Thursday, July 28, 2011

Details of Brainstorming Session: Saturday, 13th August, 2011

Calling all lawyers, law degree holders and law students - please
spread the word to your female friends in law and encourage them to
take up membership with the Association of Women Lawyers.

In case you missed it, our President's message on the purpose of the
brainstorming session is reproduced below.

The venue, address and location map for our AWL's Brainstorming

The Club,
Terrace Cafe, Poolside Function Room
1 Club Drive, Bukit Utama,
Bandar Utama, 47800,
Petaling Jaya, Selangor.


Please email me at if you are are coming (and
encourage your friends to sign up too) as I need to finalise catering
arrangements soon.

Message from our President - Brainstorming Session, save the date
"Dear AWL Members,

We will be having a brainstorming session on 13 August 2011 with all
members.This session is to help us all plan and strategize for the
coming years, the activites or
issues that we all want AWL to be involved with. There will be an
external facilitator to help us with the session. Angela Kukuthas is
an activist who has conducted faciltiation processes for many
organisations. We are at present working with her to draw up a Terms
Of Reference for the session. She will help us asses where we are and
where we want to be.

We, as members have a stake in this organisation. If we want to make
AWL relevant to us, to all women lawyers and to the community, then
we must be willing to walk the extra mile to get involved.

Having a group of Exco members working on issues or activities is
insufficient to make AWL work and to make AWL relevant and different
from the BAR. We need active participation and for those reasons at
the AGM there was a conscious effort to co-opt more members, in
particular the younger fraternity.

Please keep the date, 13 August free.Will inform you of the time and
venue closer to the event. However, we would like to have a head count
as to how many of you are committed to attend. This will help us
source the appropriate venue.

Please respond with your name and contact number to Hope to hear from all of you positively.

Warm regards,

Meera Samanther

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I did the BERSIH thing for my babies.

by Goh Siu Lin on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 9:02pm

I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and I happen to be a lawyer too.

Mine was a spontaneous decision to go to the rally.

Something struck a chord in me when I heard my senior partner tell stories of BERSIH 2007, of volunteer lawyers at remand hearings, on their feet, hours on end, tirelessly going through file after file before a Magistrate, till the wee hours of the morning. So, I decided to take the plunge, and give my support to BERSIH 2.0 by offering my legal skills.

The next hurdle was tougher, which team in the Bar Council should I sign up for? Urgent arrests? Monitoring? Both had its own risks. In the end, I signed up for both.

Monitoring needed us to be on the ground, near the people.. near the FRU.. near the POLICE... tear gas.. water cannons.. risk of racial riots, injury, arrest. Not to mention the Patriot, Perkasa and the Silat guys would be roaming free too. Didn't fancy bumping into any of them. My cha cha spins and dips would definitely not save me here!

Urgent Arrests had its own dangers as well... I worried about being thrown in jail indefinitely. Just like the 5 young legal aid lawyers. So, don't ever think that being a lawyer gives you a force-shield of immunity. Not in Malaysia! Read this if you don't know what I'm talking about:

Still gung ho, I encouraged lawyers from my firm to volunteer and bouyed by the moral support, I attended briefings for both teams.  I must commend the Legal Aid Centre team who had prepared us very well, they were great. The KL Bar Auditorium was jam-packed with young volunteer lawyers. Felt so proud of them all. When the director of the Legal Aid asked, "Why are you joining the urgent arrest team?" My answer was short, spontaneous and simple. It came from the heart. "For Malaysia!" my voice rang out and I was taken aback by the heavy applause. Wow. Everyone had the same sentiments!

The turnout for the Monitoring briefing the next day was smaller in comparison, about a third of the Urgent Arrest numbers. Many were first-timers. 75% comprised young members of the Bar. More than 50% were female! Isn't that great? Unfortunately, not many there looked like they could protect ME.

Attending the briefing didn't really give me additional comfort. The situation was still so tense and uncertain, BERSIH 2.0 had no venue, no permit, no nothing. So, it was difficult to plan our route in advance. I still remember one of the speakers saying, "If they shoot tear gas, just run for your lives." "Huh? That was it?? No safety tips?".

We were also warned, "Try not to get arrested." , psyching us mentally for a lawless kind of environment. "Great stuff." I murmured to myself.

We  were taught what to do with the rock salts and vinegar/lemon. For the uninitiated, if you ever get tear gassed, suck on the rock salts, like you would a sweet, then spit it out. Please don't swallow or gobble it down like some people I know. Not wise at all. :). After that, whip out your lemon/vinegar cloth and cover your nose and mouth and inhale.

