What are we doing about the Malaysian Bar’s Hall of Fame?

Many judges and lawyers gave their all to the Bar. If we forget them, we forget who we are. We are all but a package of our memories. You take away the memories, and you take away your personality.

Chancery Lane is famous the world over for its lawyers and its legal institutions.

So a word about the cover photo, and then a question:

It is of gilded golden lions perched on the metal railings outside the Law Society at Chancery Lane, London, England.

If the Law Society was guarded by gilded lions, what does it speak of the spirit of the institutions and the residents they guard?

Our Bar was once full of such fearless persons; but fear not, for many such women and men still roam the corridors of the courts, or are out in the streets, fighting, and often banishing, injustice.

Can we forget these men and women?

[1]. Many lawyers have given their heart and soul for law and to this nation

Some have departed, some are lingering at the edges of life: but many are those who have contributed to the well-being, progress and growth of the nation, the law, and importantly, the Malaysian Bar.

Their efforts and sacrifices continue to visit upon us a shower of salutary effects.

They make for the structure and the stability of the Bar – all of which we take for granted.

[2].  Do you know these lawyers?

For example, there was Dr Radhakrishna Ramani, 1See e.g., the 2006 Insaf article David Marshall, the Seenivasagam brothers and VK Palasuntharan.

Of recent vintage, but gone, alas, is Karam Singh, or the great judicial icon, Datuk Seri George Seah, who cast away his mortal coils on 19 April, 2013.

Then there are the Penang lions, Kean Chye and Karpal Singh

[3].  And who can forget the five Supreme Court judges, those lions during the 1988 Judicial Crisis?

These are Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah.

They stood their ground, quietly and firmly, during the Tun Salleh Abas debacle, which Executive interference wrecked the independence of the judiciary. That fall from grace has never been equalled, nor have we, as a nation, ever risen out of the abyss.

In the end, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah paid a heavy price.   They lost everything they had worked for decades.

[4].  So also counsel who fought so bravely

These lawyers fought for so long and against so many odds – starting with Raja Aziz Addruse, Cyrus Das, Cecil Abraham, Varughese George, Porres Royan, RR Sethu, Manjeet Singh Dhillon and Wilfred Abraham: [there were other lawyers, they are too numerous to mention].

[5].  Or that intrepid group of lawyers who marched into Parliament …

What of the group including K. Siva Segara, who calmly marched into Parliament, were arrested, and lived to tell the tale? And K. Siva Segara, sile-nadedly too his case up to the Court of Appeal and won? And set an example for us all?

Or the Rapporteur to the United Nations, Param Cumaraswamy, who found himself charged in his own country for speaking the truth?

[6].  Can they not at least – and at long last  – gain our appreciation?

Many are the legends—but who is there to recount their deeds, and to appreciate, for no matter how fleeting a moment, their unstinting gifts to us all?

It is a great pity that we have overlooked the contributions of so many women and men. Mere observances of silence, or the occasional wakes, or memorials, where only a small clutch of old friends are invited, are wholly inadequate.

[7].  I am sure senior lawyers and judges would be able to relive these historical events, only if we asked…

There are many super-seniors among us, and retired judges—only if we take the trouble to ask—who will be too happy to relate to us tales of such men and women. Among them are Tan Sri VC George and Dato Mahadev Shankar.

George Seah once famously said that ‘history would be my judge’.2 https://‘Crisis in the –The Hidden Story’, Dato Seri George Seah, 13 May 2005 12:00 am, for which see www.malaysianbar.org.my/article/news/legal-and-general-news/legal-news/crisis-in-the-judiciary 

How may history be his judge, unless his stainless deeds are preserved?

[8].  It is time to gather all the names of these knights and produce a record of their contributions in a book form

For example, some past interviews of judges or articles written by them, or their reminiscences, can be included. Their photographs,  pictures or specially commissioned paintings ought to adorn the halls of the Bar. Before every AGM, perhaps a brief video of 20 minutes can relate their contributions. We need to set up an archive so that at the drop of a hat, an exhibition or a talk can be organized.

We are all merely a package of our memories. You take away the memories, and you take away your personality.

We have to start now, before what little memory we have, fades…

(Wednesday, 08 March 2006)

 

 

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