Resolution adopted at the Extraordinary General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar (Friday, 11 May 2012)

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  • May 29, 2012
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Resolution adopted at the Extraordinary General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar, held at Sunway Putra Hotel, Kuala Lumpur (Friday, 11 May 2012)

Resolution in relation to the events of and surrounding the BERSIH 3.0 public assembly on 28 April 2012, and matters in connection therewith


Motion proposed by Lim Chee Wee (Chairman, Bar Council), on behalf of the Bar Council, dated 4 May 2012

(As amended)

Whereas:

(A)  A public assembly was called for and organised by BERSIH 2.0, a coalition of 84 NGOs, on 28 April 2012 for electoral reforms.  The public assembly was commonly known as BERSIH 3.0;

(B)  Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur refused to allow the assembly at Dataran Merdeka, as chosen by the organisers, and insisted on the use of alternative venues;

(C)  Despite the Minister of Home Affairs having twice asserted that the BERSIH 3.0 assembly was not a security threat, the police obtained an ex parte order from the Magistrates’ Court on the evening of 26 April 2012 restraining Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, the organisers of the BERSIH assembly and members of the public from gathering at Dataran Merdeka;

(D)  The police announced, after obtaining the court order, that participants were permitted to gather at various points in Kuala Lumpur, except Dataran Merdeka;

(E)  It has been reported by various news agencies that there were between approximately 30,000 to 250,000 people gathered for the assembly in Kuala Lumpur on 28 April 2012.  The Malaysian Bar monitoring team estimated the crowd to be at least 100,000 people;

(F)  The crowd that gathered that day reflected a broad cross-section of Malaysian society, and was peaceful;

(G)  There were police barriers set up at every point/road leading to Dataran Merdeka, most of which consisted of metal gates, water-filled dividers and razor wire;

(H) There was massive police presence: approximately 14,000 personnel were reportedly deployed (including personnel from the Federal Reserve Unit) together with water cannons.  It was observed that a substantial number of police personnel did not display their police identification numbers on their uniforms;

(I)  At approximately 2:35 pm the organisers of the assembly, through its Co-Chairperson Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, announced that the assembly had concluded and requested that the crowd disperse;

(J)  The police were initially restrained.  However, this changed at approximately 3:00 pm, when there was a reported breach of the perimeter barriers set up at the junction of Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja;

(K)  The police then responded by unleashing water cannon and firing successive volleys of tear gas directly into the crowd gathered at that junction, and along Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut.  Similar police action was reported at other points where crowds had gathered;

(L)  The Malaysian Bar’s monitoring teams reported witnessing the use of heavy-handed tactics by the police, including the indiscriminate discharging of multiple rounds of tear gas directly into the crowds, without any obvious provocation, and the arbitrary use of water cannons;

(M)  The police also directed their use of water cannon and firing of tear gas to box in participants rather than allowing them to disperse quickly.  As participants retreated, the police should have re-established their barriers and given sufficient time to the crowd to disperse in an orderly and safe manner, instead of chasing participants and persistently shooting water cannon and firing tear gas on them.  It appeared that the purpose of the police was not to disperse, but to attack, the crowd;

(N)  Random, widespread and wanton physical assault and brutality by the police on members of the public and media professionals have been reported.  It has further been reported that there was confiscation and/or destruction of photographs and video recordings made by members of the public and media professionals, and damage caused to their recording equipment;

(O)  There were unwarranted arrests of members of the public and media professionals.  The police also arrested Members of the Bar who had participated in the public assembly.  Whilst in the care and custody of the police, at least three of these Members were physically assaulted and beaten, and suffered serious injuries;

(P)  In response to the use of force by the police, sections of the crowd resorted to retaliatory acts, including the throwing of stones and bottles.  The police responded like for like.  These skirmishes between the police and sections of the crowd carried on until approximately 7:00 pm;

(Q)  The police have failed to display the maturity, discipline and restraint required of a professional force.  Instead of acting to calm the situation, they aggravated it and contributed to its escalation;

(QA) The findings and recommendations of the previous four SUHAKAM public inquiries, regarding the incidents at Kesas Highway (2001), KLCC (2007), Bandar Mahkota Cheras (2008) and the BERSIH 2.0 public assembly (2012), do not appear to have been put into consistent practice by the police;

(R)  It has been reported that the organisers of the BERSIH 3.0 assembly had not made sufficient efforts to manage the crowds or to resolve the impasse between the police and the crowds;

(S)  It has been reported that between 388 and 513 persons were arrested and taken to Pusat Latihan Polis (“PULAPOL”), Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.  The Malaysian Bar’s urgent arrest team, comprising members of the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre (Kuala Lumpur) and volunteer lawyers, were present at PULAPOL to assist and represent the arrested persons.  However, the police refused to allow them access to the arrested persons despite repeated requests by both the lawyers present and the arrested persons.  This denial of access to legal representation is a violation of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code;

(T)  The right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression, and to assemble peaceably, is enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution as well as Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

(U)  The right of every person to life and liberty, including the right not to be assaulted or harmed, is enshrined in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution as well as Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and

(V)  The Malaysian Government, as a member of UNESCO, is aware of the Medellin Declaration on Securing the Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity, adopted at the UNESCO Conference on Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity on World Press Freedom Day 2007;


Now it is hereby resolved that with respect to the events of and surrounding the BERSIH 3.0 public assembly on 28 April 2012 in Kuala Lumpur:

(1)    The Malaysian Bar views with grave concern, and condemns:

(a)    the excessive, indiscriminate and wrongful use of water cannons and tear gas by the police on participants of the assembly;

(b)    the action of the police in not allowing the crowd sufficient time to disperse in an orderly and safe manner, and instead chasing the participants and attacking them by persistently shooting water cannon and tear gas on them;

(c)    the tactics of the police in trapping and attacking the participants with water cannon and tear gas instead of permitting them to disperse;

(d)    the random, widespread and wanton physical assault and brutality by the police on members of the public and media professionals;

(e)    the unwarranted arrests of members of the public, media professionals and Members of the Bar, and the physical assault and beating of at least three arrested Members;

(f)    the unjustifiable and unlawful confiscation and/or destruction of photographs and video recordings made by members of the public and media professionals, and damage caused to their recording equipment; and

(g)    the lack of discipline and professionalism of the police;

(2)    The Malaysian Bar calls for the police to identify their personnel involved in the misconduct and unlawful acts and surrender all the wrongdoers, in particular those who assaulted members of the public, media professionals and lawyers, for prosecution;

(3)    The Malaysian Bar renews our call on the Government to give effect to the recommendation of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission recommended therein, without further delay;

(4)    The Malaysian Bar calls for the Minister of Home Affairs and the Inspector General of Police to issue a public apology for the actions and conduct of the police, including the excessive, indiscriminate and wrongful use of water cannons and tear gas;

(5)    The Malaysian Bar calls for the Minister of Home Affairs and the Inspector General of Police to issue a public apology to members of the public, media professionals and lawyers who were assaulted or beaten by the police;

(6)    The Malaysian Bar calls for the setting up of an independent commission to recommend and formulate proper guidelines or operating procedures governing conduct of police in the control and management of public assemblies, and the use of non-lethal and lethal weapons, which would be in accordance with internationally-accepted standards, in particular the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979) and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials 1990;

(7)    The Malaysian Bar calls on the Government to pay just and proper compensation to members of the public, media professionals and lawyers who were assaulted;

(8)    The Malaysian Bar condemns the police for denying lawyers access to arrested persons and calls upon the police to abide by and give effect to Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code;

(9)    The Bar Council will look into how it can assist those denied their constitutional rights and those who were assaulted to pursue claims against the relevant parties for just and proper compensation;

