lordship pointedly supported the proposed Common Bar Course as a necessary step towards high standards and quality in the legal profession.
15. Once again, the Malaysian Bar records its appreciation to Yang Amat Arif Tun Arifin for his opening address and for declaring open IMLC 2014.
16. The Malaysian Bar is also honoured to have had The Honourable Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong, deliver the Keynote Address at this Conference.
17. In a sterling reaffirmation of some the key fundamentals of the practice of law, Chief Justice Ma emphatically declared that:
“honour” in our “honourable profession” “is a value that should be close to the heart of all lawyers and not a style”; and that “the legal profession is and remains a vocation in the pursuit of justice and fairness, and it is not to be sacrificed in the name of globalisation or any other trend”.
18. Chief Justice Ma expounded on two critical aspects of the practice of law. Firstly, the extent of duties owed to the Court by a lawyer in the administration of justice. Secondly, the courage of the advocate in the context of the special spirit displayed by lawyers who understand the right of everyone to be legally represented, no matter how unpopular a cause may be.
19. His Lordship presciently quoted Sydney Kentridge QC, the éminence grise of the English Bar, whose speech to my mind addressed the confluence of two principles that CJ Ma raised:
During the long years of apartheid in South Africa, I believe that one of the things which kept the flame of liberty flickering was that opponents of the apartheid regime charged with offences including high treason were able to find members of the Bar to defend them with such skill as they had and with vigour. This was not because they necessarily sympathised with the aims or methods of the accused, but rather because they recognised their professional duty to take on those cases.
20. The Malaysian Bar records its deepest gratitude to Chief Justice Ma for the illuminating and inspiring Keynote Address. His Lordship’s speech is a timely reminder to all Members of the Malaysian Bar of the true nature and remit of our calling as members of this honourable profession.
21. In the first plenary session entitled “The Federal Constitution of Malaysia after 50 Years – What the Future Holds”, featuring Dato Dr Cyrus Das, past President of the Malaysian Bar; Tommy Thomas, past Secretary of the Malaysian Bar; and Dr Azmi Sharom, Associate Law Professor at Universiti Malaya, the gamut of constitutional issues that Malaysia faces provided a wealth of discussion material that drew active audience participation during the question–and–answer session.
22. In another first, we had a non–lawyer deliver the 3rd Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture. It was a pleasure for us to have had Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Zain Al–‘Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz deliver the lecture entitled “Inspirations from Raja Aziz Addruse: Morality and the Rule of Law”.
23. Tunku ‘Abidin’s speech was by all accounts nothing short of par excellence. It was a fine blend of his personal relationship with the late Raja Aziz Addruse as a family friend, his knowledge of Raja Aziz Addruse as a distinguished public figure, and his appreciation of the many values that Raja Aziz Addruse espoused.
24. Tunku ‘Abidin noted that Raja Aziz “did not need decorations to affirm his integrity, honour and morality; he had those in abundance, transmitted to the world by his gentlemanly decorum”.
25. Tunku ‘Abidin spoke of Raja Aziz’s staunch defence of the Federal Constitution, and remarked that, “…the basic structure of our Constitution is under threat today with regards jurisdiction of courts, religious issues and the relationship between Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. Even more dangerously, there are those who have deliberately misinterpreted basic premises of the Constitution, citing key articles out of context as justification. Raja Aziz, as a staunch defender of the Constitution as it was understood by those who drafted and adopted it, would be appalled.”
26. Tunku ‘Abidin also referred to Raja Aziz’s long–held distaste for the Sedition Act. He noted that Raja Aziz Addruse had cited the United States Supreme Court case in Ricco v Biggs: “The preservation and protection of the individual’s constitutional rights are within the inherent duty and power of the courts, which the legislature can neither control or abolish”. Raja Aziz had concluded that the removal from the citizens of one of their fundamental rights cannot possibly be to promote the growth of the nation.”
27. On a lighter note, Tunku ‘Abidin concluded, and to much applause, “If I have committed sedition, then God help us all – though I can count on 701 Members of the Malaysian Bar (who supported the Bar’s motion to repeal the Sedition Act at its recent EGM) to assist.”
28. Day 2’s agenda was no less stimulating. The second plenary session, “Liability of Barristers for Negligence – England and Australia”, featuring The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel AC, Judge of the High Court of Australia, saw a packed hall. Justice Kiefel, a respected luminary with many years of experience in the Australian Judiciary, elucidated the development of the law on professional liability in England.
29. In the third plenary session, “Global Trends Disrupting and Driving the Legal Profession in the Next Five Years,” Tony Williams, Principal of Jomati Consultants of the United Kingdom, enlightened the audience on the disruptors of global trends that are impacting the legal market, namely the use of technology, the challenge to re–examine new business methods, and the advent of cheap communication without compromising the level of security.
30. In the afternoon, the crowd poured into the hall for the much–anticipated fourth plenary session. Entitled “Hard Talk on Human Rights – Freedom from Fear: Is it a Basic Human Right?”, the panel of speakers featured YB Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department; Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, prominent women’s rights and HIV/AIDS activist; Jahabar Sadiq, Editor and Chief Executive Officer of The Malaysian Insider; Gan Ping Sieu, Co–President of the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (“CENBET”); and Tommy Thomas, Member of the Malaysian Bar. The most popular topic in this plenary session was the recent spate of police investigations, arrests and convictions under the Sedition Act 1948.
31. Last but not least, today, which is Day 3, we had the fifth plenary session, entitled “National Unity and Harmony: promoting Respect and Strength in Diversity”, featuring YB Nurul Izzah, Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai; YB Dato Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Member of Parliament for Parit Buntar; Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law from Universiti Teknologi Mara, and Timothy Bruinders SC, Barrister from Group 621, South Africa. It was another fruitful and lively discussion, and it was particularly refreshing to hear the candid views expressed by the politicians.
32. This IMLC 2014 would not have been possible if not for the tremendous work put in by:
the members of the Organising Committee, led by its very able Chairperson, Brendan Navin Siva; all the staff of the Bar Council Secretariat, led by Chief Executive Officer Rajen Devaraj and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Chin Oy Sim; as well as the many volunteers who have generously offered us their time and energy for the three days.
33. I also convey the appreciation of the Malaysian Bar and the Organising Committee to all the sponsors of this Conference, for their support and generosity. Please join me in giving all of them a round of applause.
34. Finally, as Lord MacMillan said in "A Man of Laws Tale", “If I may use the language of a well–known lawyer of bygone days, I think I have exhausted my subject, I fear I have exhausted your patience, I know I have exhausted myself”.
35. To our guests who have travelled to this conference from near and far, bon voyage, selamat pulang, zai jian, and nandri vanakkam.