Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Bersih 2.0 Organising Committee for the People's Tribunal on GE13 is looking for more lawyers to join the legal team that is collecting evidence that will be presented at the People's Tribunal to be held from 18 to 22 September 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

Head of the Legal Team is Prof. Gurdial Singh Nijar who will brief you on Tuesday 6 August at 7pm. For more details e mail Meera Samanther at or call at 012 3138850
Meera Samanther
Organising Committee Member for the People's Tribunal

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bersih names 3 locals, 3 foreigners as People's Tribunal members

KUALA LUMPUR (July 25): The six members, three locals and three from overseas, of the Bersih People's Tribunal were named today by the organising committee for the People's Tribunal.
Stating that members of the tribunal were picked through a process, Bersih steering committee co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan highlighted that all individuals were "people that shared a strong commitment to the rule of law".
The People's Tribunal, comprised those with diverse backgrounds who according to Ambiga will be able to make independent decisions, was established to ascertain whether the 13th general election was conducted in a free and fair manner.
Chairing the tribunal is Yash Pal Ghai,a reputable expert in constitutional law, who has extensive experience including being the former head of the constitution advisory support unit of the UN Development Programme in Nepal, former special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cambodia on human rights and former chairperson of the Kenya Constitution Review Commission and Kenya National Constitutional Conference.
Other international members are former deputy chairman of the Indonesian Election Commission Ramlan Surbakti and president of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, former senator and deputy leader of the Democrat Party Thailand Kraisak Choonhavan.
Malaysian members include Datuk Azzat Kamaludin, a well-known lawyer and former administrative and diplomatic officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, Dr Mavis Puthucheary, co-editor of the book Elections and Democracy in Malaysia, and former associate professor from the Faculty of Economics and Administration Universiti Malaya, and Reverend Dr Herman Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.
Assisted by a team of 30 lawyers, Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, Professor of Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya, will lead the legal team to present evidence on behalf of the people.
Speaking to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Gurdial stated that they expected "a team of 10 to 12 witnesses and two to three experts".
The tribunal will take the form of a commission of inquiry led by a legal team who will present evidence and arguments to the tribunal.
The tribunal is tasked to study, investigate, review and report on:
1. The complaints received or disclosed on events leading up to and surrounding the 13th general election;
2. The electoral process which took place in respect of the 13th general election;
3. The effect of the findings from (1) and (2) have had on the 13th general election, particularly in the free and fair criteria (free access to the media, money politics, adherence to local elections laws);
4. Any matters related or incidental to the above, including the effect on voters rights generally and the rights of minority communities.
"The tribunal is essentially a citizen’s efforts and a people’s platform to investigate and scrutinise the conduct of the last general election,” said Irene Fernandez, a member of the organising committee.
"It will be a tribunal of conscience, mandated with a moral force by the people to arrive at the truth," added the executive director of Tenaganita, an NGO which promotes the rights of migrant workers and other oppressed and poor people in Malaysia..
Members of the public are also encouraged give statements or evidence relating to claims of electoral fraud and irregularities during the May 5 polls via email to the people's tribunal secretariat at by Aug 16.
The People's Tribunal, which will take place from Sept 18-22, is fully funded by the Malaysian public.

Read more:

Baseline Study on the Working Conditions of Male and Female Lawyers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor

Thursday, 25 July 2013 08:55am
Contributed by Meera Samanther, President, Association of Women Lawyers

The Association of Women Lawyers (“AWL”) has commissioned a “Baseline Study on the Working Conditions of Male and Female Lawyers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor” together with the Bar Council, SUHAKAM and the Women’s Aid Organisation (“WAO”) whereby legal and gender experts and a statistician from the University of Malaya (“UM”) have been engaged as consultants of the study.

The study aims to ascertain, among others, the working conditions of lawyers, their job satisfaction and the existence of any form of gender discrimination, if any, in the legal profession in Malaysia. The survey is to be conducted among 450 lawyers in total with almost equal representation of both male and female lawyers from various divides of the private practice groups existing in the Malaysian legal framework. As such, the Klang Valley lawyers may receive calls from UM seeking appointments with you to conduct the survey.

The respondents of the study are rest assured that strict confidentiality of all data and information shared in the survey shall be maintained at all material times. Therefore, the Project Commissioners and the Consultants seek utmost cooperation of the Members of the Bar in the Klang Valley to be part of the study if you are one of those selected randomly for the purposes of the study.

If you need further information, please contact either Meera Samanther, President of the Association of Women Lawyers by email at
or by telephone at 012-313 8850; or Dr Lai Suat Yan, Lead Consultant of the baseline study by email at
or by telephone at 016-2868 543.

Rape, then marriage. What is going on? 29th May, 2013

Interview with Ms Goh Siu Lin by the Sinchew online news team on the tragic case of a 13 year old Sabahan girl rape victim who was allegedly raped on 18.2.2013 by a 40 year old restaurant manager, Riduan Masmud.

The accused was charged with statutory rape but attempted to circumvent the legal system by taking her as his second wife under syariah law. Sabah authorities are now taking steps to annul the marriage.