(10)    The Malaysian Bar calls on the Government, in line with the Medellin Declaration, to:

(a)    prevent crimes against media professionals, investigate and penalise such crimes, provide witness protection for those testifying about them and ensure that the perpetrators do not go unpunished;

(b)    promote awareness and train Malaysian law enforcement agencies to respect and promote the safety of media professionals, and ensure that they are able to work in full security and independence; and

(c)    take resolute action for the safety of media professionals and ensure respect for their professional independence;

(11)    The Malaysian Bar calls on Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur to uphold freedom of assembly and the right of all to utilise Dataran Merdeka for public assemblies; and

(12)    The Malaysian Bar reaffirms the right of individuals to participate in public assemblies.  The Malaysian Bar is however concerned by, and does not countenance, any acts of violence in a public rally.  Such action by participants is not an appropriate response to the police.  Such right of public assembly must be exercised in a peaceful and responsible manner.  The Malaysian Bar reminds organisers of public assemblies of their responsibility to take all reasonable action to ensure a peaceful assembly.  The Malaysian Bar is equally concerned by reports that certain persons had crossed through the police perimeter barriers at the relevant location when the said organisers had at about 2:35 pm called for a dispersal of the assembly.

The motion, as amended, was put to a vote and carried by a majority (939 votes in favour, 16 against, with no abstentions).

(398)


Court Listings : Updated 28 May-1 June 2012

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  • May 25, 2012
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  1. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 28 May-1 June 2012.YA Datuk Halijah)
  2. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 28 May-1 June 2012.YA Dato Nasfy)
  3. Deputy Registrar 1 & 2 (Updated 28 May-1 June 2012.TP)
  4. Senior Assistant Registrar (Updated 28 May-1 June 2012.PKP Pn Sasha)

(376)


Court Listings : Updated 21-25 May 2012

  • By AdminL
  • May 18, 2012
  • Comments Off on Court Listings : Updated 21-25 May 2012
  1. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 21-25 May 2012.YA Datuk Halijah)
  2. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 21-25 May 2012.YA Dato Nasfy)
  3. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 21-25 May 2012.YA Dato Ahmadi)
  4. Deputy Registrar 1 & 2 (Updated 21-25 May 2012.TP)
  5. Senior Assistant Registrar (Updated 21-25 May 2012.PKP Pn Sasha)

(355)


Court Listings : Updated 14-18 May 2012

  • By AdminL
  • May 14, 2012
  • Comments Off on Court Listings : Updated 14-18 May 2012
  1. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 14-18 May 2012.YA Datuk Halijah)
  2. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 14-18 May 2012.YA Dato Nasfy)
  3. Deputy Registrar 1 & 2 (Updated 14-18 May 2012.TP)
  4. Senior Assistant Registrar (Updated 14-18 May 2012.PKP Pn Sasha)

(349)


What Led Me to the ‘Law’ (Studies) (as a ‘Discipline’): A Personalized Account and a Few Spillover Comments

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  • May 7, 2012
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What Led Me to the ‘Law’ (Studies) (as a ‘Discipline’): A Personalized Account and a Few Spillover Comments*

By Myint Zan

On 8 January 2012 I sent a ‘common e mail’  to some of my Sayas (teachers), colleagues, friends and former students on the occasion of the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday. In my e mail I wrote about  how I bought the great scientist’s best seller  A Brief History of Time a few days earlier and read it within 50 hours and how I understand roughly about 80% but no more than 90% of the book even though, for a few sentences, I re-read up to a dozen times.

Professor Melford Spiro, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at San Diego sent me a brief note and I quote”

Given your wide-ranging intellectual interests, I have always wondered what led you to the law which, you will admit, is not the broadest of disciplines. Could you favor me with an explanation?

The following is an extensive and elaborate version of my long explanation of why I took ‘law’ after passing my High School Examination in Burma a few decades ago. In the process of writing it I have ‘meandered’ through some of my intellectual interests, the predicament I had faced as a law student in Burma, snippets of information on the personnel and personalities in teaching law in Burma during those times and aspects of legal education in Burma and some of my reminiscences.

I agree with Professor Spiro  (indeed I can say that I ‘admit’ ) almost completely that ‘law is not the broadest of disciplines’ Just about half an hour before I received Professor Spiro’s e mail I was thinking of a comment by a  colleague (an academic in the ‘discipline’ of law teaching who I understand I teaching mainly non-law students) in another campus of Multimedia University when during a guest lecture in 2009 she said (not her exact words) that law  is the greatest of all disciplines because whether one is a medical doctor or a physicist one   have to go  to lawyers if they have legal problems.

I was somewhat disconcerted by her comment. In September 2009 at the University of Michigan Law School 150th anniversary celebrations which I attended[1] United States Chief Justice John Roberts stated in effect that he was skeptical  of courses  which starts with ‘law and …’ such as ‘law and literature’ ‘law and social justice’.[2] My colleague had stated during the same seminar which she mentioned about the primacy of law and just falls short of (indeed she may actually have done so) stating explicitly that  law is the greatest discipline that she is a ‘positivist’. I submit that though the two remarks made by the Chief Justice of the United States and by my law colleagues though made in different contexts in praising the dominance of law (my colleague) and ‘purity’ of law[3] (in that interdisciplinary perspectives on law are mentioned in an ironic manner) my colleague Chief Justice John Roberts share a similar and narrow outlook. I do not intend to dwell further on this topic though since my intention is not to delve into these issues but to give an introduction to ‘what led me to (the) law’.

In Burma when a student matriculates from High School what specialization or courses a student can take  in Burmese  Universities  are determined on the marks a student obtained at the Matriculation examination (which at that time I matriculated) is diversified into science and arts disciplines.[4]

Before I passed my matriculation examination I sincerely do not know what I wanted to study at University. Though I was not that opposed to studying medicine (as both my parents are medical doctors) I am also not that keen for it.

When I passed my Matriculation Examination though I got distinctions in both in English and Burmese languages.  I am the only person in the whole of Burma APART FROM THE RANGOON DIVISION who obtained distinctions in both subjects that is English and Burmese in the Matriculation examination. I know this because in the year I passed the Matriculation examination the roll number of the students who passed the Matriculation examination (apart from the Rangoon Division that is all of the 13 States and Divisions)[5] were published in two Burmese language newspapers Loke Thar Pyithunayzin and Yangon newspapers and I checked (apart from the Rangoon Division) if a candidate gets distinction in English he or she does not get distinction in Burmese and vice versa. To the best of my memory and recall apart from Rangoon Division in the remaining 13 States and divisions there were 13 or 14 students those who get distinction in English and there were 12 or 13 students who get distinction in Burmese. None of the students who got distinction in Burmese got distinctions in English and none of the students who got distinction in English got distinctions in Burmese in the 13 States and Divisions in the year that I passed the Matriculation Examination. Hence Apart from Rangoon Division in the whole country in the year that I passed the Matriculation Examination there were more students who got distinction in English than in Burmese and I am the only person who got distinction in both subjects.

During the year I matriculated the authorities announced the opening of English major course (The majoring in English was abolished in 1965 but reintroduced that year).  In order to be eligible for the English major course a candidate must (1) obtained distinction in English and (2) only 15 students from the whole country would be taken in those course.

I have heard that there was a student who had already passed her second year botany (all arts and sciences courses were 4 years courses at that time) who applied back to get enrolled in the new English major first year (thus ‘forfeiting’ two years of her study as a Botany major) since that was a ‘new’ and ‘elitist’ course and only fifteen students were admitted into that course!

