On 21 August 2009, I had the privilege of delivering this speech on the occasion of Ms. Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen’s call to the Bar before Justice Tuan Mohamad Ariff bin Md. Yusof.
If it so pleases Your Lordship, may I introduce the Petitioner, Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen.
The Petitioner was born on 19 October 1984 in Petaling Jaya to the wonderful couple of Mr. James Leong and Mdm. Margaret Leong. The Petitioner is the second and youngest child in the family.
The Petitioner received her secondary education at SM Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya. The Petitioner excelled in her studies as she obtained good results for her PMR and SPM examinations. The petitioner was also active in school activities. Upon completing her secondary education, the Petitioner did her A-Levels at Taylor’s College. The Petitioner then read law at the University of Liverpool and graduated with a LLB degree in July 2007 Thereafter, she went to The College of Law, Birmingham to do her Bar Vocational Course. She is one of the pioneer students who completed the Bar Vocational Course in The College of Law, Birmingham. She was then called to the English Bar in July 2008. She duly returned to Malaysia thereafter.
Upon her return to Malaysia, the Petitioner is fortunate to be offered a place to read and complete her pupillage at Messrs. Chooi & Co. in the chambers of Mr. Christopher Leong.
During her pupilage in Chooi & Company, she was given the opportunity to experience all areas of law. However, her most memorable experience was when the firm and her pupil-master allowed her to be involved in one of the biggest constitutional cases in Malaysia, namely the Perak crisis case. I have been informed by the Petitioner that her involvement in the Perak case had made her realise that there are unscrupulous politicians and individuals who would do anything for their political gain. It is no surprise as all of us have witnessed how the system and institutions were abused by irresponsible individuals in order to secure the hegemony of the unelected BN State Government. Yet at the same time, the Petitioner said she is blessed as she had seen the courage and struggle of the people of Perak as well as the dedication and passion of the Perak legal team to fight for justice and democracy.
Apart from the Perak case, the Petitioner was given another priceless opportunity to work with another group of dedicated lawyers in a high-profiled criminal case relating to our former deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.
These experiences certainly may not have been achievable if she were to do her pupillage in another firm. Therefore, she can only humbly thank the founder, Mr. Chooi for offering her a place to do her pupilage at the firm, and Mr. Christopher Leong for being her pupil-master, for allowing her to partake in these cases and his willingness to share his experiences, thoughts, wisdom and guidance with her.
She would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Edmund Bon, whom she currently works with for allowing her to get involved in criminal, human rights and constitutional issues which have always been her favourite subjects since her first year in Liverpool. The Petitioner would like to add that she acquired the ability to work under extreme pressure as a result of the long hours that she had to clock-in while working with Mr.Edmund Bon.
The Petitioner admits that doing her pupillage at Chooi & Co is challenging yet exciting and rewarding.
The Petitioner further learned that it is important for any civil society to have lawyers – courageous lawyers – who are willing to uphold justice and human rights without fear or favour especially in our delicate situation now.
I couldn’t agree more with the Petitioner. If I may add a few words, My Lord, without such courageous lawyers, whatever fundamental rights that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution will remain nothing more than mere words – a mere collection of pious platitudes. Lawyers, such as the Petitioner and her colleagues, are the ones who can transform these mere words or abstract rights into reality, and in order to uphold these rights, lawyers must act without fear or favour. Therefore, it is important for lawyers to remember that practice should not always be about making money and that lawyers have a larger obligation to stride alongside society, not above it. Lawyers must be the rakyat’s bastion of civil liberties and human rights.
I apologise for digressing a bit My Lord.
Expression of thanks
The Petitioner is blessed with parents who love her and more importantly understand her thoroughly especially during the tough times in her pupillage. She thanks her mom for all the nutritious soup that gets her going even without sleeping for days (courtesy of Mr. Edmund Bon). She thanks her dad who waits for her safe return at wee hours in the morning (again courtesy of Mr. Edmund Bon).
The Petitioner would also like to extend her gratitude to her best friend, her close friends who have always been there for her through thick and thin and for giving her strength when she needed it the most.
The Petitioner also would like to thank the pupils, former pupils, her colleagues, the lawyers and support staff at Chooi & Co for their patience, willingness to share their knowledge, advice, friendships and most importantly, the amazingly wonderful nine months.
Based on the training that the Petitioner had undergone throughout the nine months, I have no doubts whatsoever that the Petitioner is indeed a fit and proper person to be admitted and enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya. In fact, the Malaysian Bar is fortunate to have a new member such as the Petitioner.
Before I take my seat, I seek Your Lordship’s leave to read out an excerpt from the book “Letters to a Young Lawyer” by Professor Alan Dershowitz. This book was introduced to me by my friend, Mr. Fahri Azzat, during my early days in practice and has been my guide ever since. I would be failing in my duty as the mover if I do not share it with the Petitioner:
“Don’t love the law. It will inevitably disappoint you. Understand the law is a tool, a mechanism, a construct. It is a false idol like so many others in life…
Don’t respect the law, unless it merits your respect. The law in Nazi Germany or in apartheid South Africa or in the Jim Crow South did not deserve respect. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v Gore should be followed – that’s what it means to live under the rule of law. But it should not be respected, any more than the robed cheaters who wrote it should be respected. [The] law today sometimes deserves respect, other times it deserves condemnation. It must be always be obeyed, but it need not be admired. Honesty is more important than respect.
If you don’t love the law, what should you love (aside from your loved ones)? Love liberty. Love justice. Love the good that law can produce. Aspirations don’t disappoint, so long as you realize that the struggle for liberty, justice and anything else worth pursuing never stays won.
All cause papers are complete and in order and I know not of any objection from my learned friends and I sincerely hope that my learned friends representing the relevant parties will support this application. Therefore, My Lord, I respectfully pray that this Honourable Court admits and registers Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen as an Advocate & Solicitor of this Honourable Court.
Much obliged, My Lord.