Child marriage is one of the most devastang forms of violence against girls. Did you know that 400 million girls are married annually worldwide. Every 3 seconds a young girl is being married NOW.

It was interesting to learn that other muslim countries (eg. Algeria, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Singapore) were more progressive in their laws only allowing muslim children to marry after 18 years. It is very puzzling why Malaysia was so regressive despite having ratified Article 16 of CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women), which is read with Article 1 of the Convention of the Child, to abolish child marriages.

Is it not terribly hypocritical and unjust for our non-Muslim children to be better protected under the law compared to their muslim counterparts. Why should this be so?? Why deprive the Muslim child of a carefree childhood? Schooling? A better future? Why subject our little girls whose bodies are not ready for pregnancy and the ensuing heavy responsibility of being mothers and the attendant health risks?

The video was posted on 29.5.2013. Our Vice President appears at 3.40 mins (speaking in English), the video is titled, "Rape, then Marriage. What is going on?":

Sunday, July 21, 2013

MobTV Interview - "Perlembagaan & Parlimen" - 14.6.2013

MobTV interview with our Vice-President on the topic of the Constitution and Parliament.

The write-up from their website: "Selasa lalu, raptai sidang pembukaan parlimen untuk anggota Dewan Rakyat berlangsung di Dewan Bankuet, Parlimen Malaysia, yang menyaksikan ramai muka baru yang bakal memeriahkan sidang Parlimen ke-13. Persoalanya Apa itu Akta 59 Perlembagaan Malaysia dan adakah status anggota Parlimen akan terlucut sekiranya tidak hadir upacara angkat sumpah 24 Jun ini. Ikuti kupasannya bersama Goh Siu Lin, Naib Presiden Persatuan Peguam-Peguam Wanita."
Posted by Picasa

COMANGO briefing at Parliament - 11.7.2013

Plush corridors of Parliament.
Honey Tan, AWL member, is a member of Empower which coordinates COMANGO (a Coalition of Malaysian NGOs) in the Universal Periodic Review Process (UPR).

Although the Bar Council is not an NGO, it participates in the UPR process.

Basically, every 4 1/2 years, the United Nations Human Rights Council will review the human rights performance of 193 UN member states including Malaysia to see if any improvement has been made since the last review in 2009.

COMANGO which consists of 45 local NGOs, had on 11th March, 2013, submitted a human rights report to the UN for purposes of the upcoming review in October 2013. Honey was one of the lead writers of this report.

Malaysia will be put under the international spotlight during the UPR process. The Government must take this seriously.

However, its actions in fixing meetings with COMANGO on 28.12.2012 (when most activists are away on long break) and on the eve of GE 13!! does not demonstrate sincerity in listening to or addressing human rights issues which are sought to be highlighted by the local NGOs.

Honey managed to secure a meeting with the Pakatan Rakyat MPs for a COMANGO briefing on the 11th July, 2013 from 1-2.30 pm.

Invitations to the Back Benchers Club unfortunately, received no response.
Walking down the corridors to Bilik Jawatankuasa 1
Honey Tan (in blue) and me. I was her designated "COMANGO photographer". Hahahah..
Those who delivered presentations that day:
1. Honey Tan (COMANGO report)
2. Mrs Wong (CRC report - Convention on the Rights of the Child)
3. Angela Kukathas (SOGI report - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity)
4. Shafie (JKOASM report - Orang Asli)
5. Masjaliza Hamzah (CIJ report - Centre of Independent Journalism)
6. Daniel Lo (MWG report by CAMSA, ie Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia)
7. Andrew Khoo (Malaysian Bar)

Honey was the first presenter and explained how the government had made many commitments in the previous UPR in 2009 but only 23% had been implemented. There are still many reservations on various international conventions eg UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), CEDAW and CRC, it had yet to ratify 6 other core UN human rights conventions.

Masjaliza Hamzah (Centre of Independent Journalism - CIJ)
speaking about media freedoms and harrassment faced by members of the press.

Tian Chua chaired the meeting. To his right is Teresa Kok.


NGOs (left), Pakatan MPs (right) facing each other. Each MP was given a bag filled with reports
prepared by the various NGOs and the CEDAW Alternative report.

Other issues highlighted were the rights of stateless children, the rights of the LGBT community. We were told a story of a 7 year old LGBT child being kicked out from his home by his family. That provoked some response from the MPs present.

October is only 3 months away, it is urgent and important to generate as much publicity and discussion amongst Malaysians on UPR for the sake of improving the state of our human rights. We need to put pressure on the ruling Government to first hear and take cognisance of the various human rights areas that need attention.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

London Mayor slammed over remarks

Our President was quoted in this newspaper article of 10.7.2013 on Boris Johnson's remarks.

"Association of Women Lawyers’ president Meera Samanther urged the British public to ask the mayor to resign as “we do not think London deserves a sexist mayor who insults not just Malaysian women but women all over the world”.