Both my parents my late father Dr. San Baw and my mother Dr. Myint Myint Khin did not encourage me to take English major. They are joined by my late Uncle Dr. Myint Thein (an Anatomist) and his widow my Aunty (and my mother’s sister) Dr. Tin Tin Toe (a Microbiologist). Those who urged me to take English major were  my late High School headmistress Daw Saw Myint who taught me and my batch English in the matriculation class , my former English teacher at St. Peter’s High School in Mandalay the late M. A. Williams, the teacher who taught me English in the ninth standard U Thar Win (who shared teaching of English with my late head mistress Daw Saw Myint at the tenth standard and then  Head of the Department of Philosophy at Mandalay University Daw Kyi Kyi Hla,[6] former Commissioner of Mandalay Division during the period of 1958 to 1961 the late U Ba Latt.[7] But my parents’ suggestion prevailed and I take law. My parents pointed out that law is a profession but ‘English’ major is not.

I should say that my marks in the Matriculation Examination were such that I am ‘ineligible’ to apply for Medicine and Dentistry[8] (the disciplines which attract the highest marks then and still now) and I might (or not) be able to get admitted to the lesser rank Engineering disciplines such as Mining and Metallurgy but not the higher rank Mechanical engineering and Chemical engineering departments. When I broached about (not to suggest that I want to apply)  for engineering to study my late father said to me in English ‘do whatever you want but don’t make our lives a misery’ and then in Burmese you are unpractical you do not know how to use hands properly that might make me unfit to be an engineer. I agree.

When I was studying my first year law at Rangoon Arts and Science University[9] Khabaung Hall (Hall of residence) at Thamaing of Rangoon University I often visit my friends at nearby hostel (Inlay Hall and Singu Hall) who were studying engineering when I saw them working with slide rules etc I wrote to my parents in Mandalay in English and paraphrasing Ludwig Wittgenstein statement to Bertrand Russell after Wittgenstein asked Russell whether he was a ‘complete idiot or not’. Russell said to him ‘my dear fellow: I do not know. Why do you ask?’ and Wittgenstein replied ‘If I am a complete idiot, I will become an aeronaut, if not I will become a philosopher’. Russell apparently asked Wittgenstein to write an essay during the vacation to help suggest Wittgenstein’s career path. When Wittgenstein brought the essay, Russell wrote, after reading the first sentence of Wittgenstein’s essay that he (Wittgenstein) ‘must on no account become an aeronaut’.[10]I  Paraphrasing Wittgenstein and Russell I wrote to my parents that I am glad that I did not take engineering  for I do not want to become a ‘complete idiot’! [11]

There were two other persons who advised me not to take either English or law- the viable disciplines available to me when I matriculated. The late Dr. Shwe Ban a pathologist and a graduate of University of Sydney (Diploma in Pathology, 1967) wrote me a letter in English stating that majoring either in English or in Burmese will not be useful. And he wrote ‘people will talk about law’ but he also said about the unsuitability of law. I have forgotten what Dr. Shwe Ban wrote in not suggesting taking up law nor do I clearly recall the reasons he urged me to take economics. But the importance of economists’ role in the world stage can be discerned easily nowadays and I can fully understand why Dr Shwe Ban gave his suggestion.[12]

Years later my mother told me that the then Head of the Department of Physics at Mandalay University the late U Kyaw Myint suggested to my mother that I should take physics since physics is philosophical and requires thinking (of course also experiments) and I have those qualities, according to him. My interest in both theoretical physics (written for the general public), history and philosophy of science and also evolutionary paleontology (mainly due to the late Stephen Jay Gould and more recently and to a lesser extent to the late Ernst Mayr’s inspiring writings for the general public)[13] perhaps is an indication that he was right at least as far as my philosophical interests are concerned. Though I would admit that does not mean I can become a theoretical physicist or even that I would get a degree in physics had I taken the course!

So, as written in Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage when Maugham’s protagonist “Philip’ was contemplating a career ‘only the law remained’ but Philip ending up taking medicine but I actually ended up taking law. NONE of my 130 class mates who took law in the year I joined Rangoon Arts and Science University would have been eligible to take English major since not only a distinction in English was necessary in the Matriculation examination but also only 15 students are to be admitted into the course. And apart from myself NONE of my classmates in the entering first year law course got distinctions in English. It is quite likely though that ALL of the 15 students admitted to English major courses would have been eligible to take law had they applied for it. Moreover even though all the English major candidates have distinctions in English none of the 15 students who took English major has got distinction in Burmese like I did. I was the ONLY person in both English and law majors at least in the year that I joined the University to get distinctions in both subjects.

When the English major inaugural course was open there was at least one article in the English language newspaper (published in Rangoon) The Guardian which ‘welcomes the English majors’ and when 14 of them graduated f (out of fifteen or sixteen students admitted into the English major course in their first year) there was also another Letters to the Editor in The Guardian (Rangoon) welcoming them as graduates of the new course. No such articles of ‘welcome’ either for the entering or graduating class of the law majors was made in any of Burma’s newspapers.

In my five years as a law student at Rangoon University Law Department I suffered quite a bit in part because of the perversions of the judicial system[14] and also in part because at least a few of the teaching staff[15] at Rangoon Law Department -and including the then Head of the Department- were what can be somewhat crudely but not incorrectly called ‘Party hacks’[16] As for the medium of teaching unlike in the English majors at that time apart from the compulsory English language subject in the first and second years ALL the subjects at that time has to be answered in Burmese.

Since 2007 I have been teaching, among others, the subject of Jurisprudence at the School of Law of Multimedia University. In my Rangoon University law department days Jurisprudence was taught by a lady teacher. A few years after reading in 2006 the late Ken Kessey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest first published in 1962. it occurred to me that my Jurisprudence teacher’s attitude, aloofness and certain aspects of her demeanor and actions remind me of one of the protagonist or ‘anti-hero’ (or ‘anti-heroine’) of the novel Nurse Ratched.[17] She (the jurisprudence teacher) was so stern and unapproachable that I was afraid to ask her directly whether or not I can answer one question out of four questions (all in Burmese) in the first term exam in Jurisprudence that was held on in the third year so I asked a tutor (later the person becomes Professor) whether I can answer one exam question in English. He said go ahead and I did. The Christmas holidays came and I went for a two week visit from Rangoon to Mandalay during the Christmas break of that year. Earlier in the New Year when the new term starts in front of a class  of about 120 students the Jurisprudence she chided me for answering ‘half fish, half toad (in Burmese, phar ta baing ngar ta baing) and that I should answer either all in English or all in Burmese.[18] I felt if not humiliated then at least embarrassed by that and the fact that I still recall this to date is if not a testament of my resentment then at least to the fact that I did not forget this condescended chiding and her subsequent aloof-nay at times arrogant- demeanor.

I explained what had occurred to Daw Kyi Kyi Hla who had suggested to me that I took English major and who have been transferred from Mandalay to Rangoon University as Head of the Philosophy Department. Daw Kyi Kyi Hla advised me that since I can answer also perfectly well in Burmese I should not answer any exam questions in English and asked me to answer only in Burmese. Daw Kyi Kyi Hla stated that some of the Lecturers -and certainly the Jurisprudence teacher- would consider answering exam questions in English to be a ‘challenge’ or an effrontery to them. . Due to the unhappiness that I experienced in the Law department days at Rangoon University I occasionally visited both Daw Kyi Kyi Hla and the late U Ba Latt and complained about the rigidity and to put it mildly the ‘stuffy’ atmosphere of my student life at the Rangoon Law Department.

