I was sponsored by the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee (KLBC) for the Strategic Litigation Camp at Avillion Resort, Port Dickson which was held from 18 - 21 August 2016 after having come across the details on Facebook.
Prior to the camp, I was assigned to a case study and a group of teammates with whom I worked together to prepare for a moot during the camp. My teammates were Nadra, Yeo Heng Hau, Emily Chong and Priscilla Chin. Emily kindly took on leadership of the team and set up a WhatsApp group for the team to prepare for the camp.
We even met up at a cafe in PJ to discuss the assignment which was based on the Bersih T-shirt Ban. During the cafe meet-up, we got to know each other more and there was a fruitful discussion.
We arrived at the Resort to be briefed by the staff there on security issues as well as some ground rules. Khairil, the Chairperson, encouraged all participants to speak their mind and ideas in a respectful manner and not restrict others from sharing during the sessions. The hall booked for the camp was designated a “safe place” for the discussion of ideas and opinions and was a clear application of human rights principles.
After that, there was a video screening of a pressing local human rights issue which was raised by Aishah Tajuddin. Her critics threatened bodily harm, amongst other things, in order to cow her into silence. This led to a discussion concerning freedom of expression.
It struck me as important that though we may disagree with the opinion of others, there is no need to silence those opinions as the ensuing intellectual discourse will certainly benefit society. The diverse views and a safe space which allows freedom of thought would certainly enable society to view ideas from different perspectives.
We presented the case assigned to us before a panel of facilitators who guided and corrected us through our submissions. We were very grateful with the frankness of the facilitators and their feedback.
The submissions were followed by sessions by Ms. Seh Lih on the introduction to strategic litigation and international human rights standards. This was very informative and I wished that more time was allocated for her sessions.
We were given reading material prior to these sessions to aid understanding of the sessions’ content. A quiz was also held to keep things interesting.
There was a sharing session involving the camp facilitators, some of whom have had experience in human rights work / advocacy in Malaysia. Each facilitator had a different experience and we got the opportunity to hear them first-hand. One facilitator, Syahredzan Johan, shared his experience when his friends were arrested in the performance of their duties as lawyers at the Brickfields police station. I was inspired by these stories.
Syahredzan and Sherrie shared on the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution as well as the limitation of freedom of expression in Malaysia. The highlight of Day 3 for me was the session on Human Rights Advocacy beyond litigation.
Our team was tasked with attempting to raise awareness on the issues of unilateral conversion by a single parent. We came up with different ideas but ultimately, it was decided that video screening would be the most effective tool of advocacy for this issue. Emily was our team’s representative and she shared on how to engage the relevant authorities in order to prevent the abuse of unilateral conversions. This session was an eye-opener in the sense that not all issues have to reach Court in order to be resolved.
Our final day at the camp saw us presenting our cases before experienced lawyers such as Edmund Bon, Goh Siu Lin and Aston Paiva. Despite knowing that our case was weak, we soldiered on with whatever we picked up from the first moot session. The issue was actually the subject of an appeal which Edmund Bon mentioned was coming up for hearing in the Court of Appeal soon. We were all invited to attend the hearing. One member, Priscilla Chin, did in fact attend the appeal in Putrajaya and kept us informed of the outcome on WhatsApp.
We have kept in touch after the camp. Some of us are still unsure if strategic litigation is the way to go but we are all sure that that we want justice to be done for a better Malaysia. The camp is a blessing and I hope that more seniors will come forward to share their knowledge and train more young lawyers to take up strategic litigation.