Extracted from:

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are outraged by London mayor Boris Johnson’s (pic) remarks that women attended university to find husbands.
Women non-governmental groups and youths did not feel that it was a laughing matter and demanded for the mayor to apologise to women.
Sisters-in-Islam executive director Ratna Osman said Johnson’s behaviour and remarks were reminiscent of Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and some of the country’s MPs whose “sexism is cloaked in jokes”.
“Often such remarks are not taken seriously and dismissed precisely because they are delivered in jest, but the underlying view that they hold of women is very clear.
“It seems like an arrogant presumption on his part that a woman cannot possibly find self-worth and motivation without attaching herself to a man and marriage,” she said.
According to British newspaper The Guardian, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had said women in Malaysia played a prominent role in society at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London.
“Before coming here, my officials told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68% will be women entering our universities,” said Najib.
Johnson interrupted him, suggesting the female students went to university because they “have got to find men to marry”.
Association of Women Lawyers’ president Meera Samanther urged the British public to ask the mayor to resign as “we do not think London deserves a sexist mayor who insults not just Malaysian women but women all over the world”.
Wanita MCA chief Datuk Yu Chok Tow said Johnson should apologise as it was an insult to women and their parents, who worked hard to support their children in university.
MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said it was “unbecoming for a mayor to make such remarks”.
“This is not a way for him to show his sense of humour,” said the former deputy education minister.
Meanwhile, Universiti Kebang-saan Malaysia student Saidah Umairah Zul Azki, 22, said women entered university because they were qualified enough, and not to find a man to marry.
Duty manager Eugene Ong Zi Hao, 23, said women are currently more independent and career-orientated.
“Not every woman enters university to find a prince charming,” he said.

Do the right thing.

Written by AWL member, Honey Tan and extracted from
THE government has just tabled the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 (the Bill). It is interesting to note that the government did not table a bill to only amend or add in new sections to the existing Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 (the Act).
This Bill, when passed, will totally replace the Act. This means that all clauses of the Bill should and must be looked at to see if it is fair to all sections of Malaysian society: not just among Muslims, between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also between parents and their children.
There are many worrying clauses in the Bill, but I will only address Clause 107 (b) which provides that one parent or guardian of a non-Muslim child may convert him/her.
Do not be thrown off by people who say that Clause 107 (b) was already there as Section 95 of the Act – so what's the fuss now? The answer is this: we must fuss now because the Bill is tabled with all clauses up for debate so any clause may be amended or withdrawn.
In 1993 when the Act was passed, we were not vigilant. Maybe we thought it was a matter for Muslims, and it will not affect people of other faiths.
We know better now after the cases of Shamala, Indira Gandhi and Subashini. Those women and their husbands were Hindus when they were married, and they married under civil law. Suddenly, their husbands chose to convert to Islam and converted their children without their knowledge or consent. State laws with similar provisions to Clause 107 (b) enabled them to do so.
It is important to note that under the Guardianship of Infants Act which applies to non-Muslims, both parents are equal guardians of their children and have equal parental rights.
However, under Syariah laws in Malaysia, fathers are the guardians of minor children – not the mothers. By converting to Islam and converting their minor children to Islam, Shamala, Indira Gandhi and Subashini's husbands effectively took away those women's guardianship of their children.
Many also think that provisions in State laws similar to Clause 107 (b) of the Bill have been confirmed by the Federal Court decision in the Subashini case.
Legal opinions differ on this. What is clear is this: in Subashini's case, the Federal Court was not asked to decide whether conversion by one parent of his minor child to the religion of Islam was constitutional.
The relevant questions posed to the Federal Court in Subashini's case were these:
Question 1: "Whether in an application for an interim injunction a court can make a final determination on issues of law, in particular, where it refers to a question of jurisdiction, as opposed to a consideration of only the existence of a serious issue of law to be determined?" and
Question 2: "If the answer to question number 1 is in the affirmative, then:
"[…] Question 2.4: Is it an abuse of process for a spouse of the Law Reform to unilaterally convert the religion of a minor child of the Law Reform Marriage without the consent of the other parent?"
So whatever the Federal Court said in Subashini's case about one parent being able to convert a child is said in passing (obiter dictum) as it did not relate to the questions posed to it. All that is said in passing do not bind other judges, and they do not have to follow it.
The net result of Subashini's case is that it is not good authority to say that Syariah law provisions such as Clause 107 (b) of the Bill are constitutional.
Leaving aside all the issues of law, and looking at it from a social justice viewpoint, is this the sort of law we want in Malaysia? The sort of law that allows a parent to ride roughshod over the wishes of the other parent, and without even waiting for their child to attain the age of majority of 18 years to make up her own mind.
The government repeatedly says that national unity is key to our progress and development. In April 2009, the Executive arm of the government (i.e., the Cabinet) announced that children should be allowed to remain in the common religion of their parents at the time of their parents married.
But we can see that the government has failed to keep to their word.
Let us lobby our members of Parliament – they form the Legislative arm of government. Let us write, email, text, Facebook and Twitter them. Tell them that they cannot vote for the Bill without amendments being made, and wider consultation with stakeholders from all over Malaysia.
To all our MPs – Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat alike, I urge you to be brave! Do not vote to pass the Bill as it stands. You must do the right thing.
Honey Tan Lay Ean
Bandar Utama, Selangor

Read more: