©Malaysiakini (Used by permission)
by Hafiz Yatim
This post is reproduced from here
It may have been three months since prominent lawyer Raja Aziz Addruse passed away, but his contributions to the Malaysian Bar and the advocacy of human rights were further recognised today when the auditorium of the Bar Council was renamed after him.
The event was witnessed by the Yam Tuan of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Mukhriz, and his consort Tuanku Aishah Rohani.
Tributes, accolades and words of appreciation further poured in during the private ceremony which was also attended by the late Raja Aziz’s widow, Catherine Addruse, and their two daughters, Raja Azrine and Raja Adlene.
Raja Aziz , who passed away suddenly at the age of 75 on July 12 after losing the battle against cancer, was described by many and will always be remembered as a towering Malaysian.
Despite being small in build, soft–spoken, quiet and unassuming, Raja Aziz is described by many of his peers today, including former Chief Justice of India Justice JS Verma, as a giant in advocating human rights.
He is the only Bar Council president who had held the post three times – 1976–78, 1988–89 and again in 1992–93.
During the three occasions, as noted by present Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee in his speech, were when Malaysia faced turbulent times as an emerging democracy.
In his 1976–78 term, Lim said the Raja Aziz led the Bar Council to oppose legislation where judges must impose the mandatory death sentence for various offences without allowing them the opportunity to choose other alternative forms of punishment.
“He had written to then–prime minister, Hussein Onn, to voice the Bar Council’s objection. The fears were compounded during the same year when a 14–year–old boy was sentenced to death for possession of firearms,” said Lim.
Raja Aziz, or affectionately known as Ungku, along with 14 other lawyers also represented then–Lord President Salleh Abas who was forced to face a tribunal during the constitutional and judicial crisis of 1988.
Salleh, along with two then–Supreme Court judges, were sacked by the then–premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
‘Continue knocking on one’s doors’
Former Bar Council president Dr Cyrus Das, in his commemorative speech, remembered Raja Aziz as a highly principled man who had set a gold standard for other lawyers to emulate.
He further went on to describe Raja Aziz as a Chief Justice that Malaysia never had.
Cyrus said that Raja Aziz had taken many constitutional cases, many of which he had lost.
He said that besides the Salleh Abas case, Raja Aziz had also appeared for former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng who wanted to return to Malaysia, and Anwar Ibrahim's corruption and first sodomy trials and also Sultan Ismail Petra, who challenged his removal as the sovereign of Kelantan.
“I once asked him why he was willing to take on such constitutional cases, and Raja Aziz said, ‘It is important to continue knocking on one’s door (despite the losses)’.”
Azrine: My father asked about Bersih 2.0
Raja Aziz’s daughter, Raja Azrine, remembered her father as a highly principled man who loved watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and ballroom dancing, who also held human rights dear to his heart.
“Despite his condition, he was interested in human rights, and at the end, he asked how could someone oppose Bersih 2.0 which had asked for clean and fair elections.”
This, she said, was the personal side of her father, of whom many may not have known about his passion for human rights.
Although Raja Aziz was honoured with the Lifetime Professional Integrity Award, Raja Azrine said her father downplayed his contribution to the legal profession.
“My integrity in doing the job is nothing more than that of a taxi driver doing his, my father had remarked,” she said.
Raja Azrine said her father had four times been offered the title of ‘Datuk’, but he had rejected all of them.
“He told me that as he has rejected it for the first time, it was not proper for him to receive further offers,” he said.
What many people may not know of Raja Aziz is that despite being a renowned private practitioner, he first joined the Federal Judicial and Legal Services as a deputy public prosecutor and was a deputy parliamentary draftsman.
He also helped draw up the Legal Professions Act 1976, a law governing those who wanted to practice law.
Also present at the event were former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, Human Rights Commission chairperson Hasmy Agam, vice–chairperson Prof Khaw Lake Tee, and Court of Appeal and High Court judges.
Photos courtesy of Bar Council.