A nice group shot of the wannabe models and supportive LoyarBurokkers Chi Too and Foong Jin.

Is there no limit to the tasks His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo will mind-control his most loyal minions to perform, in His quest for world domination? The May 2013 edition of Esquire Malaysia featured three of LoyarBurok’s hunkiest male specimens, and Edmund Bon. Read on for the interviews, magazine photos, and some behind-the-scenes shots. Text taken from the Esquire website, photographs by Simon Chin of Studio Pashe. Do go and buy the magazine so you can touch, smell, and cuddle the photos. Free Your Mind yo!

In our May Crime and Punishment Issue, we gathered together four defenders of justice from the community blog LoyarBurok for a special shoot.

We also asked them to share with us bits and pieces about themselves, the law and (their words) “blawg”.

So meet four spiffy-looking LoyarBurok members: Edmund Bon, Fahri Azzat, New Sin Yew, and Marcus van Geyzel.

Here’s what these courtroom drama kings had to say about a variety of subjects:

The Bonsiah, screaming for human rights!

ESQUIRE MALAYSIA: Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations, is obliged to uphold the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What do you think of the current state of it in Malaysia?

EDMUND BON: In Malaysia, it’s not the best, considering we have so many years been a member of the UN and we seem to be a more developed country as opposed to other countries. So I think we can do better. We have only signed two international conventions, so that’s a very poor record for us.

ESQ: What do you think about the use of Internet-based technologies that might undermine the rights of human privacy and freedom of expression?

EB: To me, the freedom of expression is absolute, so long as it doesn’t impinge on the privacy of others. That includes defamatory statements, taking private photos of people, so it depends on the criteria, including national security and the private lives of people, but of course if you are a celebrity or a public high profile person, you can’t say that people taking photographs of you breaches your privacy because you thrive on that kind of publicity.

ESQ: Can you explain to us a bit more about the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights?

EB: MCCHR in Malay is “PusatRakyatLB”. Lord Bobo had an inspiration to have a centre allowing anyone to use the space. We have 1,000-plus square feet of community space that is open to anyone to use for free, so people use it for debate, for forums, for events, for concerts. We think that there are not enough spaces in Malaysia to allow communities to use, you have to pay like 500 ringgit for a hall. So we set up this centre to allow anyone to use and it has been quite popular. We believe that we need to create space and this is one of the initiatives to create that. Additionally, the centre does very important strategic litigation work, so it files cases to uphold freedom of expression, freedom of religion and privacy, even against the detention without trial. The centre also does voters’ education, through our UndiMsia! arm and it is now a very important part of Malaysian civil society.

ESQ: Tell us something new that’s been happening in LoyarBurok.

EB: We just launched our online store, loyarbarang.com, because activism is a frickin’ lifestyle. It’s another offshoot of LoyarBurok, where we found that we needed an online store to provide for all our activist needs. The store sells salt, tear gas masks, water, t-shirts and our new POLITIKO card game. It’s a way of trying to raise funds to sustain the centre, the staff – consisting of five people – their salaries and to run our campaigns and human rights work.

Fahri shows us his rainy-day court attire, and the smouldering looks that have convinced many a judge (including some female ones).

ESQUIRE MALAYSIA: What made you choose to be a lawyer?

FAHRI AZZAT: Well, I was always laboring under the impression that being a lawyer is one way in which you can help a lot of people, and there was that whole element of fighting for justice. My father being a lawyer and owning a law firm also maybe had some influence in that.

ESQ: On legal advice: what would you advise people on the functions or the systems of the law that people should know, but almost everybody doesn’t?

FA: When you’re arrested, the police are theoretically and legally bound to tell you what you’re arrested for. Once they arrest you, they can question you. Under the law, it’s also provided that you can ask for your lawyer to attend before you are questioned. I would always advise that you try and speak to your lawyer before you make any statements to the police so that they check and make sure you haven’t said anything terribly detrimental.

ESQ: What are some human rights people should know about, but don’t know?

FA: I think not many people know they have fundamental human rights in the first place. I think it’s a bit difficult to say which is more important and that’s because they are all fundamental rights. There would be great difficulties if we didn’t have any of them, for example, the right to freedom of belief. It basically means that you can believe whatever you want to believe, but in Malaysia if you’re a Muslim, you actually don’t have a right to believe. You’re controlled by the state. If you do things that they say you cannot do or you believe something else, then you can go to prison for it.

Another thing is the freedom of speech; you cannot say what you like, you cannot dress how you like, everything is controlled. I think Malaysians should take a broader view and try to learn and understand a bit about what the Federal Constitution is about, because it governs everything in this country.

ESQ: What do you think of LoyarBurok as a growing platform for Malaysians to express and obtain insights into what’s happening in Malaysia?

FA: That’s what our website LoyarBurok was really for. For one thing, it’s to advocate some of the issues that we feel strongly about, like human rights, but it has grown much more since we opened it up and that’s what we want LoyarBurok to be, to be this communal platform for any Malaysian who feels strongly about something and wants to speak up to reach a kind of audience. The goal was also to try and encourage people to speak up because here Malaysians, you know lah, we will bitch behind everybody’s backs and not put up a cogent argument for people to read and understand the points they try to make and that’s what we encourage very much. It doesn’t matter the level of writing, because we try to help out with that.

But the key is to have Malaysians learn not to be afraid to speak up, and to try and engage in a constructive manner especially when you disagree.

New (that's his surname, it's not just because he's new to the Bar) Sin Yew shows us how to litigate and stimulate at the same time.

ESQUIRE MALAYSIA: What made you choose to be a lawyer?

NEW SIN YEW: Actually, someone dared me to be a lawyer. I went to law school because of a dare, the then-dean told me to try out law school for two weeks and if I liked it I could stay on. I went to law school, found it interesting and stayed on.

ESQ: What do you think of LoyarBurok as a growing platform for Malaysians to express and obtain insights into what’s happening in Malaysia?

NSY: It’s a brilliant idea. It provides a platform for people to come and say exactly what they wanna say, but at the same time, not take it too seriously. In many aspects, LoyarBurok has been actively promoting the rights of Malaysians in that sense, for example LoyarBocor, so every now and then, you would see certain hard-to obtain documents being posted on LoyarBocor. Once people see these documents and what are they about, it gets a discussion going. LoyarBocor brought to light a circular by the Ministry of Higher Education sent to various institutions of higher learning to advise students to not to take part in the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat KL112 on 12 January 2013. This had the effect of suppressing students’ freedom of expression. It’s like the Wikileaks of Malaysia, just less glamourous and without any criminal charges… yet [laughs]. It’s just a form of public education, so those who want to know can find it out there.

ESQ: What do lawyers do on TV that make you cringe?

NSY: Uhh… I’ll tell you what I find troubling about lawyer shows on TV lah. It’s the fact that the clients come to them, and the client tells them about their problems and everything, and they would advise and advise, then fifteen minutes or a day later, they’re in court arguing already. It’s actually a fact that it never happens, what happens is that you advise your client, the client goes home, thinks about it and then comes back to you, then you would have to draft the papers and documents, attend case managements, you have to prepare that thick bundle of documents before you actually go to court.

Even when you’re finally in court, neither the lawyer nor the judges are that flamboyant and dramatic. It’s very cut and dry and anticlimactic.

Marcus displays the look that greets all silly questions and badly-written articles received by the blawg's Masthead editorial team.

ESQUIRE MALAYSIA: What made you choose to be a lawyer?

MARCUS VAN GEYZEL: I should first clear up that I’m not a “lawyer” in the way that most people think of lawyers, as I’m not a litigation lawyer (basically, I don’t go to court). I’m a corporate or commercial lawyer. To be honest, I’m an “accidental lawyer”. What I really wanted to be was a writer or journalist, but I was advised to get a law degree instead, which is a flexible, and would still enable me to become a writer or journalist. I then kind of went with the flow, and now run a law firm, and write as a hobby.

ESQ: What do you think of LoyarBurok as a growing platform for Malaysians to express and obtain insights into what’s happening in Malaysia?

MVG: My completely unbiased view is that LoyarBurok is obviously the most awesome blawg in the known and unknown universe, and beyond. When LoyarBurok started some six years ago, there were not many platforms which allowed the free exchange of views for Malaysians. Now there are several websites which are a viable substitute for mainstream media, and of course there is social media.

The unique selling point of LoyarBurok has always been that we publish anything by anyone on any topic. We firmly believe that discourse should not just be for the experts–every individual should have a platform to express their views on whatever issue they feel passionate about. We are also proud that we have introduced many new voices to Malaysia (we now have more than 400 registered writers), and unfortunately this means that many columnists you read in other publications these days started off in LoyarBurok, but have now moved on to places which pay them! LoyarBurok is a community blawg, and what that means is that anyone who wants to write can register as a writer, then upload their article, which is then edited by our hardworking (and unpaid) editorial minions, and published.

We provide the space, and encourage everyone to claim their space.

ESQ: Can you explain to us a bit more about the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights?

MVG: The MCCHR (also known as the LoyarBurok Rakyat Centre) was launched in early 2011 as a physical manifestation of the LoyarBurok blawg. Amongst its stated goals was to be a centre for citizen education initiatives, a venue for engagement, and a resource centre for advocacy-related information. Like the blawg, the MCCHR is a space that is available to the community, and has been home to many events on an unimaginable variety of topics since it launched. Anyone who wants to organise events are welcome to use the centre. We have a nice, big, open wooden floor, and it’s a very comfortable, informal setting–most of the time everyone sits on the floor. We’ve had serious academics, politicians, and celebrities attend events, and there are no VIP seats because we believe everyone’s equal, sitting in an informal setting discussing whatever they are passionate about. LoyarBurok has always wanted to mainstream human rights, to educate and empower Malaysians, and the MCCHR really is the LoyarBurok blawg come to life.

The MCCHR also runs strategic litigation (lawyers taking cases to court to improve human rights) and a non-partisan voter education programme. The main thrust of our education initiatives at the moment is democracy. Many people have a flawed concept of democracy. Right now, Malaysians are obsessed about the general elections, but there’s a danger of a misconception that democracy is only about voting. We shouldn’t only get to exercise our democratic rights as a citizen once every four or five years. What happens in between elections is most important. We must keep our elected representatives accountable, otherwise it’s just going to be another five years of whoever wins the election doing whatever they want, without taking into account the people until it’s time to campaign for the next elections.

Malaysia needs to mature as a democracy, as a nation, and there are signs that we are getting there.

Interview by Charmaine Wong. Photographs by Simon Chin. Styling by Allien Gan.

Esquire's 101 on LoyarBurok and the MCCHR.
Sin Yew and Fahri, from the magazine, showing how litigation lawyers negotiate.
Marcus and Edmund, showing us what corporate lawyers and litigation lawyers think of each other. Not really. Okay, maybe a little bit.
Best caption for this photo in the comments section below wins a special prize! (No, really)
Edmund trying to negotiate a different suit. Eugene regretting asking lawyers to come for a photo shoot.
LoyarBurokkers trying to look like they wear expensive threads on a regular basis.
This is WAY more exciting than court.
Admittedly, things did get a little steamy.
A nice group shot of the wannabe models and supportive LoyarBurokkers Chi Too and Foong Jin.



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