By Joe Chin
Upon the conclusion of the fourth plenary session (“Hard Talk on Human Rights – Freedom from Fear: Is it a Basic Human Right?”), the delegates of the International Malaysia Law Conference (“IMLC”) 2014 left The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur for The Westin to attend the Gala Dinner. There was a subtle hum of activity in the air as some of the delegates continued to discuss the calm yet intense session that had involved Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department; Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, the unmistakable writer, women’s rights and HIV/AIDS activist, and sometimes television producer; Tommy Thomas, senior Member of the Bar; and Gan Ping Sieu, Co–President of Centre for a Better Tomorrow (“CENBET”), with Ambiga Sreenevasan as the moderator.
Though the distance between the two hotels is but a 10–minute walk at most, there was a slight drizzle and many guests opted to take the buses that had been chartered for the night.
By 7:20 pm, a crowd of approximately 100 guests had gathered at the foyer of the elegant Grand Ballroom of The Westin. The ballroom was made to please, with a modern and minimalist theme in design, featuring walls of light beige fibre glass and sea coral chandeliers, and even lighting design that complemented the theme in green hues.
The guests refreshed themselves with hearty conversation and refreshments while waiting for the doors of the ballroom to open at 8:00 pm. Once everyone was seated, Syamsuriatina Ishak, as the emcee, extended them a warm welcome. She began by inviting Christopher Leong, President of the Malaysian Bar, to say a few words. It was indeed a short and sweet greeting of good humour and friendly jest.
Christopher Leong thanked Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan for gracing the IMLC 2014 both as a speaker, and as a guest at the gala dinner. Special mention was made of The Honourable Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong; Lord Robert Walker, the recently retired UK Supreme Court Judge; The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel AC, Judge of the High Court of Australia; and Presidents of law societies. He expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the support of Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who had sponsored the Gala Dinner. He also extended his thanks to Brendan Navin Siva, Chairperson of the IMLC 2014 Organising Committee, for his “immense effort” in making IMLC 2014 a remarkable event, and, jokingly hoped that he would last the night without collapsing under pressure. He also mentioned briefly a earlier episode of spillage of drinks, of which he was the unfortunate recipient, and confessed that he had sought the comfort of space away from the podium.
The President concluded his amusing speech with an exhortation to “do what lawyers do best … catch up with friends, and have a good time”. Last but not least, he left the stage with a quote by Humphrey Bogart, “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind me.”
At around 8:30 pm, there was a presentation by the staff of The Westin, ushered in by a short mishmash of words spoken in song and Celtic music.
As the guests dug into the first dish — named the Westin Appetiser Combination Platter — that featured prawn and jellyfish salad, honey–marinated salmon, cantaloupe melon salsa, rice paper chicken roll, and vegetarian pan–seared three–treasure bean curd, Syamsuriatina introduced the first performers.
They were an interesting combination of two young men from different musical backgrounds, with one focusing on vocals and the other on the guitar. They performed down–to–earth and heartfelt covers of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, James Morrison’s You Give Me Something, Michael Bublé’s Home, and Belaian Jiwa, which was made popular in the nineties by Innuendo.
The acoustic duo’s act was followed by a third–year law student, Iman, whose impressive deep female vocals gave a refreshing and emotionally compelling take on Ayu by Sheila Majid, Keabadian Cinta by Anuar Zain, Young by Bruno Mars and New York State of Mind by Alicia Keys.
The final performers were a band called “Go Ahead Gostan”, a group of four young professionals who sang Doa Buat Kekasih by Ramli Sarip and Khatijah Ibrahim, Lalala by Naughty Boy and Sam Smith, and Yesterday and Hey Jude by The Beatles.
All in all, it was a great evening of camaraderie and meeting of minds, though the palate was not without lamentation.