A reproduction of the approximate speech I had the honour of delivering on the occasion of Mr. Aston Phillip Paiva’s call to the Bar on 21 August 2009 before Justice Tuan Mohamad Ariff bin Md. Yusof.
I am honoured to be here this morning because it will be my humble submission that the Petitioner, Mr. Aston Phillip Paiva, is not just a fit and proper person to be called to the Bar. He is one of those whom the Bench and Bar have been waiting for because his admission would prove an asset to both.
The Petitioner was born on 20 October 1985 the first of two children of Charlie and Michelle Paiva. Sprung of a union of a talented musician father and a beautiful and supportive mother, the Petitioner grew up in a creative, benign and productive environment. Despite the family lacking legal precedent, the Petitioner’s parents confessed a ‘feeling’ that he would very likely choose the path of law. His father explained that when the Petitioner attended Sunday School in his youth, he would often receive complaints from the teachers that the Petitioner asked them questions they could not answer. The Petitioner corroborates this when he wrote:
As I was growing up as a child, I was always fascinated with anything that seemed out of the norm, all things counter-cultural and the peculiar. I was never a person who was content with “the official answer”, “the government policy” or “religious dogma”.
The Petitioner demonstrated natural legal abilities back then, such as thinking, reading one’s file (so to speak) and cross-examination. This instance also reveals some of the Petitioner’s character – it takes courage to ask a question and honesty to admit ignorance.
He thereafter went on to terrorize his teachers at Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur during his secondary education and at Taylor’s College for his A-Level’s. He distinguished himself with an upper second from Cardiff University and returned to Malaysia after completing his Bar Vocational Course.
During his formal education the Petitioner demonstrated a high degree of motivation and sociability by involving himself in a host of activity which would add to and refine his natural legal talents. He participated in and contributed to numerous debates, moots, training schemes and writing projects throughout his tertiary education. In the summer of 2006, he was attached to Messrs. Skrine & Co. In the later part of 2007 he marshalled several District Judges in England. So clearly from his early and adolescent youth, the Petitioner manifested an unwavering, diligent and intuitive interest in areas that would develop his own natural legal talents, and this includes imbibing voluminous amounts of alcohol.
It was when the Petitioner commenced his pupillage that I had first learned of him. His Master, Mr. K. Shanmuga, of Messrs. Kanesalingam & Co., and I were talking over some matters when we came across the subject of pupils. Someone had made an inquiry for pupillage. This inquiry was unusual though. I asked why. He said this chap asked whether he was the solicitor for the Subashini case. This was an important legal case that was publicized widely in the media for which Mr. K. Shanmuga was the principal solicitor. When he confirmed he was, this chap said he wanted to do his pupillage there. Serious ah? I said to Mr. K. Shanmuga.
From our experiences, potential pupils confine themselves to the allowance, the workload and working hours. So we can see the Petitioner was quite different in his approach. It was very deliberate and unconcerned with remuneration. This I submit is a demonstration of intent and commitment on the Petitioner’s part to his future profession.
What’s this chap’s name? I asked the Petitioner’s Master. Aston Phillip Paiva, came the reply.
His Master confirmed his hard working, diligent nature. His research was consistently thorough and sharp. His only problem was overenthusiasm for the many pro-bono cases his Master worked on instead of the paid work. Since I was kidnapped by the Petitioner’s Master and made a slave to work on some of those cases, I can attest to this.
Right from the start of his pupillage the Petitioner immersed himself in activities at the Bar Council and KL Bar Committee. He attended Law Asia, prepared web reports for the Bar Council website, wrote an article for Putik Lada (The KL YLC column in the Star), gave presentations at training and expos and participated in a legal outreach clinic at University Malaya with the KLYLC. This was natural to him too because the Petitioner has a love for writing, strategy, argument and reading (especially philosophy, for example Fredrich Nietzsche [bless you]),
So clearly the Petitioner is not practising for a pay cheque. He has done a lot. But he still has a lot to give. One of the reasons he wants to enter the profession it to rejuvenate it. He wrote this:
I worry that if no one works towards being their best, then the entire profession would collapse on itself. It would become …. ; where mediocrity is the hymn, banality is the creed and arrogance is the value for the day. I owe too much to the profession to see it slip away just like that to a bunch of incompetent Malaysians who have no appreciation of the valour, intrepidness and courage that has made the profession what it is.
These sentiments fill me with joy, My Lord. That the Petitioner asks what he can bring to the profession instead of asking what it can pay him is a rarity. This is the kind of honour and the quality of lawyers the Bar needs and the Bench deserves. This is the honour I spoke of earlier and therefore think it fitting (if not fated) that this Petitioner is called before Your Lordship.
It is for this reason I submit that the Petitioner has the promise of being both an asset to Bar and Bench: he possesses sufficient technical abilities to be a competent lawyer; and possess the character and qualities that is an early promise of a great one. With this caveat, that the Petitioner stays true to honor and isn’t seduced by the lure of glamour, flattery and material wealth.
The Petitioner wishes to thank his family for their unwavering support, his Master, Mr. K. Shanmuga for his instruction, guidance, refreshments and unpaid overtime; Mr. A. Kanesalingam and Mr. V. Jeyakumar of the same firm; Ms. Chin Oy Sim; and the many others who have enriched his experience during his pupillage.
I wish to congratulate the Petitioner as I understand he has accepted a position in Messrs. Kanesalingam & Co. and wish him the best in his future undertakings. I look forward to working with him in the future.
My Lord, when I was asked to move the Petitioner’s call, the poem Invictus by WE Henley immediately leaped at me because it so exemplifies the spirit of the Petitioner. Allow me this indulgence to recite it for this Court:
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
I believe the Petitioner’s papers are in order and humbly pray Captain Aston Philip Paiva be admitted to the Bar as an advocate and solicitor to the Rolls.