KUALA LUMPUR: On Sunday evening at the Professional Integrity Awards Night 2010 LoyarBurokker Edmund Bon Tai Soon was honoured with the Young Professional Integrity Award, to raucous applause and cheers (provided by the decorum-challenged LoyarBurok table).
The occasion was jointly organised by The Malaysian Professional Centre or Balai Ikhtisas Malaysia (BIM), Rotary International District 3300 and Integrity International Malaysia (IIM) at the Royal Selangor Club Kuala Lumpur.
Awards were given out in three categories – Young Professional Integrity Award, Professional Integrity Award and Lifetime Integrity Award. As its name suggests, the awards are given to professionals who have shown and upheld professional integrity.
Environmentalist, social activist, and engineer, Gurmit Singh was honoured with the Professional Integrity Award while the Lifetime Professional Integrity Award was conferred to one of the most distinguished and respected lawyers and former Bar Council President, Raja Aziz Addruse.
A citation for each honouree was read out before the awards were presented by Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister Dr. Maximus Ongkili.
The evening’s events were what you’d expect at an awards night, pleasant and placid until the unabated Edmund Bon decided to “liven” things up with his speech – reproduced below – because boy, did it liven things up! Eye-witnesses reported quite a few gasps and gapes; we wouldn’t expect anything less.
Congratulations Edmund Bon Che Wee Tai Soon!
If there is a term that can be used to describe Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, the term would be “renaissance man.” Those who know Edmund will agree that he is a passionate and relentless phalanx against injustice in whatever shape or form. Ever ready and willing to fight any form of injustice, tyranny or human rights violations. He is the bastion of civil liberties and the defender of the downtrodden.
He is always for truth and justice regardless who it is for or against. Ever since taking up the cause of human rights more directly a few years ago, he has breathed new life and given fresh impetus into the area of fundamental liberties. He has walked, talked, promoted, slept, and sweat human rights so much that he has inspired others to do the same.
He has also tried very hard with varying success to help the common man, the “rakyat,” understand that knowing and understanding the Federal Constitution is no longer an option, it is necessary. He is relentless because he knows that only people with knowledge and understanding can find courage. And with courage we can speak up for what is right and wrong. With courage we can help each other and get along. And it is in doing these simple but important things that we can combat tyranny and ready our soil for a truer democracy.
Of course, this is not to say all that you see that is related to human rights is Edmund’s work. They are the work of many others who are just as important as he is. But where Edmund stands apart from them is his single minded conviction, his courage, his passion and his selflessness to a cause that he knows is far greater than himself.
It has become a common trend in this country to award titles or grant prizes to individuals for various reasons. One reason is for positively contributing to society.
We should be worried about this trend.
We should be worried because it means that we as citizens, the leaders we have elected and our Government have not done enough.
There are fellow human beings, some Malaysians, who still sleep on the streets, who still live without sufficient food and water, who still have no access to medicine and health facilities, who still cannot go to school. Others are victims of corruption, abuse of power, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Yet others still seek real and effective justice to be able to move on with their lives. Far worse, some still do not know that they are citizens of this country.
Balai Ikhtisas Malaysia or Malaysian Professional Centre (BIM) is the umbrella body for professionals in the country. It is, in theory, a very powerful organisation. But we really only hear one of its members, the Bar Council, continuing to vocalise and act on issues as the moral compass of society.
It would be a huge step forward if BIM, as a collective, steps up, channels resources and mobilises its members to take up one major cause this year. It may be to build a school for refugees, or develop a hospital for a marginalised community, or construct a bridge for an Orang Asli settlement.
If the same amount of effort spent on tonight’s event is utilised on the cause, we should next year be celebrating the fact that BIM had taken a progressive stride in helping build the school, develop the hospital, and construct the bridge; instead of merely hosting an event to grant awards.
I stand here, not for myself, but to represent the people who have been and are working in various ways on the “rakyat project” – a conglomerate of initiatives to educate and empower the rakyat to stand up, speak out, take ownership, act and make their citizenship, and ours, more meaningful:
– Chooi Mun Sou, Christopher Leong and all my friends at Messrs Chooi & Company for supporting the work we do at the human rights and public interest litigation department, and the late Vong Poh Fah whom we miss dearly;
– the LoyarBurok team: Amer Hamzah Arshad, Fahri Azzat, Shanmuga Kanesalingam, Sharmila Sekaran, Edward Saw, Ong Jo-Lene, Audrey Quay, with Seira Sacha Bt Abu Bakar and Khaizan Sharizad Binti Ab Razak (Sherrie) of the S-ploited;
– the LoyarBurokkers who, on a daily basis, contribute tirelessly by making law and legal issues easy to understand, interesting and relevant to the daily lives of the rakyat while building rights activists of the future;
– members of the Bar Council and its various committees including the National Young Lawyers and Human Rights, and who have worked with me on various initiatives of the Bar – some controversial, some not – these past 10 years;
– Maha Balakrishnan and Syahredzan Johan, the Co-Deputy Chairpersons of the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee, and our 96 members who continue in our quest to “merakyatkan Perlembagaan” through the 2-year MyConstitution Campaign;
I thank and acknowledge Aimee Liew who read my citation and made this possible; and my parents for without them I would not be standing here.
We have yet to arrive at the place we desire. And the fight for freedom must continue unabated.
Citation for Raja Aziz Addruse – presented by Ragunath Kesavan
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a privilege for me to read the citation for Yang Mulia Raja Aziz Addruse. Ungku, as he is fondly known within the profession, is first and foremost a gentleman, well respected by everyone on the Bench and the Bar. There are many distinguished members and leaders of the Bar, present and past, and Ungku is definitely a “first amongst equals” and the conscience of the Malaysian Bar!
Born in Chemor, Perak, Ungku received his early education in Perak. In 1954 Ungku was awarded a scholarship by the Perak State Government to study law in England. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Bristol in 1958 and was called to the English Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in 1960.
He returned to Malaysia (then Malaya) in 1960 to join the Federal Judicial and Legal Service as a deputy public prosecutor. He was appointed Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman in 1961, and held the post of Deputy Parliamentary Draftsman from 1963 until he resigned from the Judicial and Legal Services in June 1965.
In January 1966 he was admitted and enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of the then-Federation of Malaya, and commenced his practice at the Malaysian Bar. Initially practising as both an advocate and solicitor, he has, since about 1988, practised only as counsel.
He was elected as President of the Malaysian Bar and Chairman of the Bar Council of Malaysia for 1976-1977 and was re-elected to serve a second term for 1977-1978. During those periods he represented the Malaysian Bar at meetings of LAWASIA, the Asean Law Association and other regional law bodies.
In March 1988 he was again elected as President of the Malaysian Bar and Chairman of the Bar Council. In that year the Malaysian Bar came out strongly against the move of the Malaysian Government to remove Tun Salleh Abas, the then-Lord President of the Supreme Court, for what was considered to be political reasons. The events of that year resulted in the dismissal of the Lord President and two senior judges of the Supreme Court, as well as the suspension of three others.
In 1992 he again served as President of the Malaysian Bar and Chairman of the Bar Council. He did not stand for re-election at the end of his terms of office in 1989 and 1993.
He was a member of the Bar Council for the following periods: 1968-1983; 1988-1990; 1992-1994 and 1999-2001.
As the President of the Malaysian Bar in 1988 and in 1992, he led the Bar in times of serious assaults on the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary. He answered the call to serve, as the Malaysian Bar felt that we needed Ungku to lead and steer the Bar through those difficult times.
Though greatly interested, and acknowledged as an expert, in constitutional law and administrative law, he has been quite varied in the fields of law in which he has practised. Some of the matters he has been engaged in have involved issues of law relating to construction of statutes, general elections, election petitions, contempt of court, land, building contracts, companies (oppression of minority interests), contracts, arbitration, governmental abuse of power, and fundamental rights under the Malaysian Federal Constitution.
He has appeared as lead counsel for, among others, Tun Salleh Abas who, as the Lord President of the Supreme Court in 1988, was alleged to have committed acts of misconduct; Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who was charged in the High Court with committing four offences of corrupt practice; Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy who, as the Secretary of the Bar Council in 1985, was charged in the High Court with sedition; for Manjeet Singh Dhillon, then-Secretary of the Bar Council, who was cited in the Supreme Court for contempt of that court for statements he had made in the performance of the duties of his office; for the Bar Council in an application (in the High Court and in the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court), to challenge the constitutionality of a legislation which provided that advocates and solicitors of less than seven years’ standing at the Malaysian Bar could not be members of the Malaysian Bar or of the Bar Committee of any of the States of Malaysia.
He was a member of the Mission to Hong Kong, appointed by the International Commission of Jurists in April 1991, to gather information and obtain views over the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. The Mission’s report entitled Countdown to 1997 was published in March 1992.
Since 1991, he has been an Executive Committee member of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). From 1992 to 1997, and from 2000 to 2001, he was the President of that Society.
He was elected as a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists in May 2006.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed an honour and privilege to read this citation for Ungku.
Related Internet Links:
Audrey Quay’s blog post on the evening.