At least on one occasion Daw Kyi Kyi Hla told me in English ‘You should have taken English (major)’ and U Ba Latt said to me in Burmese ‘didn’t I tell you so’. But I preserved and bore the discrimination and -let’s not beat about the bush- the insolence of a few of the teachers at the Rangoon University Law Department.  The above illustration being is only one example of the awkward predicament I encountered in part of my law studies. I did complete the five year LLB course. In my final year LLB course I am one of two students out of a total of about 120 students who wrote my thesis (then a requirement to graduate with an LLB) in English.

For at least a decade now among Burmese Universities the law students have to (apparently) answer the exam questions ‘in English’. I deliberately use the word ‘in English’ in quotation marks  as the following encapsulated account of the medium of teaching and students writing their answer papers ‘in English’ would, I hope, explain. I have seen at least the notes of some subjects taught in the Law Departments of various Universities. The notes are written for most subjects in English but the teaching even at post graduate (Master of Laws) level in the classes that I have attended at now Yangon are predominantly in Burmese. ‘Jurisprudence’ in the current Yangon University Distance Education course is a first year subject and the notes consisted of no more than 20 pages and very few if any jurist name with the possible exception of John Austin is mentioned perfunctorily in a few sentences.

A niece of mine matriculated in the year 2005 and after taken the four-year LLB course most of the subjects being ‘taught in English’ she passed it in 2009.  In virtually every sentence of the roughly 30 page booklet on the subject Jurisprudence she has written translation in Burmese of most of the words in Burmese. Sometime in 2011 she was one among at least a thousand candidates (if not more) who sat for written in the subjects of (basic) law, English and Burmese languages for the Prosecutor Grade 4 (Grade 4 being the lowest and Grade 1 being the highest) in Burma.

My niece does not know the difference between ‘judge’ and ‘prosecutor; in the English language. She is working as a clerk in Rangoon in a travel agency after graduation and when we chat on line with me she said she sat for an exam for ‘judge’. Later on I discovered that the exam that she sat for is not for ‘judge’ position but for ‘prosecutor’ position (when she wrote to me in Burmese). I would say that the worst of my worst Malaysian students whom I have given 5 marks out of 50 in a final exam is much better than her I terms of at least passing familiarity with the basics of the English language. In frustration, I wrote in English ‘god … (expletive deleted opposite of ‘bless’) education system’. She did not understand the meaning of that phrase and asked me in Burmese what does that phrase mean!

I may be permitted to give a few personal examples of those who have graduated with an LLB or at least some law students’ lack of basic English writing skills. In 2005 I was writing an article ‘Legal Education in Burma’[19] and mentioned about then first year student by correspondence in law at Yangon University of Distant Education. She works as a clerk or as a sales person in a camera shop in Rangoon. I told her that I am writing an article entitled ‘Legal Education in Burma’ and asked her what the meaning of that sentence is. I clearly remember that she knew the meaning of education but could not tell me what ‘legal’ means! Since this was seven years ago I am almost certain that the candidate has now graduated with a law degree.

I personally know another person who has now in the year 2009 obtained a law degree from the Yangon University of Distance Education. During his third year of law studies in the year 2005 I interviewed this third-year LLB by distance education student and asked him to read from the Preface of the course materials of the course ‘The Law of Contract’ Module Law No. 213 A, Distance Education University, Yangon). In fact he was unable to tell me in Burmese what the word ‘Preface’ meant. I patiently waited over fifteen minutes for the student to translate (in a very rough manner) the last sentence in the Preface which reads: ‘The student should digest the provisions under Section 10 [of the Contracts Act 1872] which covers all the essential ingredients to become a valid contract’. In reading the ‘Preface’ the third-year LLB student by distance education was unable to tell me what the words ‘consent’, ‘previously’, ‘prepare’, ‘terms’, ‘valid’. ‘essentials’, ‘consequences’, ‘breach’, ‘specific’ meant though he knew the term ‘void’ and correctly identified what the phrase ‘void contract’ means. Yet he did not know the meaning of the term ‘valid contract’! The one-hour I spent with then third-year law student (now law graduate) was an exercise in frustration, since it took me over an hour just to go through five sentences that are written in the Preface. Though the student knew the meaning of the words ‘can’ he was unable to tell me the meaning of the phrase ‘I must go to school’ or ‘I should go to school’. Yet the student passed his Contract Law exam and is now a LLB graduate though thankfully he has not applied for a practicing license.[20]

Yet one more recent example can be given of a graduate not of a (mere) Bachelor of Laws but a Master of Laws (LLM) graduate from the University of Mandalay whom I met and briefly interviewed in September 2011.[21] I showed him a copy of my article ‘Woe Unto Ye Lawyers: Three Royal Orders from Early 17th Century Burma’.[22] He did not know the meaning of the word ‘Woe’ and seem to be lost with the meaning of the title and when he read the first paragraph of my article he also seemed to be at a loss. In order not to embarrass him I did not question him as to the meaning of the words I used in the article as I did question the now LLB (non-practicing graduate) in 2005 but the standard of the students and English language proficiency of the students  can now be gleaned.

Coming back to my own (reluctant and at times) unhappy ‘legal education’ in Burma I can say that more than 90% of the entering law class graduated and though I know of a few of my class mates (and only one of them I am in very occasional contact by e mail- two other persons I am only in phone contact during my visits to Burma in recent years) whereabouts and keep in touch with them. Since the graduating class was about 120 students it is difficult to learn the whereabouts of even a few of my former class mates.

One of my distant cousins is now what is called in English translation ‘Chief Attorney’ of a State: one of 14 such posts in the country. He was one year my junior in the law course at Rangoon University. In his first year law course I recall that I had the chance to look at his notes on the subject ‘Introduction to Law’. The Lecturer at that time was the elderly retired High Court Judge the late U Chan Tun Aung. The Lecturer had mentioned the then highest court ‘Chief Court’ in his Lectures and my cousin now one of 14 Chief Attorneys in the country have written ‘cheap code’!

Two more examples from the Lectures given by two different Lectures can be given here. In the fourth year law class one of the subjects taught was ‘Constitutional Law’ more appropriately entitled to be stated as sole political propaganda which was taught by a ‘party hack’ of the then sole and ruling Burma Socialist Programme Party and the whole course of ‘Constitutional Law’ was indeed a genuflection of how great the Burmese one-party Constitution of 1947 were and the denigration of ‘capitalist Constitutions’ such as those of India and the United States and the comparison were made solely with the then Eastern European one-party Constitutions. I clearly remember dictating to the class the Constitution of ‘Yugoslovakia’ [sic] (when he either meant Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia!)

Another fourth year law course we were taught was ‘Law of the United Nations and other International Institutions’ where the Lecturer mentioned during her about UN history after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt ‘President Wilson took over from President Roosevelt’ [sic]. I checked the notes of my ‘seniors’ and there I found the same information in my senior’s notes. Party hacks teaching unadulterated party propaganda as ‘Constitutional Law’, arrogant and unfriendly teacher chiding me about ‘half-fish, half-tad pole’ answers, ‘Yugoslovakia’ and Woodrow Wilson succeeding Franklin Roosevelt as President of the United States comprise some of the stuff I have to go through in legal education in Burma and one can I hope understand my unhappiness and my at times regrets of having taken up to study law.

I am more aware of the whereabouts and ‘status’ of the first batch of English major graduates, the ‘class mates that never were’ and I may be allowed to mention about them a few by names (since they are if not complimentary at least ‘content-neutral’ to quote an American constitutional term).

The entering class English major class was of about fifteen students and among them fourteen graduated. One of them did not graduate for personal reasons since that person became ‘romantically involved’ with an actor and then had to withdraw from the English major course where it was taught at the Institute of Education in Rangoon and have to go back to her home town over 400 miles north in Mandalay and completed a degree in history major at Mandalay University.[23] In recent years I have seen her writings in Burmese in Burmese magazines.

Another probably the most ‘prominent’ among them is Deputy Foreign Minister in the current ‘Myanmar’  government and he is Dr. Myo Myint (Ph.D. probably in linguistics , probably from a United Kingdom University) . Dr. Myo Myint was the Myanmar government official who greeted United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the airport in Naypyidaw on 30 November 2011.[24]Subject to correction, I am of the opinion that among the fourteen English major graduates Dr. Myo Myint is the only person to obtain a Doctoral degree from a foreign institution.[25]

Yet another English major graduate (first batch) is Daw Su Su Lwin. She is daughter of the late U Lwin who was one of the leaders of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). U Lwin passed away recently. Daw Suu Suu Lwin is also the daughter-in-law of the late esteemed Burmese poet Minthuwun[26]. She is standing for election in one of the 48 seats to the Myanmar Legislature as a candidate from the National League for Democracy which is to be held on 1 April 2012.

Five of the fourteen English major graduates now live and work in Australia. One of them is perhaps the most-well known at least to some mainly in the rural populace in Burma She is the coordinator of the Burmese language radio broadcasts made daily in Burmese and for half an hour a day since November 2009  . Since August 2010 I have been interviewed on or given short talks on Radio Australia Burmese service in the Burmese language on a variety of topics. The interviews and talks include about eminent leaders and personages both internationally and domestically[27]and also partly about aspects of international law and legal philosophy[28]and possible topic of general scientific interest[29] I have given talks about 25 times in the Burmese language on Radio Australia Burmese service. During at least some of those interviews, my interviewer or host was Daw Khin Mar Win also known by the name of Cheri Mangrai who is the coordinator of the Burmese language service of Radio Australia.

Among the class mates that never was (but could have been) of the 14 major graduates I have met four of them.  They were Daw Khin Mar Win whom I first met in 1995 and Daw Su Su Lwin whom as I write is about to stand for election to the Burmese legislature and candidate for the National League for Democracy whom I first met in 2005. I met Dr. Myo Myint albeit briefly at the conference on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Burma Historical Commission Conference in 2005. The other person I have met was the one who did not complete her English major studies and who have to return to Mandalay from Rangoon because of her romantic entanglements whom I met in a friend’s house in Mandalay a few decades earlier.

In one sense I have few regrets (but may be ‘a few regrets’ ) in taking law but especially at least once a month may be four or five times a month ( and perhaps more than that when I am writing this article these past few weeks) I wonder what would my ‘life-direction’ have been IF I have taken ‘English major’.[30]

.

Finally, this reminiscence, story-telling and (if you will) part ‘dirge’ (about the low standards of the legal education in Burma which in my view is about fifty years behind Malaysia explained above) may be ended with what a few may consider a ‘boast’ but I put it here not merely or even manly as a boast but as a record. Soon after I decided (mainly at my parents’ suggestion) though -somewhat short of insistence I would say- to opt for law (rather than the then) new English major course one of my high school friends Kyaw Myint Aung wrote me a letter the first part of which reads (and I quote from my firm memory) the degrees or qualifications that he predicted that I would have in (from the perspective of the past) then quite far away future. Kyaw Myint Aung wrote that in the future I would obtain these degrees:

U Myint Zan, BA, LLB (Rangoon)

Then in the next line he wrote:

Dr. Myint Zan , BA, LLB (Rangoon), LL.M. (London), J.S.D (Yale), Barrister-at-Law (Of Lincoln’s Inn)

and he said when I become (in the future) Chief Justice of the Union (of Burma)  or Supreme Court of the Union[31] not to forget him (which he wrote in Burmese) the equivalent in Burmese language of ‘God forbid’ that I would still remember him in case he had fallen as a soldier (graduate) of the Defense Services Academy.[32]

Kyaw Myint Aung in his letter to me urge me to take subjects which (according to him) were more amenable to get job such as Dentistry and Engineering writing that ‘interest in the subject and technical competence’ in them can be developed later. I would write that my ‘aggregate marks’ are such that they were not enough to myself being admitted to Dentistry and perhaps to  all branches of Engineering which I did not apply in any case. Generally, at least at the time in Burma, separate institutes such as Institutes of Medicine[33] and (Rangoon) Institute of Technology[34] are considered more ‘prestigious’ than majors (i.e. majoring in such subjects as Chemistry, History, Zoology) in the Arts and Sciences Universities ‘Bucking the trend’ when I applied for admission to the Colleges one has to fill one ‘choices’ in order of preference. Most  applicants for admission to Burmese Universities (including one person mentioned above who graduated in English from the Institute of Education put their first choice) to the professional institutes the English major graduate’s first choice not being ‘English major’ but Dentistry. Apparently she did not get enough marks to get admitted to the ‘Institute of Dentistry’ but then get admitted to ‘English major’ since she got a distinction in English. For myself my first choice was law, my second choice being ‘English’ major (the choices being ‘majors’ first and then my third and fourth choices the ‘Institutes’ (Institute of Economics) and Rangoon Institute of Technology.

Be that as it may the degrees or academic qualifications in law that I obtained were not exactly (except for the Rangoon B.A, LL.B, which I obtained) as Kyaw Myint Aung predicted a few decades ago they do but roughly parallel Kyaw Myint Aung’s predictions. More than three decades after Kyaw Myint Aung’s writing about my then supposed future putative degrees the actual academic qualifications that I obtained are:

Dr. Myint Zan

B.A, LL.B (Rangoon)

LL.M. (University of Michigan),[35] M. Int. Law (Australian National University)[36], Ph.D. (Griffith University)[37]

I do not have a Barrister from any of the Inns of Courts of England as Kyaw Myint Aung wrongly predicted those years ago and my Master of Laws degree is also not from the University of London. My doctorate[38] is not from Yale University also. And (to repeat) I am NOT a Supreme Court judge in Burma though I can sincerely say that I do not aspire to become one nor do I regret that I do not become a Supreme Court Judge or Chief Justice of Burma under the circumstances that prevailed in the Burmese judiciary including its apex courts during the past few decades.[39]

I will now end my narration initially prompted by a ‘query’ from Professor Melford Spiro’s as to ‘what led me to law’. I realize that I have embarked on a lot of ‘extra’ materiel and wanderings as well as the elaboration of my regrets. I also hope I have given some information as to aspects of Burmese education, under especially during my Rangoon University days. I realize that not all that I mentioned are ‘diplomatic’ and a few perhaps too frank (or if I want to put a positive spin) ‘honest’. I appreciate the chance to write this article and for those who had ‘persevered’ to read my recollections I thank you for your patience and indulgence.


*This article was initially prompted and by an electronic mail query by Emeritus Professor Melford Spiro of University of California at San Diego and based on an extensive elaboration my personal reply to him as why ‘led me to the study of law’ and as a person who had ‘triggered’ this article I would like to dedicate it to Professor Melford Spiro, in commemoration of his 92nd birthday due on 26 April 2012.

[1] I am a graduate (Master of Laws, 1982) of the University of Michigan Law School.

[2] I do not recall whether or not Chief Justice John Roberts mentioned ‘law and economics’ in expressing skepticism about interdisciplinary courses in law. . I should state that I am skeptical of if not opposed to the ‘economic analysis’ of the law made by among others such jurists as Richard Posner. See Myint Zan, ‘Justice in Theory and Philosophy’ (1996) 6 Campus Review (Australia), pp. 11-12. (review of Asking the Law Question by Margaret Davies). Of course there is another law and economics theory or movement which has never been popular indeed actively discouraged, denigrated and censored in both United States and Malaysia namely Marxist theory of law: which considers law to be mainly a ‘super structure’ and the economic system of a society as ‘basic structure’. Of course many if not virtually all ‘law and economics’ course offered in law schools in the United States would be the ‘economic analysis of law’ based on the Posnerian kind and very few would include the theories of Karl Marx in making a very different ‘economic analysis’ of law in its assertion that law and legal systems reflecting the basic structure of economics.

