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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

NYLC-MCCHR Strategic Litigation Camp 2016

Date : 18 – 21 August 2016

Venue : Avillion Resort, Port Dickson

Report by Donovan Lee ShyunHyn

1.    The Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee (“NYLC”) in collaboration with the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (“MCCHR”) jointly organised a strategic litigation camp from 18 to 21 August 2016 at Avillion Resort, Port Dickson (the “Camp”). The theme for the Camp was freedom of expression.

2.    The Camp’s attendees (the “Campers”) comprised of 19 young lawyers and pupils-in-chambers who hail from Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Sabah and Selangor, some of whom were sponsored by their respective State Bar Committees. Yours truly was able to attend the Camp due to the generosity of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee in providing the sponsorship.

Day 1: Thursday, 18 August 2016
3.    A bus was chartered to ferry the majority of the Campers who were from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor to the Resort. The Campers from further afield reached the Resort via train and/or flight. With most Campers having reached the Resort at around 4:00 pm, room keys were distributed and bags were unpacked. Following a short safety briefing, the Campers tucked into dinner.  

Photo Description: Taken with my roommate, Cyrus

Photo Description: The Conference Room

Photo Description: Day 1Round Table Dinner

4.    At 7:00 pm, we proceeded to the conference room for the introduction and our very first session. Khairil Zhafri, the Project Officer from MCCHR (“Khairil”) started the ball rolling by introducing himself and also the facilitators for the Camp who are none other than Long Seh Lih, the co-founder of MCCHR (“SehLih”); Khaizan Sharizad Ab Razak, Chair of the National Young Lawyers Committee (“Sherrie”); and Syahredzan Johan, member of the Bar Council (“Syah”).

5.    The Campers and facilitators all contributed to and agreed to be bound by some ground rules which included a ban on playing Pokemon Go and to silent/switch-off our mobile phones during the Camp sessions. Especially important was the strict observance of punctuality for which Campers faced a sanction in the event of its breach.

The Camp’s first session was a film screening and group discussion on freedom of expression, facilitated by Sherrie. The said film was a good eye opener to most of the Campers present as it presented a fresh perspective and set the tone for the remainder of the Camp.

6.    A moot was scheduled for the following morning and written submissions were to be “filed” by 8:00 am the next morning with Khairil. Campers broke into their respective groups to discuss and prepare for the moot.

Day 2: Friday, 19 August 2016
7.    Breakfast began from as early as 7:00 am. Cyrus and I were the earliest at the cafeteria while the rest of the Campers and facilitators started to show up after 8:00 am. Judging by the amount of food served buffet style during the Camp, it is fair to say that the Campers were never left hungry.

Photo Description: The earliest for breakfast on Day 2

8.    At 9:00 am sharp, we were all in the conference room, eagerly and anxiously waiting for the moot to begin. There were 4 groups of Campers with each group either assigned to represent an applicant or a respondent and there were two sets of cases. I was in Group A whereby we acted for the applicants in Maria Chin Abdullah & 2 Others v Menteri Dalam Negeri & Another. My group mates were Nur Zalika Mohd Asri Redha (from Kuala Lumpur); Noraziah Bt Abdul Aziz and Jespreet Kaur Gurdip Singh (from Ipoh); and Mohammad Muzammil Mohamamd Hairiri (from Johor Bahru).

Photo Description: My Group A mates, (from the left) Muzammil, Ika, Jespreet, Azee and myself

9.    Groups C and D mooted first followed by my group and Group B who was the Respondent in our case. Each group was given about 15 minutes to present their side of the case followed by the judges’ comments at the end of each case. The judges were Seh Lih, Sherrie and Syah.

Photo Description: First Moot Session before (from the left) Sherrie, Seh Lih and Syah

10.    Immediately after the moot session, there was a 30-minute coffee break where light refreshments comprising two types of kuih were served, together with coffee/tea. Campers finally got to unwind a bit after the previous night-long preparation for the moot.

11.    At 11:00 am, Seh Lih introduced to us the concept of strategic litigation and generously shared with us how it all started when she co-founded MCCHR. We were informed, among others, that strategic litigation cases are undertaken by lawyers who are passionate about protecting public interest and upholding the rule of law and MCCHR provides funding for these cases.

12.    Lunch break was between 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm, back at the cafeteria. Some of the Campers including myself went back to our respective rooms to get a power nap before we had our lunch while the rest spent the entire hour at the cafeteria; enjoying the variety of food and chit-chatting.

13.    The session after lunch was also facilitated by Seh Lih. The Campers were taught the international human rights standards where treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) were referred to. However, before the treaties came into the picture, we were first given a brief talk on the United Nations and its structure. As the theme for the Camp was on the freedom of expression, the relevant provisions of the said treaties that we primarily focused on were Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19(2) & (3) of the ICCPR. Seh Lih then went on to talk about the permissible restrictions under international human rights law.