Friday night at home, I gathered my things, note pad, cloth, cap, water bottle, rock salts,extra change of clothes. I packed sandwiches and biscuits. The hours passed, I couldn't sleep, I was on tenterhooks. In the wee hours of the morning, 1.36 am, I received an SMS "Cops knocking on hotel room doors. Just give cooperation. They just under orders. Kesian jugak dia orang. Offer them some makan minum". My nervousness escalated.

I listened to the gentle breathing of my babies. I prayed silently in the quietness of the night,  thinking of the many Malaysians here and far. I prayed to God for good governance, fair elections, an end to corruption, tyranny and oppression. I prayed for a united people. "May God keep the peoples of Malaysia safe and sane tomorrow."

I leaned down and smelt my baby's head and my daughter's hair. "I hope I will be around to put you both to bed tonight." was my immediate thought.

Saturday 5.30am. I felt so alert, ready to face the challenges ahead of me. My good friend, Wee Tee arrived at 6.30am and we set off to KL Hilton at Sentral to pick up another pal, Jane. There was no traffic. We sailed through Jalan Damansara, Jalan Semantan, passed Carcosa and ended up at Hilton Sentral all in 10 minutes. We headed towards KTM, I got down from the car and negotiated with police at the first barricade, got through. Felt exhilarated. Second barricade, also a breeze.. it was surreal driving towards Central Market. No other vehicle was in sight, it felt like a war zone. We parked at Central Market. The only civilian car there. To our right were the FRU trucks and police doing drills. "Hey, the parking attendant looked at us in admiration!" said Wee Tee, and we giggled conspiratorily, amazed that we had gotten so far. We made our way to Bar Council, and stopped by a mamak stall for nasi lemak. It was 8.35am. At the next table - plainclothes cops who seemed to be checking us out.

BC briefing at 10am. My colleagues and I began to feel fearful of what lay ahead, I think I must have gone to the ladies umpteen times. Another friend's face was white and tense as news streamed in of arrests, at that time, 238 detainees. Bail going rate was RM8,000.00 apparently.

My team set off at around noon, soon thereafter, I could hear the roar of the crowd, we turned back and there they were, a sea of people converged in a stand-off with the FRU at Leboh Pasar. "Ting! Ting!" Two warning bells. 3 rounds of tear-gas were released. My first taste of it. We ran away, choking. I could hardly open my eyes, my eyes were stinging, the skin on my face, smarting and itchy. As for my poor team-mate, he threw up by the roadside. It was then that our fear dissipated. We had a job to do.

The whole afternoon was action-packed, overhead helicoptors, cat and mouse games between the people and police. Thankfully, our team did not witness any serious incidents of police brutality. Although the FRU had moved from Central Market towards Kota Raya where the second round of tear-gas was shot into the crowd, this was neutralised by the heavy downpour. At this point, the police began to arrest people indiscriminately about 500 metres away from where we stood. We couldn't interfere. Our duties were to impartially record what was happening before our very eyes. I saw a young Indian boy, eyes wide-open in fear, a malay youth, his face wincing in pain as he was dragged to the nearby waiting Black Marias.

We moved on to Petaling Street, Wee Tee's shoes had given way in the rain, so we even managed to squeeze in a bout of shopping!! (Her favourite past-time!!) And I'll always remember this, we were there standing in an empty street, but when I turned round to look behind me, hundreds of people appeared out of nowhere, it was just like magic. Singing "Negaraku" in unison. Electrifying. Felt so emotional then. We were all united, 100% Malaysian.

This was followed by chants of "Hidup, Hidup, Hidup Rakyat". "Hancur BN" "Allah-hu-akhbar!". All peaceful and in a celebratory carnival atmosphere, people stopped to buy ice-cream from the ice-cream man who was doing roaring business.

I saw people of all colours. Chinese Ah Peks, Minahs from Kelantan, Indians, people of all walks of life. Mother's pushing their babies in strollers, a man holding up his crutch as if it was a mace. What amazed me most was the presence of the bespectacled middle class. They were here. Here with us. Here where it counts. When it counts. Wearing yellow. I cannot describe the feeling. Absolutely wonderful and positively beautiful. There and then, I had true hope. Hope for a better Malaysia for my babies.

Well, it's been 4 days since the BERSIH 2.0 rally, yet, I still get overwhelmed with emotion whenever I read BERSIH 2.0 media reports and the avalanche of first-hand heart-warming stories, videos etc etc. I grieve also on the passing of the late En. Baharuddin. My emotions turn on like a gushing tap. In fact, I was a weeping softly over lunchtime today, having just watched another BERSIH video, so I ended up being red-eyed just before having to meet some clients. :)

It was enriching personally. I learnt so much from the whole experience. I learnt how to conquer my fear. I saw Section 42 of the Legal Profession Act in action. I saw something magical happening to us all in BERSIH 2.0. We banished apathy. We took our citizenship seriously. We took our country seriously. We now take voting seriously.

Malaysia is our birthright and nobody can ever take that away from us.

I am writing this for my babies. What I did, I did for them, not as a lawyer, but as a mother.

Goh Siu Lin

Friday, July 1, 2011

Press Statement from Association of Women Lawyers

AWL supports the work of any organisation that has the aim of increasing women's
participation in decision making and in particular in women's political participation.

Attempts by the police and other various groups in discrediting Empower's work
on political participation by only highlighting one selective poster of Shamsiah
Fakeh in various media, shows the lack of understanding of all the work that
women's groups and the work of the Government of Malaysia is undertaking in
promoting women's participation.

As a lawyer myself, in my legal profession, there are 48% of lawyers are women
and 52% are male lawyers. However the number of women lawyers in decision making
positions in the legal proffession is disproportionately low. As such there is
an urgent need for organisations like Empower to continue their work on
increasing women's participation in decision making positions.

AWL applauds the work of Empower and condemns attempts to discredit their work.

Meera Samanther
Association of Women Lawyers

Press Statement from Malaysian women’s groups

1 July 2011

Today, women’s groups have come together to hold an urgent press conference to
express our deep concern and anger at the baseless allegations that the
non-governmental organisation Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
has links to communism.

Women’s groups are appalled and condemn the latest attempt to discredit an
organisation which works with grassroots women, providing training and
assistance with the aim of increasing women’s political participation.

Women’s groups have different areas of work, so as to complement and strengthen
each other’s work with a vision towards achieving gender equality. We provide
shelter or training for women, lobby for laws against violence against women and
advocate for increasing women’s participation in decision making. We have all
come together today to show our support for Empower and the importance of their
work in the area of women’s participation in decision making.

A poster of Shamsiah Fakeh was confiscated together with many other posters
depicting women in leadership positions. The selective highlighting of the
poster of Shamsiah Fakeh in all mainstream newspapers as “evidence” of Empower’s
links to communism is malicious and has been completely taken out of context.
Shamsiah Fakeh is not and should not be a taboo subject as she is a legitimate
part of Malaysia’s history as a nationalist.

This poster and others in a series on Malaysian women leaders, including BH Oon,
Che Siti Wan Kembang and images of dulang washers, rubber tappers and “black
and white” amahs, , are part of Empower’s training programme held in December
2010 on “Hidden Faces Unheard Voices”. This was used to raise awareness on
women’s political participation.. Therefore the work of Empower, particularly
the training programme is vital to increase the level of women’s participation
in Malaysia.


The Malaysian government has a national policy for increasing the political
participation of women to adhere to its obligations under the international
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW). In attempting to fulfil CEDAW’s obligations, the government has set
quotas stipulating that 30 per cent of decision making positions in both the
public and private sector must be made up of women. The government has in the
past invited Empower and other women’s organisations to take part in research
about increasing women’s political participation. On Monday 28 June, the Prime
Minister has even announced his full support to bring about 30% women’s
representation in the private sector

Women’s political participation in Malaysia is currently abysmal and the lowest
amongst ASEAN countries. In 2010, there were only 23 women Members of
Parliament out of a total of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat (this constitutes
10.4 per cent) and only 8% at State assemblies.

The presentation of the selective information by the police, i.e. highlighting
only the poster of Shamsiah Fakeh, is a direct attempt to discredit Empower and
other organisations seeking to increase women’s political participation. In
effect, the government is sabotaging its own national policy to increase women’s
participation in all fields.

As Empower is also the secretariat of Bersih 2.0 and organising Perhimpunan
Bersih 2.0, the recent police action also is another attempt to tarnish the
Clean and Fair Election campaign.

Women’s groups call upon the police and the present administration to end all
attacks against groups who are supportive of the democratic process to reform
for a clean and fair election.

Released by:
- Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (comprising Persatuan Kesedaran
Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Women’s Aid Organisation, Sisters in Islam, All
Women’s Action Society, Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group, Women’s Centre for
Change and Perak Women for Women Society)

- Tenaganita,
- Association of Women’s Lawyers, and
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor.