Malacca Bar Annual Dinner MBAD 2022 (12 November 2022)

Members of the Bar, members of the Judiciary and other guests gathered at Ames Hotel for the first Malacca Bar Annual Dinner since the pandemic’s paralytic spell on the ‘old normal’ first arrived at our shores.

Three years had passed since the last Annual Dinner. It was a new location – a departure from the crowd favourite, Ramada Hotel – with many fresh and new faces.

But it almost felt like business as usual as members laughed the night away, entertained by each other – whether in the Best Dressed event, or as selected members attempted to dub the famous Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris scene in The Way of the Dragon, or as the pupils nervously but courageously made their way to the stage to perform.

Both Justice Anselm Charles Fernandis and the Malacca Bar Chairman emphasized the importance of the independence of both the Judiciary and the Bar in these troubled times – an important message that we should never tire of hearing.

Ms. Amber, took to the stage and delivered her welcoming speech as the second female Chairman of the Malacca Bar, paying homage to the influence of respected women in the profession and in the Judiciary and addressing the attacks on the independence of the Judiciary.

Justice Anselm Charles Fernandis, delivered a hearty speech on behalf of the Judiciary, revelling in the opportunity to “wear a Hawaiian shirt for the first time” in his life, and mourning the fact that his better half had protested strongly against his Lordship donning Bermuda shorts, slippers and a hibiscus.

His Lordship’s speech ended with what was allegedly (with utmost respect) Hawaiian for “Enjoy yourselves. Forget about the CPC and Rules of Court 2012 and let your hair down. Tonight is your night.”

That night was also Mr. Desmond Ho’s night, as he was called on stage to receive the Outstanding Personality Award for the year 2022, presented by Justice Anselm. A memorable quip from the slides read: “His hair and size have changed over the years, but his passion for the Bar never will!”

Tradition is an important element of this profession.

Honouring each other and our bond as brothers and sisters of a common cause is as much a time-honoured tradition as discharging our duties as advocates and solicitors with honour.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Below are some of the other photos taken to commemorate the event:

Malacca Bar Committee 2022/2023 together with YA Datuk Anselm Charles Fernandis and YA Tuan Mohd Radzi bin Abdul Hamid

The remaining photos of the night can be found at the following link:-

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1c-619g4nbIkahu2TIdyBcPNcr9bQT-u4

It was certainly a night to remember, and all who were present that night would surely echo the sentiments of our Chairman as she ended her speech:

In conclusion, allow me to thank Amritpal Singh, the Chairperson of the Malacca Bar Social Sub-Committee, and the members of his sub-committee, Radiance Chin, Desiree Teh, Angeline Koh and Sonia Kaur for their hard work in organizing tonight’s dinner. I also thank everyone who is in attendance tonight and took the effort to dress for the occasion, all of you made tonight’s function a huge success.

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Madam Chair’s speech is reproduced below for posterity:

Yang Arif Datuk Anselm Charles Fernandis, Yang Arif Tuan Mohd Radzi bin Abdul Hamid, Judges of the High Court of Malaya in Malacca, Puan Elesabet Paya Wan, Director of the Courts in Malacca, Ms Karen Cheah, President of the Malaysian Bar, Pn Murshidah, Treasurer of the Malaysian Bar, members of the Judicial & Legal Services in Malacca, Council members in attendance, fellow members of the Bar from near and far, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the Malacca Bar Committee, I welcome all of you to the Malacca Bar Annual Dinner of 2022. It is heartening to see so many familiar faces again after a long hiatus of over 3 years. “Annual” took a break due to some “aches”. The theme this year is “Hawaiian Night”, so it is only fitting that I begin my speech with the famous greeting – Aloha!  Tonight, the Malacca Bar is deeply honoured to have both our High Court Judges, Datuk Anselm and Tuan Mohd Radzi joining us for our annual dinner.

