Remember, Review & Reclaim: My Pupillage Memories Of The Perak Crisis In Court

Perak: A State Of Crisis poster

LoyarBurok kicks off its first-ever on-the-ground event with the launch (by Nizar Jamaluddin) of “Perak: A State of Crisis” on 12 December 2010, 4pm. Meet the protagonists (politicians, contributors, writers and lawyers[LB]) at the LoyarBurokking session. 5 more days, more than 120 hours left and counting – do join us!

I was always told I had an unconventional pupillage experience. I couldn’t agree more. As I sat in front of the TV on the eve of my birthday, I couldn’t help but feel melancholy whilst my iPhone was buzzing away with midnight wishes of “Happy Birthday”. So this is how I celebrated my 2010 birthday.

How different it was to the one in 2009. Then, I was in my room at the office at an ungodly hour trying to finish a submission for an appeal the next day. No joke – client was sentenced to the gallows and this was his final appeal. I was anxious and worried because my submission and authorities were nowhere ready.

My pupillage was a surreal experience, and I had the best experience one could get.

I joined the firm clueless. I went in there with an open mind; to try corporate and litigation work. I didn’t see much in the former, and I was dying to get out.

Chinese New Year came and everything was still quiet. My future boss would soon call me on the 2nd day of CNY.

February 13, 2009.

The Menteri Besar of Perak, Dato’ Seri Ir Hj Mohammad Nizar bin Jamaluddin filed the judicial review application in the KL High Court challenging his sacking by the Sultan. It was the beginning of an unforgettable journey which has led to close friends and strong bonds. The rakyat team (representing Nizar, of course) consisted of distinguished and experienced lawyers; but it was a case no judge wanted to hear, it seemed.

So how did the matter proceed? Read carefully, and slowly, for you might get lost in the middle. It went from the KL High Court (Appellate & Special Powers Division, RKK3) to RKK1 to the Federal Court (in between, we appeared in the Court of Appeal), and then back down to RKK 6 (which does not exist anymore, by the way), up to the Federal Court, down to RKK 6, up again to the Court of Appeal (twice) to be disposed at Federal Court, finally. Calling it a roller-coaster ride is an understatement.

It was a tough 4 months from the date the judicial review application was filed. We were persuaded (“conned” to be more precise) constantly with this phrase: “This is it. It cannot get worse than this.” [Edmund Bon]. With these words of encouragement, I continued to assist the team in the battle.

I remembered clearly that at one stage, we wanted to appeal against the High Court judge’s decision to refer the case to the Federal Court. We applied for a stay of proceedings pending our appeal but it was rejected. We knew that the appeal at the Court of Appeal must be heard before the Federal Court was to hear the substantive case for it would become academic if not. We prepared our Record of Appeal in 3 days. We served and filed it within 5 days. The appeal was heard in 8 days after the High Court judge referred the matter to the Federal Court (note: in a usual case, the appellant is given 8 weeks to prepare the Record of Appeal).

We eventually lost our appeal at the Court of Appeal but “won”, momentarily, at the Federal Court. The Federal Court then remitted the case back to the High Court (the now non-existent RKK 6). Yes, 13 days – we did a High Court – Court of Appeal – Federal Court in 13 days. Yes, 13 freaking days!

Nizar @ Duta court (110509)Our victory did eventually come albeit it was short-lived (approximate time of joy: 20 hours). Our client, Nizar was declared Menteri Besar at the High Court at about 3.30pm on 11 May 2009. We were surprised at the result, and it was an emotional day for us because not only was the judge persuaded by our legal arguments, the team triumphed over, what seemed to be, the Establishment on the other side. The team had a quiet, contemplative huddle over tea after the decision but it was back to work that night as we predicted an appeal and a stay application forthcoming. We were right … to a certain extent.

Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir’s legal team filed his stay application on the next day at 9am. The application was fixed for hearing at 11am on the same day. We were shocked. Such efficiency from the courts! We were lucky that our lead counsel was at Putrajaya that day for another matter. By 1pm on 12 May 2010, the Court of Appeal, through a single judge (matters before the Court of Appeal are usually heard by 3 judges) stayed the High Court order pending Zambry’s appeal to the Court of Appeal. It was back to square one.

Call me cynical about the Malaysian legal system but I have seen it with my own eyes and felt it by my own skin. Yes, I was part of the team acting for the side who lost; but I sense that it needs more than your legal skills to fight the Establishment in the Malaysian courts.

Nonetheless, it was a priceless experience. Our offices were our home. Team members became family. I went back to my “proper” home when people started trickling into the office. I saw sunrise in my car. I came close to crashing my car (my colleague unfortunately did).

But was that all worthwhile? Yes, because chances to work on these type of cases do not come often. I was lucky to be part of a team of unselfish, talented, hardworking and funny lawyers, the many jokes really eased the stress, e.g. *die u … die!*. They showered so much knowledge upon me and I cannot thank them enough for that.

I met stress, pain, tears, tempers and anxieties but I found trust, perseverance, determination, self-belief, friendship and love. Everything happens for a reason and I am thankful to have been part of it.

Believe in change and persevere for the truth.

Selamat berjuang!

Joanne @jo_leong is a young lawyer who had been thrown into the deep end of the legal pool and has been cynical about practice ever since. An avid hip-hop dance fan, she channels her anger, disappointment and stress of practice through music. Fighting for positive change, she has become more involved in public interest and human rights litigation in the hope that despite losing battles, one will eventually win the war. She wants to be alive to see a better Bar and ultimately, a better Malaysia.

[LB] Collectively, members of the legal team who acted in various cases and capacities for Nizar and Sivakumar throughout the Perak Crisis were: Sulaiman b. Abdullah, Tommy Thomas, Nga Hock Cheh, Philip Koh Tong Ngee, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Chan Kok Keong, Mohamad Asri b. Othman, Ranjit Singh s/o Harbinder Singh, Razlan Hadri b. Zulkifli, Mohamed Hanipa bin Maidin, Augustine a/l Anthony, Leong Cheok Keng, Mohammad Yunus bin Mohd @ Ahmad Ali, Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Yap Boon Hau, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Mahaletchumi Balakrishnan, Zulqarnain bin Lukman, Cheong Sek Kwan, Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen, Jason Tay Yew Chong, Grace Wong Phui Mun, Abigail Lim Ern Tze and Ngoi Evon.

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Joanne leong is a young lawyer thrown to the deep end of the legal pool and have been cynical about practice thereafter. As an avid hiphop dance fan, she channels her anger, disappointment and stress of legal practice through dance and music. A fighter for positive changes, she involved herself in public interest and human rights cases in hopes that the saying 'you lose a battle but win a war' comes true. She hopes that she will be alive to see a better Bar and ultimately a better Malaysia.

Posted on 7 December 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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5 Responses to Remember, Review & Reclaim: My Pupillage Memories Of The Perak Crisis In Court

  1. Eric

    U guys are heroes. Perak and Malaysia are proud of you!

  2. shobana

    hey hey hey! it's finally down in words… what an experience it was.. Kudos, my "chambee twin"! hope to see more article to come ;)

  3. EG

    Was asked to read your article by FH, and YES, I do remember your birthday last year, with AAG and me busy bundling at 6:00 am (your hearing like in 3 hours, can't remember) and II lying/snoring (very loudly) by Exit Door No.2 out of sheer exhaustion. Makes me wonder WHY in the world we subjected ourselves to such TORTURE!! Hahahaha… but no doubt chambering was fun with you guys!! Cheers…

  4. chris tan

    It is a dream experience. Wonderful illustration of your experience and moments!