[3] See Myint Zan, ‘Of Consummation, Matrimonial Promises/Faults and Parallel Wives: The Role of Original Texts, Ideology and Policy in Pre and Post-1962 Burmese Case Law’ (2000) 14 Colombian Journal of Asian Law, 153, at 210 211 and also from foot notes from 219 to 225. At foot note 225 I stated my ‘dissent’ from the then Chief Justice of Australia Hon Murray Gleeson’s contention that ‘legal oil’ and ‘political vinegar’ do not mix.

[4] Since the year 1968 for reasons known only to them the Burmese educational authorities has changed, reverted back to and change again at least four times whether students in the matriculation would take science combination alone or arts combination alone or whether they would take science and arts joint courses in their High School before graduation. Up until about the year 2001 the Matriculation Examinations (where students sat for the examination to enter into Universities) are held over the same country at the same time and the same day with common exam questions.

[5] There were -and still are- seven divisions and seven states in Burma. Hence in the year that I passed the Matriculation Examination apart from the Rangoon Division in the 13 States and Divisions I am the only candidate who passed the Matriculation examination with distinctions in both English and Burmese languages.

[6] Daw Kyi Kyi Hla later became Professor of Philosophy at Rangoon Arts and Science University in the late 1970s and in the 1990s up till several years ago was the Editor of the English language Myanmar Perspectives magazine sponsored by the then Burmese military government. In 2010 during our most recent meeting I presented Daw (Daw being an honorific meaning roughly ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Puan’ in Malay) her article which was published more than forty years earlier in 18 February 1970 English language newspaper Working People’s Daily entitled “Russell: The Logician”. It was a tribute to the late Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) who had died on 2 February 1970. In September 2010 I spent several hours at Rangoon University main library to search for old articles and one of the articles that I found, requested to be photographed by library staff was that of Daw Kyi Kyi Hla. She did not have a copy of her article anymore and stating that it was her ‘first article’ she gratefully received a copy of her article from me.

[7] ‘Commissioner’ roughly the ‘chief administrative officer’ of the Division. The late U Ba Latt (1914-2005) name is found in  a book in the Burmese language by the Burmese government with short biographical sketches of 768 persons most of them deceased and some of them still alive who were born roughly between 1870 and 1960. See Khit Yae See The Hma Poke Ko Myar (‘Persons Who are in [this] Age’s Stream’) (Naypyidaw, Government Printing Press, 2011). U Ba Latt’s short biography also appeared in an English language publication fifty years earlier Who’s Who in Burma (People’s Literature House, 1961) at pages 73-74.

[8] From my firm memory the minimum marks required to join any one of the then three Institutes of Medicine were 416 marks out of a total of 600 marks (in the Science stream) and the minimum marks required for candidates who passed the Matriculation examination in the year that I graduated (whether from the Science or Arts stream was 328 marks out of 300). The person who obtained the highest mark (‘first in Burma’) in that year was (now) Dr (medical doctor) Htay Htay Myint who obtained five distinctions (out of six subjects sans the Burmese paper). In the whole country in the year that I matriculated there were only two candidates who obtained distinctions in all six subjects (but in terms of marks they fell short of the top 538 marks out of 600 obtained by Dr. Htay Htay Myint). They were Dr (medical doctor) Nilar Tin (whose photos and interview appeared) in the front page of the Burmese language newspaper Kyemon (‘The Mirror’) the next day after the results of the Matriculation from the Rangoon division were announced. The writer clearly remembers the successful candidate Nilar Tin stating that she wanted to become a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of cancer. Dr. Nilar Tin, I learnt, is now a medical doctor though I do not know whether or not she is a specialist doctor treating cancer. The other person who obtained six distinctions is (U) Khin Maung Nyunt. (The ‘Burmese’ U is an honorific meaning ‘Mr. or in certain contexts ‘Uncle’).  Because he was what was called a Foreigner’s Registration Office holder he was not allowed to take the professional subjects of Medicine, Dentistry or Engineering.  Though there were only two persons who achieved distinctions in all six subjects in the Matriculation Examination a few decades ago for the past several years in the first decade of the 21st century at the very least there are annually several dozen if not a few hundred candidates who achieved distinctions in all subjects in the Matriculation examination.

[9] During those days Burma’s only Law Department was in Rangoon and for five years during my law studies I have had to take the train (12 hours ride) from our house in Mandalay to Rangoon more than thirty times.

[10] I do not have the copy of the book Portraits from Memory by Bertrand Russell that I read during my High School years where Russell mentioned the conversation. I searched the web and I found  at www.freelists.org/pst/wttrs/Russell-on-Wittgenstein -from-McGuiness-Young-Ludwig,3 (accessed 13 March 2012) that Russell had mentioned this quote at page 23 of Portraits from Memory (edition not stated) and at page 99 of Volume II of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell his encounter with Wittgenstein.

[11] The biographer of Wittgenstein Brian McGuiness stated in Young Ludwig: Wittgenstein’s Life, 1889-1921 (Oxford University Press, 2005) at page 93 stated that Wittgenstein ‘had been brought up to engineering’ (not ‘aeronautics’ as Russell suggested though aeronautics can be considered a branch of or affiliated to engineering ;( I am subject to correction by both aeronauts and engineers) .McGuiness continued that Wittgenstein had ‘neither taste nor talent’ for engineering and ‘only recently tried philosophy to study under Russell which had proved his salvation for Russell had given him encouragement’ (Cited from the above web page). Needless to say both when I wrote that letter to my parents a few decades ago and now, I am writing in light-hearted mood and no offense is intended. And I -appeal to aeronauts and engineers not to get offended.

[12] When I was for two years a resident at Ava Hall (at the main campus of Rangoon University) while studying law the late Professor of Economics Professor U Tha Hto (1919-2011) a 1951 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (Master of Arts in Economics) lived in the next house close to Ava Hall. For a few weeks I visited Professor U Tha Hto’s house to teach his son Khaing Htoo English who was then preparing for his matriculation examination. (Khaing Htoo passed the Matriculation examination that year and who later became a Chemistry major graduate of Rangoon Arts and Science University In the 1980s and 1990s Khaing Htoo was quite a popular singer) Htoo’s own matriculation examination. I do not take any remuneration for my ‘coaching’ Khaing Htoo for his matriculation examination. In my last meeting with Professor U Tha Hto in September 2010 he expressed his gracious appreciation for my help. More significantly, in 2010 I saw Professor U Tha Hto’s Master’s thesis ‘The Readjustment of Malaya to the Great Depression of the 1930s'(which he submitted to the University in 1951)  at the web site of the University of California at Berkeley. I bought the thesis from the University of California at Berkeley in PDF version, printed it, bound it and personally presented to Professor Tha Hto his copy of the thesis. Professor Tha Hto looked at the bound copy of the thesis that I presented to him for some time and in amazement and then exclaimed “that’s my thesis!”. Then he looked up for his own copy of the thesis for about 15 minutes found an almost tattered version. I presented two copies to him, one copy to the Rangoon University library, one copy to its former librarian U Thaw Kaung and one copy to Multimedia University law library. Professor Tha Hto said that only one person Dr Kan Zaw, currently Deputy Minister for National Planning and Economic Development has borrowed and read his thesis. Professor Tha Hto said he wanted that in the early 1950s when he was preparing for his thesis he wanted to write about Burma’s economy but the University of California library there were not much materials on Burma and at his supervisor’s suggestion he wrote his Masters thesis on Malaya although at that time he had not been to Malaya (though in the mid to late 1950s he visited Malaya and also the University of Malaya).