I vividly recall one evening at the Sri Zamrud hall in Multimedia University when I was still a pupil in chambers. The pupils then had just finished performance rehearsal for the 2013 Annual Dinner before the Malacca Bar Committee Members. Karen, who was there for the rehearsal, complimented us on our drama script. Although it was a group effort, I glowed with pride as the praise came from the then Chairman of Malacca Bar. For those of you who do not know this fact, Karen was the first female Chairman of Malacca Bar. Little did I know that 9 years later, I would be the second female to hold this position. Although Karen had since left Malacca for “greener pastures”, and going on to be the 3rd female President of the Malaysian Bar, words cannot describe how glad I am to see her back with us here tonight. So I heard, she would not miss our annual dinner and she still has a soft spot for Malacca Bar.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We stand on the precipice of a turning point in history. For the first time, we have a female Chief Justice. We have had a female Deputy Prime Minister, although in the short-lived PH government. Half the Office Bearers in the Malaysian Bar now are women, and women lawyers outnumber their male counterpart by 55%. As such, with me being up here, it is my privilege and honour to stand alongside the company of some of the respected individuals like Karen and Murshidah.

With the nation being embroiled in political turmoil, the people look to the judiciary as their last line of defence in a constitutional democracy. We have seen the Court take a steadfast position to defend its integrity and delivery justice rightfully without fear of favour.

Although it is natural for judges to receive criticism from parties aggrieved by the court’s decision, it is unacceptable that politicians and lawyers resort to making unjustifiable statements with the intent of sowing discord and misgiving among the rakyat against the Judiciary. Judges cannot publicly defend themselves, so when Karen issued a press statement to condemn the acts of all those involved, she was in turn hit by a lawsuit!

So you see, ladies and gentlemen, darks days are ahead of us, but not all hope is lost. It gives me great comfort to know that both the Judiciary and the Bar are currently being spearheaded by strong and fearless leaders. During the Oath Taking Ceremony of High Court Judges on 27th of April, 2022, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun called on all judges to not give up and be discouraged in performing their duties in accordance with the principles of the law by saying this, and I quote:

Under no circumstances should we falter. The integrity of the justice system and the independence of the Judiciary can never be compromised under any circumstances. Come what may, we must remain strong and resilient and be steadfast in upholding the Rule of Law. Whilst we cannot control the words or actions of some quarters who are bent on tarnishing or destroying the image of the Judiciary, it is within our control to ensure that no one meddles in our affairs. In other words, there can be no interference in the Judiciary if we judges do not allow that to happen.”

Her Ladyship’s words serve as a timely reminder that the Courts are beholden to no one but the law. The role of an advocate and solicitor complements the Bench, and a Bench is only as strong as its Bar. When the Bar is steadfast and courageous in speaking out against injustice, changes for the better will take place.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The practice of law is a profession. As a professional, the public expects high standards of discipline and integrity from us. A life of success cannot be achieved overnight. Instead, it is achieved by patience, perseverance, and passion. However, we must never let greed get in the way of doing what is right. A successful lawyer is not determined by the number of zeroes in his salary slip, but by the lives he/she has changed. Sonia Sotomayor who was the first woman of colour to serve in the Supreme Court of the United States of America once said this:

We educated, privileged lawyers have a professional and moral duty to represent the underrepresented in our society, to ensure that justice exists for all, both legal and economic justice.

To my fellow members of the Bar, there are many ways to practice law that extend beyond your own needs and interests. We must be true to our calling and use our abilities to help others. Contribute to our State Bar and the Bar Council by standing for election and serve in the various committees and sub-committees. Take on legal aid matters. Most of all, stand true to our principles. All we have is our reputation, so respect and help each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe I have taken up the better part of your evening. I was told that it is customary for the Chairman to deliver at least 4 pages of speech and end with a poem of sorts. I have not seen that from my time of pupillage so I assume that was how it was done prior to Karen being Chairman. I hope I have kept my speech short and to the point. I sincerely hope that I have not exhausted everyone’s patience.

In conclusion, allow me to thank Amritpal Singh, the Chairperson of the Malacca Bar Social Sub-Committee, and the members of his sub-committee, Radiance Chin, Desiree Teh, Angeline Koh and Sonia Kaur for their hard work in organizing tonight’s dinner. I also thank everyone who is in attendance tonight and took the effort to dress for the occasion, all of you made tonight’s function a huge success.

Mahalo and enjoy the rest of the evening.

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