Photo Description: Seh Lih on the Structure of United Nations

14.    A lightning recap was conducted immediately after Seh Lih’s session by Khairil. It was actually a pop quiz segment where we were asked questions related to the sessions facilitated by Seh Lih earlier. For every question that we answered right, we will be rewarded with a ‘star’ but the ‘star’ will be removed if we get the next question wrong. It was an individual pop quiz and the winner will receive a mystery gift. Campers were all excited to attempt answering the questions and the winner of the pop quiz was none other than Nurainie Haziqah who got herself a pair of LoyarBurok cufflinks! Congratulations, Ainie!

15.    Soon it was the afternoon tea break followed by the session on human rights advocacy experience exchange led by all the facilitators present. Seh Lih, Sherrie and Syah each took turns to sit at a round table with Campers who were reshuffled and divided into three groups. They had about 15 minutes each to share with the Campers seated at the respective tables on their experiences working on strategic litigation matters. Campers were also encouraged to ask them questions and share their expectations of the Camp.

16.    Next in the agenda was the moment that all of us could not wait for i.e. personal downtime! As the Resort has breathtaking scenery, white sandy beaches, spectacular swimming pools and a well-equipped fitness centre, we thought that it was finally the time that we could actually let loose and truly enjoy the Resort’s facilities for the day, after the long day of lecture plus the preparation for moot the previous night!

Photo Description: The breathtaking view of the Resort!
Photo Description: The Fitness Centre!

17.    To our dismay, we were given two sets of homework to do! One was to read up the press statements of the Bar Council and identify the issues to be presented the next morning while the other was a case study pursuant to the session on international human rights standard that we will also have to present the next day. There goes our downtime! Nevertheless, we still managed to squeeze in some leisure activities, being lawyers who are expected to have good time management.

Day 3: Saturday, 20 August 2016
18.    Day 3 began with the presentation of issues extracted from the press releases given on the previous day followed by the presentation of case study by the respective groups. Since Day 2 was about international human rights standards, the crux of Day 3 was predominantly focused on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia (“FC”). Syah then enlightened the Campers on the fundamental liberties enshrined in the FC wherein freedom of expression is one of them whereas Sherrie touched on the restrictions on freedom of expressions in Malaysia, after the break.

19.    Lunch was at 12:30 pm for about an hour as usual. Thereafter, Khairil took charge of the next session on human rights advocacy beyond litigation where we were introduced to other methods of human rights advocacy. Within our original groups of four, the Campers were asked to select a cause that they would like to advocate and prepare the presentation on how they were going to go about it, advocating the cause.

Photo Description: Me presenting for the group

20.    Just like Day 2, a pop quiz was carried out right after the group presentations but the questions this time revolved around the topic covered in Day 3 i.e. in the Malaysian context. Instead of an individual effort, it was made a group effort to get as many right answers as possible and the prizes given for each correct answer was a LoyarBurok sticker!

21.    Day 3 ended with the briefing on the final moot session by the facilitators which will take place on Day 4. The Campers were encouraged to incorporate and apply all the knowledge gained in the past two days into their respective written and oral submissions during the final moot. With that in mind, Campers left to prepare for their respective moots.

Day 4: Sunday, 21 August 2016
22.    Day 4 was the final day of the Camp. The moot session this time was adjudicated by external judges namely Goh Siu Lin, Edmund Bon and Aston Paiva, who are all well-known strategic litigators. Groups A and B were the first two groups to present their side of the case followed by Groups C and D. Invaluable feedback were given by the external judges at the end of each case’s presentations.

Photo Description: The Final Moot before (from the left) Aston Paiva, Goh Siu Lin and Edmund Bon

23.    As the final moot session came to an end, the relieved and joyful feelings were evident on the faces of all the Campers. All of us including the facilitators and external judges took a group photograph in the conference room before we proceeded to check out.

Photo Description: The All Inclusive Group Photo!

24.    We had our final lunch at 12:30 pm together and we bade farewell to each other thereafter.
Photo Description: Final Lunch

25.    Overall, the Camp was really worth attending albeit intensive as we were bombarded with vast amount of information in respect of human rights, particularly on freedom of expression. It was eye-opening for me and the rest of the Campers. My expectations were met and I now know what strategic litigation is all about. The knowledge gained during the Camp coupled with the practical moot sessions has increased my awareness on human rights and boosted my confidence to begin assisting with strategic litigation matters.

26.    I would like to express my gratitude to the organisers of the Camp for accepting my application to participate in the Camp and the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee for sponsoring my participation.

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