Upholding The Noble Aims Of The Bar: Moving The Call Of Azira Binti Aziz

On 13 June 2011, Fahri had the privilege of delivering this speech on the occasion of Azira binti Aziz’s call to the Bar before Justice Rohana bt Yusuf.

 

Fahri (left), Azira (2nd from right), and her parents on her call day.

At the call of 2 lawyers in the Ipoh High Court on 5 March 1977, Justice Hashim Yeop A. Sani in welcoming the new practitioners remarked the following (see [1977] 1 MLJ lxvii):

“I am sad to say that the legal profession in this country is becoming less and less honourable. This tragic erosion in the public image of the profession, I find reflected in what people say or write about members of the profession. It is the duty of every member of the profession to help check this erosion by correcting past errors and to hold steadfastedly to the noble aims of the profession. It is my opinion that the time for soul-searching has arrived.

I cannot diagnose all the causes of the tragic erosion in a matter of one or two minutes but I can pin-point at least one of the causes. This lies in the motivation in at least some of the members of the profession and in simple terms that motivation is ‘profit-taking’, that is to say, some regard their practice solely as a commercial venture. If this narrow motivation is not checked and allowed to spread the profession will one day consist of members who are no different from the ordinary tradesman who sells goods or services for money’s worth and nothing else. Almost all the complaints against the profession are in fact incidental to this basic cause.”

My Lady, in the past year or so that I have had the pleasure of acquainting myself with the Petitioner, it pleases me to assure this Honourable Court that she lacks that narrow motivation that Justice Hashim spoke of. Though she understands money to be important, she thankfully has not succumbed into allowing herself to be convinced that money is everything. Her motivations are driven by higher and nobler ideals such as the notion of community, of helping the marginalized, and defending that bastion of free and critical thought in Malaysia.

She is a regular and excellent contributor to a subversive little known blawg called LoyarBurok. In her inaugural essay for her column Connect the Dots titled The Colour of Scholarships she soundly deconstructs Perkasa’s demand that 67% of scholarship opportunities should reflect the domestic racial composition. She ends with a confession about how she declined scholarships because she genuinely believes “that it should go to people who really need them.” In her later essay Catching Ourselves she analyzes our racial attitudes, arguing that we are closet racists if we buy into the concept of toleration. To be truly non-racial, we need acceptance – not toleration. Her essays demonstrate the qualities she has been cultivating and looks set to develop much further – cleverness, confidence, critical thinking and consideration. Those that Justice Hashim spoke off would probably be busy cultivating other kind of c’s – cars, credit cards, condos and, uh,  cuties.

It is a common failing of those with intellectual talents to lack action. However, the Petitioner has no such failings. Her activities parallel her intellectual vigor. As early as 17, she interned at the News Straits Times as a cadet reporter. At 20, she was attached with Astro Broadcasting as an Editor/Writer and involved in setting up XFresh FM. A ghostwriter for the website citizenthinktank.com. Her passion in human rights took root during her time at the English Debate Club in university at UiTM Shah Alam. That inevitably led her to volunteer with a non-partisan civil society organization known as Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, which, amongst others, promotes thinking and acting as Malaysians first and advancing principles of good governance. And she is not those fair weather volunteers but a committed volunteer.

So committed is she to the cause of justice that she heard the fabled clarion call of Lord Bobo, ended up as a LoyarBurokker and is now helping to fashion a voter education initiative known as UndiMalaysia with other Malaysians. If your Ladyship needs further proof of her commitment to both country and profession, then her present employment should suffice. She looks set to launch her career as a lawyer in the firm of Messrs. Kanesalingam & Co., which has a strong and varied public interest litigation portfolio. I know of that particular portfolio theirs very well because I keep being dragged into those cases by Kanesalingam Jr.

When I asked the Petitioner what she enjoys doing in her free time she writes that she ‘has a keen interest in thinking up nonsensical ideas, framing it into the simplest of words, and writing it down for all and sundry to evaluate, analyse and critique.’ How many of us do that my Lady? I play computer games, sleep or catch up on outstanding work in my free time. I only hope that more young lawyers develop similar attitudes and pursuits, and come my way so that I can delegate more of my work and write more articles for subversive blawgs.

A quote the Petitioner very much identifies with is by the late Kurt Cobain, the front man Nirvana, when he said:

“My generation’s apathy. I’m disgusted with it. I’m disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other-isms the counterculture has been whining about it for years.”

In October 1979 Lord Denning gave advice to lawyers in a speech at the Law Society’s National Conference in Jersey (see [1980] 1 MLJ lxxv). He mentioned several qualities a lawyer must possess. They are integrity, honesty, competence, discipline, independence and a strong command of language. I submit that the Petitioner possesses all these qualities. Her prose, her volunteerism, her employment, her interests, in fact just about everything about her reflects these qualities. So my Lady, I have no doubt that the Petitioner will carry out that duty to check that erosion Justice Hashim spoke of and hold true to the noble aims of this profession. She has done so even before she is called to the Bar.

The Petitioner therefore does not simply have a good character to be called to the Bar; she possesses a noble character, so it becomes both my honour to move her call and this Honourable Court’s duty to admit her.

The Petitioner would like to thank her parents, Encik Aziz Hamzah and Puan Norishah Idrus, for their patience and support; her Master, (Mistress?) Raja Eileen Soraya, for her guidance and wisdom; the lawyers at Messrs. Raja Darryl & Loh for their help during her pupillage there; her fellow pupils at the firm who shared many beautiful experiences and memories together; and finally she pays tribute to Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi, who kind words and wisdom has seen her through many rough days.

My Lady, all the cause papers are in order, I am certain my learned friends not only do not object to this application but support it as well and finally, the Petitioner is a fit and proper person to be admitted and enrolled. I therefore pray that the Petitioner be admitted and enrolled as an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

Fahri Azzat had to move 3 calls on 13 June 2011 which was the most he did ever in one day and hopes never to repeat such a feat. He is aware that he lacks the resilience and panache that of a veteran call mover like Puan Hendon who is able to reel off 3 or 4 calls in one sitting.


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Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it for him. He has little taste in writing about himself in third person. He feels weird doing it. But the part he finds most tedious is having to pad up the lack of his accomplishments, or share some interesting facts about his rather uneventful life, as if there were some who found that oh-so-interesting; as if he were some famous person, like Michael Jackson. When he writes these biographies, the thought, 'Wei, Jangan Perasaan- ah!' lights up in his head. So he usually just lists what he got involved with, positions he held and blah, blah. But this time. Right here. Right this very moment. Uhuh. This one. This one right here. He's finally telling it like it is.

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4 Responses to Upholding The Noble Aims Of The Bar: Moving The Call Of Azira Binti Aziz

  1. hashim

    I wish u can be my mover later…

  2. siewchin

    those who mastered under Fahri Azzat and have their calls moved by him already have a good start to the profession.
    SYABAS!

  3. Xenobio

    Wah, sounds so impressive. Great to see young lawyers in my generation who have a passion for social justice and civil rights.

    By the way, can someone please explain to me what this "call to the Bar" is? It's like an initiation ceremony for new lawyers?