As the dust of BERSIH settles, people talked about the election system. People talked about politicians. People talked about people – a rising civil society. Lim Wei Jiet, on the other hand, wants to talk about a group of people who do not call for publicity, but are nevertheless the nation’s half-sung heroes.
I’m a law student, and quite naturally, I have been following the BERSIH rally’s progress with much enthusiasm. Within the heart-pounding maze of accusations, decision U-turns and the tiring traffic jam of deceptions, it looks like we have reached saner grounds. From what I read in the media (not only the mainstream ones, of course!) and insights from political scientists, much spotlight has been given to the people, the police, and the politicians.
Some say a third force comprising the civil society has awakened from its slumber. Some say the events that unfolded showed how unprofessional and how willing the police were to become tools of the ruling regime. While the politicians…well, let’s just say there were among the downright dirty and disappointing political mudfight that successfully “KOTOR-ed” BERSIH’s noble intentions.
But few leaders and writers showered well-deserved praises to our half-sung heroes. Yes, we hear dissipating blows of the trumpets and a few whispering hymns from the masses. They got the necessary coverage to impress certain segments of society, but they certainly deserve more than that. Half heard, half unheard – they are, in my eyes, the half-sung heroes of our nation in this recent episode.
They are the knights in shining armour (or black blazers, under the sun, no less) who protected the rights of citizens of every race, religion and political party – our lawyers. Here, I would like to pay tribute to the amazing people in the Malaysian Bar whose valiant fight to defend truth and justice inspired the rakyat, especially the many law students out there.
Top on the list is definitely Datuk Ambiga, the courageous leader of BERSIH 2.0, herself.
In her acceptance speech upon her conferment with the Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Exeter, she said:
As lawyers, we are in a unique position. Our years of legal study and practice teach us to see and appreciate the fundamental role that the Rule of Law plays in guaranteeing that the state governs its citizens in a just and democratic manner.
Who better to remind those in power of their responsibilities to their citizens than lawyers trained in understanding the difference between “Rule of Law” and “Rule by Law”?
Here, I make no reference to rules, guidelines, documents, or declarations. My only reference point is our conscience. Can we as lawyers, ever sit back and watch the erosion of fundamental liberties of the people around us and do nothing? Clearly, silence in these circumstances, is not an option.
She rightfully pointed out the crucial need for the rule of law, which has been clearly lacking in Malaysia. But more importantly, when the rule of law has been trampled upon, she reminded that lawyers need only derive from their conscience for the bravery to stand up against injustice. For that, and her role in creating a brand new generation of Malaysians, I salute you Datuk Ambiga. Oops, sorry, Datuk DR. Ambiga Sreenevasan.
Secondly, I applaud the Malaysian Bar Council, under its president Mr.Lim Chee Wee, for defending BERSIH 2.0’s right of expression which is guaranteed under our Federal Constitution, since day one. They were also in the thick of the battle on the day of the rally itself, negotiating with the police and monitoring the situation to safeguard the rakyat’s rights. I also remember Mr.Lim Chee Wee speaking up on the Tung Shin hospital incident and his timely reminder to the government to drop its obsessive denial syndrome. It was the proud Malaysian Bar at work (despite the grumbles I read of its administration in LoyarBurok, something which I hope I can avoid in the future), displaying its tenacity for truth and justice to prevail.
Thirdly, it also feels great to see how passionately Edmund Bon and his team of lawyers fought to demand the 6 Parti Sosialis Malaysia members to be freed from the oppressive Emergency Ordinance.
Lastly, not forgetting all other lawyers out there who volunteered to stand for those who will be caught by the police, as well as countless more that rose up from mere servants of the court to justice-league heroes in action.
At the end of my article here, I would like to say thank you to all.
Thank you for letting me know that being lawyers is much more than picking up a case file and representing a client before a judge. Thank you for breathing those textbook theories in jurisprudence classes into real life actions, deeds and accomplishments which we can be proud of. Thank you for being an inspiration to the future generations of legal practitioners.
You all may be mere pillars standing amidst the shadows of politics and governance to the public, but to the eyes of many law students out there, the lawyers of Malaysia these past few months are indeed – our true heroes.
Lim Wei Jiet, 19, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fun & Optimism, Masters in Criticism and a PhD in Over-exaggeration. Sometimes, he does wonder why he’s still studying for another degree in law. Nevertheless, the thrills of law proved impossible to resist and he’s enjoying university life to the max.