[13] I sincerely consider the writers from whom I have learnt about the history and philosophy of science to be my Sayas (in Burmese) ‘teachers’ and in the category of Myinsayas (teachers from whom I learnt by ‘watching’ i.e. reading them).Since 1982 I have enjoyed reading and learning a lot from the late Stephen Jay Gould’s works. I have read in their entirety the following works of Steve Gould the first ten of which is a collection of 300 essays which he has written every month without fail from January 1974 to January 2001. They are (1) Ever Since Darwin (2) The Panda’s Thumb (3) Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes (4) The Flamingo’s Smile (5) Bully for Brontosaurus (6) Eight Little Piggies (7) Dinosaur in a Haystack (8) Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and Diet of Worms (9) The Lying Stones of Marrakech (10) I Have Landed: Final Essays on the Reflection of Natural History (11) The Mismeasure of Man (12) An Urchin in the Storm (13) Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (14) Life’s Grandeur: The Spirit of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (15) Questioning the Millennium and the posthumously published (16) The Hedgehog, the Fox and the Magister’s Pox. Among the late Ernst Mayr’s writings I have read What Makes Biology Unique: Considerations on the Autonomy of a Discipline, One Long Argument, This is Biology: Science of the Living World and What Evolution Is. But as for physics or especially cosmology it was only in 2012 on the occasion of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday that I finished reading his phenomenal best seller A Brief History of Time first published in 1988. A few months earlier I have read Stephen Hawking’s and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design where Hawking (and Mlodinow) were no longer ‘coy’ about their views on ‘God’ which Hawking teasingly left dangling in the last sentence of his best-selling book by writing about knowing ‘the mind of God’..

[14] For this writer’s exposition and commentary to what could be called perversions of the judicial system by the then ruling regime  in the 1970s and 1980s see Myint Zan, Law and Legal Culture, Constitutions and Constitutionalism in Burma in Alice E-S Tay edited East Asia: Human Rights, Nation- Building Trade (1999) pp. 214-251.

[15] Burmese tradition and culture postulates that one’s teachers should be revered. In Burmese culture though not necessarily formally in Burmese education pedagogy teachers are classified into three kinds (1) teachers  from whom one learns by ‘hearing from them’ (in Burmese kyar-saya) (transliterated from the Burmese as ‘saya’ it is pronounced as hsayar), teachers from whom one who learns from observing or seeing (or ‘reading’ ) from them (myin sayar) and teachers from whom one learns because they actually taught one (in a class room context).At least my ‘teachers through seeing’ in (for example) the late Stephen Jay Gould and the late Ernst Mayr were to put it mildly great scientists and scholars from whom I have learned a lot.. As for the implicit (if not explicit critique) of what can be considered some of my ‘taught’ teachers at Rangoon Law Department I would refer to William F.Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (first published 1951) where Buckley named and attacked his own teachers at Yale. Let me be clear that I do consider Buckley’s view and ideology as loathsome and I am not stating that Buckley was justified in his scathing critique of and self-praise for his own brand of ideology which he touted in his book and various books television shows over the next over five decades of his life.  Nor I am using his example to ‘justify’ my critique of the legal education and some of the personnel that I had went through in my not so happy years at Rangoon University Law  Department as a law student. For one, I do not name or make an elaborate critique as Buckley did.  I assume no great immodesty when I state that I do not consider myself to be, in any way, intellectually and morally inferior to William F. Buckley, Jr., whose arrogance personally and whose ideology -to say it again-I loathe. I would also state that I consider myself intellectually (much) inferior to whom I consider to be my teachers who among others include the above name persons the late Stephen Jay Gould, the late Ernst Mayr and Stephen Hawking.

[16] Soon after the military coup of March 1962, a new political party which the late General Ne Win, the Head of the military junta called the Revolutionary Council was established and it is called the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) and the Chairman is also General Ne Win. On 23 March 1964 General Ne Win issued a decree entitled ‘Law Protecting Internal Unity’ which bans all other political parties except the BSPP and the assets of all political parties were confiscated.  Since then for the next twenty-four years it is by law (decree initially and later by Article 11 of the now defunct 1974 Constitution) the only legal political party in the land. Almost all of the teaching staff of the Law Department were members of the BSPP and it is a general unwritten rule that persons do not get promoted to high positions such as that of Director-General position unless they were BSPP members.

[17] I do not mean to equate the personality of the literary character ‘Nurse Ratched’ with the teacher who taught us not only Jurisprudence (in the third year law) but also Burmese customary law (in the second year law), Conflict of Laws (in the fourth year), and Administrative Law (in the fifth and final year law) nor do I mean that she and Nurse Ratched are ‘moral equivalents’. But when I wrote a letter to Professor Spiro the name of Nurse Ratched comes to mind when I mention about the person who taught jurisprudence by mainly referring to the notes taken in the 1950s or early 1960s when she herself took the then post-graduate Bachelor of Laws (BL) degree. The aloofness, the very stern demeanor and the distant and arrogance of the Jurisprudence teacher would still not be the moral equivalent of the literary figure Nurse Ratched (since her students were not asylum inmates) and therefore the treatment she accorded us (or at least myself) cannot be -and let me be clear- is NOT the moral equivalent of Nurse Ratched. I mention them only as in a literary allusion but as an indulgence in ‘literary’ license.

[18] I still remember the exam question that I answered in English out of the four exam papers three of which I answered in Burmese. The question in translation was the role of interpretation of precedents in the English courts. At least one other question was about the ‘reformative punishment’ which I answered in Burmese. If I were to be given the Jurisprudence exam questions now I could either answer entirely in English or entirely in Burmese or in the then Jurisprudence teacher puts it ‘half fish, half tad-pole’ mode but regardless of the languages used  and modes of my answer I am sure  she would still have given me ‘Grade 3’ (in Burmese education system at that time for University subjects ‘Grade 1’ is a ‘bad failure’,  Grade 2 being a ‘failure’, Grade 3 is a pass, Grade 4 is a ‘credit’ and Grade 5 is ‘distinction’.  A few decades later starting from 2007 I have been teaching, among others  to about roughly 450 students at the Law Unit of Multimedia University the subject of Jurisprudence and up till early 2012 I have given three students the grade of ‘A+’ ( A plus) in Jurisprudence. That amounts to no more than 1% of the students who have taken the subject all of their tutorial participation, assignments and exam papers I marked. Most of my colleagues some of whom have been in Multimedia University School of Law since 2007 have, I was informed by them, not given a single student an A+ grade. My view is that even the assignment written by an A+ student does not necessarily mean that it is publishable in a reputable journal only that in the context of the exam and the course work for that subject that student has done very well. If  Lecturers have taught various subjects for seven years and if they have not given a single A plus among a thousand students who have taken the subject what is the point of having the never-to be- awarded- A plus grade?. I have given marks ranging from F (bad failure) to A plus. And in less than five years I have awarded the A plus grade to seven different students among about 800 candidates  whom I have taught at Multimedia University the subjects of Business Law, Contract Law (Part I), Public International Law (Parts I and II), Jurisprudence (Parts I and II), Human Rights  I have given one A plus grade to a student taking Contract Law (Part I), to two students in Public International Law (Part I), two students in Public International Law (Part I) and one student  in Public International Law (Part II), two students in Jurisprudence (Part I) and one student in Jurisprudence (Part II). Out of around 800 students seven students being given the grade of A+ does not make me over-generous or a ‘miser’ in terms of distribution of top grades to students who have done well in the context of a particular course.

