Wednesday, June 6, 2012

President's Speech at AGM on 25.4.2012.



I would boldly state that the rebirth of AWL was predominantly due to Vicky Alahakone and Foo Yet Ngo, who had initiated and insisted on having a democratic AGM process. Our 2 former Presidents, who led the organisation in the last four (4) years together with their Committee members, made my job as President much easier and smoother. So thank you Vicky and Foo.

Now I would like to take you through some of the important highlights since May 2011:

We are indeed proud of our pioneer AWL member, Ambiga Sreenevasan who helmed an energized social movement last year for the advancement of civil and political rights – Bersih 2.0, calling for clean & fair elections in Malaysia. Ambiga’s inspiring leadership brought together diverse groups in the history of Malaysia. As we all know that Bersih 3.0 is just round the corner- in fact in 3 days time, so for those of you who did not have the opportunity to be part of this civil society led movement, you now have another chance to voice your demands.

In the lead up to Bersih 2.0. Empower’s office, the Secretariat to Bersih was raided by the police. AWL endorsed on the JAG (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality) Press Statement and we had also issued our own Press Statement to denounce the attacks and attempts to discredit Empower.

Seksualiti Merdeka (SM) an annual festival since 2008, which brings together people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to discuss issues on human rights, came under attack. The police had banned the festival, which showcased art exhibitions, music performances and theatre workshops as it allegedly threatened national security. SM filed a judicial review on the decision to ban its activities and AWL held a watching brief for the case.

AWL showed its strong presence at the protest against the Peaceful Assembly Bill and also on the 18 March this year during the women’s rally. AWL being one of the key organisers of this rally helped to raise awareness that women are the voices of change and that it is important for women voters to participate and demand for a clean government. AWL together with another women’s organisation, Women’s Aid Organisation led the civil society march from Masjid Bulat in Section 14, PJ to Padang Astaka.

This year we also witnessed a groundbreaking decision on a case where the Ministry of Education revoked a temporary teachers offer as she was found to be pregnant. It was argued by the lawyers to be a case of gender discrimination and that it violated the Federal Constitution and was in contravention of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination). Justice Zaleha Yusoff relied on CEDAW as having the force of law in Malaysia. Honey Tan, an AWL member was one of the Co Counsels acting on behalf of the teacher, Norfadhila , had relied on CEDAW in her submissions.

As you can see that our work within AWL is not limited to issues that affect female lawyers. It has expanded to include civil and political rights and women’s rights.

The brainstorming session in August last year conducted by Angela Kukuthas helped members within AWL to regroup, reenergize and to look at projects on how best to move AWL forward.

The two (2) important projects that I wish to highlight are the radio shows on Capital FM 88.9 and the Professional Development survey.

15 February 2012 was the date of AWL’s inaugural radio show, where AWL has a weekly 1 hour slot every Wednesday. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheena Gurbakash and Norina Yahya who helped me in the discussions with Asha Gill, the radio deejay with Capital FM, to set up this weekly radio slots. I personally know how difficult it has been trying to get lawyers to be involved and to provide some form of media training, as it was crucial to get the exact messages across within the limited time on air that was given to us. There were also challenges on the coordination of the slots but I must add that Sheena did a brilliant job with her humorous banter with Asha Gill whilst trying to be serious on the law. Norina Yahya, is the other anchor for this radio slot and I must thank her too for readily agreeing to be helm the radio show with Sheena .

The radio show and interview by Star on Sexual Harassment has certainly placed

AWL on the map. I have received feedback from Asha Gill and her producer and they are indeed delighted with our radio show as the areas covered are not often heard over the air and that it is conveyed in simple and sometimes humorous statements.

The Professional Development of Lawyers project has moved forward. We had approached 2 different survey companies on the possibility of undertaking this survey. We have received quotations from both the survey companies and most importantly the BAR has agreed to be part of this project. The Committee tasked to work on this project will meet again sometime in June this year. It may be necessary to get assistance from a researcher to help shape this project before funding is sought. We are also counting on the BAR for funding.

In terms of funding, our financial status has not improved, as we have not sought out for any funds as yet nor had any fundraising activity. Perhaps, we may need to have a fundraising event for the survey costs. At this juncture I must add that I was approached by Datuk Gurusamy, the Vice President of the National Councils of Women’s Organisation ( NCWO) as to whether AWL was interested to hold a workshop on domestic violence and sexual harassment with any of the colleges . We immediately confirmed our interest. We would receive around RM5K for this workshop. We are at present having discussions with HELP University on this.

The Executive Committee had 9 Executive meetings at the office of Messrs Foo Yet Ngo & Partners. I wish to thank Foo and Kiran for hosting us and of course feeding our tummies during our meetings. This Committee certainly loves their food.

Our very able Secretary, Goh Siu Lin has been such a tremendous support during my term as President. Thank you, Siu Lin. Am also very appreciative of Chai Har, our Treasurer who has helped us to be prudent in our spending, with whatever we had. A big thanks to my Committee members who have also helped me along the way and made it a fun journey.

On a personal note, it has certainly been quite an interesting 1-year journey for me. Having been with a very active women’s movement and still am, for the last 17 years where the pace is quite different, I may have at times pushed the boundaries and had expected quick actions and responses. I may have caused some irritations along the way. To that I sincerely apologize for my indiscretions.

Thank you.

Meera Samanther
Association of Women Lawyers

No comments:

Post a Comment