The Bar Council elections are taking place throughout November — check out the candidates here. Lord Bobo mind-controlled Marcus to make a public request for some of the candidates to publish a post on the blawg explaining why they are running for Bar Council. Edmund Bon has published his reasons, and now Andrew Khoo shares his. None of the other candidates have submitted their posts — all are welcome to do so to [email protected].

I am responding to your request for some write-up from candidates for election to the Bar Council to state why they should be supported.

I have been privileged to be a part of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee since 2007.  But my involvement in Bar Council committees dates back to 2003 when I first joined the Legal Profession Committee after completing 7 years of practice.  In 2004 I also joined the then General Agreement on Trade in Services Committee, which was later renamed, at my suggestion, to the Trade in Legal Services Committee.  This committee looks at the provision of transboundary legal services, both from and into Malaysia.  With the imminent passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the TiLS Committee has been tasked with studying the entire TPPA (all 7,000 pages of it!) and to provide a position paper to the Bar Council on the benefits and drawbacks of the TPPA.  I am coordinating a Working Group on this matter.  We have just started looking at the published text of the TPPA and hope to complete our work before the end of the year.  The Bar Council will use this position paper to engage with parliamentarians and members of the public as the agreement is debated in Parliament early next year.  This issue is also being tackled from the angle of rights of migrants, and through the Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee my fellow committee members and I have sought to make progress on respect for the rights of migrant workers, and to highlight the plight of undocumented migrants, refugees, and victims of trafficking.

After many years of campaigning for the abolition of the use of the death penalty in Malaysia, pursuant to resolutions of the general meetings of the Malaysian Bar, we are now seeing a shift in the government’s position on the use of mandatory death sentences for drug-related offences.  The Bar Council was successful in persuading the government to halt several scheduled executions last year, and worked with other members of civil society in relation to substituting the death sentence on 2 Malaysians in Singapore, and is now working together again with those same members of civil society to persuade Singapore to spare the life of yet another Malaysian sentenced to death there.

Active campaigning was also utilised to question the government’s continued use of the Internal Security Act 1960, which was eventually officially abolished in 2012.  However preventive detention was recently reintroduced in a slightly different guise by way of the revision and expansion of the Prevention of Crime Act 1959, and introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012 and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.  So the on-going challenge is always to keep knocking (banging?) on the doors of government to push for law reform, abolition of egregious, oppressive and outdated laws, and to monitor for abuses of existing legislation, including policy u-turns.  The results may never be immediate, but experience has shown that ultimately change is possible.

Such optimism is needed when it comes to other aspects of civil and political rights.  The clear and recent abuse of legislation on sedition, public assembly and religion, and the perverse amendments that have been introduced, shows that strong and public advocacy is required to hold the government to account, and even to challenge the action taken by them.  There is a need for continuing diligence.  We continue to need members of the Bar Council and the Human Rights Committee, and indeed of the other committees, who truly take to heart the objects of the Malaysian Bar, namely to uphold the cause of justice and the rule of law, uninfluenced by fear or favour.  If not, ultimately the Malaysian Bar will cease to be independent, and fail to stand up for what is right and proper and good for the sake and in the long-term interest of our country.

I think everyone is able to see from the write-up of the various other candidates for election that these are not generally-accepted views.  The course and compass of the journey of the Malaysian Bar is decided by the members of the Bar Council, subject to specific directions and resolutions of the general meeting of the Malaysian Bar, and so it is important that we choose the people that share our vision of the role of the Malaysian Bar in our society, the rule of law and the administration of justice.

The Bar Council is also actively running roadshows about police accountability, refreshing its call for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.  As a member of the IPCMC Task Force I can say that our roadshows have now covered Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Kedah (and inviting Perlis), Kelantan, Negri Sembilan and Malacca, and will soon include Terengganu and Selangor.  I do not think that it is a stretch to argue that because of our advocacy in this area, we have forced the government to introduce stronger leadership into the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission and for them to undertake more effective oversight of the police.  Whilst we will still campaign for the IPCMC, we should take note of recent criticism of the police by the EAIC.

Likewise we continue to support the work of SUHAKAM, and the Bar Council through the Human Rights Committee and Committee on Orang Asli Rights, of which I am also a member, work closely with SUHAKAM on topical issues.  Recently both SUHAKAM and the Human Rights Committee were involved in rights awareness and sensitisation sessions in Sarawak.  The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Orang Asli Rights are also invited to assist various Orang Asli committees throughout the course of the year.

These are some of the activities I have been involved in, and continue to work on, in and through the various committees that I lead and/or of which I am a member.  I also work closely with members of other civil society organisations that share the objectives and goals of the Malaysian Bar.  I can only say that I am committed to the various projects, activities and lines of advocacy that I have had the privilege to be involved in, and to design and implement new programmes and, if re-elected, I will continue to do so to the best of my ability.

Thank you for letting me share these thoughts with you.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Khoo

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