[19] See Myint Zan, ‘Legal Education in Burma Since the Mid-1960s’ (2008) 12 Journal of Burma Studies, 63-107. A longer unedited version of my article can be accesses at www.niu.edu/burma/…/Legal_Education_in_Burma_Un…United States (accessed 25 March 2012).

[20] A detailed example of the law students or law graduates whom I have interviewed can be seen in the above article. The updated information that the LLB graduate has not applied for a lawyer’s license is from personal communication on 23 March 2012.  with his currently employer Dr.Aye Aye Win, MBBS, M Sc, MRCP

[21] When I initially asked him whether he is an LLB graduate he apparently felt irritated and told me he is an “LLM” graduate from University of Mandalay where one of his Professors is a former class mate of mine.

[22] Myint Zan, ‘Woe Unto Ye Lawyers: Three Royal Orders Concerning Pleaders in Early 20th Century Burma” (2000) 44 (1) The American Journal of Legal History, pp. 40-72.

[23] As stated before during those times both English and Law ‘majors’ can only be studied at Rangoon. The Law major course at the Rangoon Arts and Science University and English major at the Institute of Education. Starting from 1996 if not earlier University of Mandalay and other Universities in other towns and cities have departments of both Law and English and especially in the law it has churned out thousands of law graduates each year mainly through distance education courses. Personally I have had to take the train from Mandalay to Rangoon more than 30 times to study law which was then offered only at that time in Rangoon University.

[24] The photo of Dr. Myo Myint shaking hands with Hilary Clinton is at www.flickr.com/photos/eapmediahub/6430410587/ (accessed 25 March 2012).

[25] I have briefly mentioned Dr. Myo Myint in my article ‘Legal Education in Burma’ above note 19 at page 88 and foot note 26.

[26] For my obituary tribute of Minthuwun, see Myint Zan, ‘Minthuwun: A Tribute to a Gentle Burmese Poet’ (2005) 50 Westerly, pp.179-183.

[27] For example on 2 February 2011, forty one years to the day of the philosopher Bertrand Russell’s (18 May 1972-2 February 1970) death I gave a talk about him. On 22 January 2011 on what would have been the 102nd birthday of the  late U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971  (22 January 1909-25 December 1974) Daw Khin Mar Win interviewed me about U Thant. My interview about the late Burmese Chief Justice U Myint Thein (22 February 1900-3 October 1994) was broadcast in two installments in February and March 2011.

[28] For example in August 2011 around the 66th anniversary of dropping of the nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki I was interviewed on the 1996 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice  in the advisory opinion of the Legality of the Threat and Use of Nuclear weapons.

[29] For example I have talked about human space exploration in the 50th anniversary of manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin in April 2011, the general nature of DNA around the time of the 58th anniversary of the publication of Francis Crick and James Watson’s article about the structure of DNA in the journal Nature. In August 2011 I gave a talk about the clinching argument in the now very strong scientific hypothesis published in a scientific paper that an asteroid that hit the Earth about 65 million years ago was the main cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

[30] As I write some words from the poem written by the late American poet Robert Frost springs to mind though I could barely recall even the title of the poem. A quick search on the World Wide  Web ‘leads’ me to the poem ‘ The Road Not Taken the last lines of which were:

‘I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference’

I do not know whether or not (1) the ‘road’ that I took ‘law major’ was the one ‘less traveled by’ though in that particular year with no more than sixty or at most seventy students who obtained English distinction in the High School exams in the whole country I am the only one who took (for the holders of English distinction in that year) ‘less traveled by’ by taking up law. Since then the profession of law has been sadly cheapened since thousands upon thousands of (mainly unqualified) law graduates are produced en masse and the ‘legal profession road’ has, for the past at least two decades, become (to paraphrase Robert Frost) a much,(much) trodden path and the ‘differences’ in the path of the legal profession has been largely negative.

[31] Of course I did NOT become either the Chief Justice of the Union of Burma or a Judge of the Supreme Court. The Current ‘Union Chief Justice’ (a term used in the English translation of the 2008 Constitution) U Tun Tun Oo BA, LLB (Rangoon) who have been Chief Justice starting from 30 March 2011. His immediate predecessor was U Aung Toe BA, BL (Rangoon) who was appointed as new Chief Justice on 28 September 1988 by the then ruling military Council (State Law and Order Restoration Council). On 18 September 1988 on the day of its takeover the State Law and Order Restoration Council abolished by a decree ‘all organs of State power’ formed under the defunct 1974 Constitution. For nine days there was a lacuna in the top judicial organ in Burma and relying upon the 1948 Union Judiciary Act the new military council appointed U Aung Toe as the Chief Justice and U Aung Toe served as Chief Justice for an unprecedented 22 years and six months until U Tun Tun Oo replaced him.

[32] Kyaw Myint Aung initially intended to apply for the Defense Services Academy (roughly a ‘West-point’ style military training academy)  which trains military cadets whose admission requirements were that the applicants must be males between certain ages must have matriculated and  exclude applicants whose height falls short of a certain standard and who ‘wear spectacles’. Kyaw Myint Aung did not apply for the Defense Services Academy so he did not as he had wrongly predicted ‘fell in battle’ and did obtain his engineering degree. I have not met him for a few decades.

[33] At that time there were three Institutes of Medicines Institute of Medicine (I) and Institute of Medicine (II) being in Rangoon and the Institute of Medicine, Mandalay. In 2012 they are now called ‘Universities of Medicine’ and there are at least now five Universities of Medicine (in addition to the above three) and the two additional one being in the hinterland town of Magwe and  military University of Medicine where only candidates from the military can attend.

[34] Since the early 1990s the Rangoon Institute of Technology has been abolished and there are mainly various technological Universities throughout the country. At that time there were only one Institute of Technology based in Rangoon.

[35] University of Michigan Law School located at Ann Arbor. I have had the chance to attend the 150th anniversary of the University of Michigan Law School celebrations in September 2009. I was at that time (August to September 2009) for about five weeks Archibald MacDougal Professor of Law at West Virginia University College of Law in the United States and attended the Michigan Law School celebrations. I mention University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor since there is also a ‘Michigan State University’ based in Lansing. Michigan.

I once came across an academic who handed me his business card and it was written that Master of… (the discipline I forgot but not in law), and in brackets behind the Master degree was written (‘Pennsylvania’). I queried from the academic whether his Master degree was from the University of Pennsylvania. He stated that it was not. Then I asked whether his Master degree was from Pennsylvania State University. He replied that it was not. He told me the name of a College (somewhere in the state of Pennsylvania) whose name I forgot. I did not express my comment to him that it is somewhat misleading (definitely not precise) to write in one’s business card that one is a graduate from ‘Pennsylvania’ when one can create the impression at least to those slightly knowledgeable or familiar with the United States system that one has a Master degree from the prestigious ‘University of Pennsylvania’ or ‘Pennsylvania State University’ when the College (located within the state of Pennsylvania) is not a formal part of these two Universities.

[36] Master of International Law from the Australian National University.

[37] Griffith University in Australia

[38] Generally, the doctorates in law from most United States Universities are called Doctor of Juridical Science whose acronym is ‘JSD’ for Yale University but for Harvard University the acronym for it is ‘SJD’.

[39] The state of the Burmese judiciary deteriorated in terms of judicial independence, quality of its judicial personnel and of its annual law reports since the mid-1960s. For my own views and the proffering of ‘evidence’ regarding this assertion as well as analyses and commentaries on this regretful situation see Myint Zan, ‘Law and Legal Culture, Constitutions and Constitutionalism in Burma’ in Alice E-S- Tay (ed) East Asia : Nation Bui(199lidng, Human Rights, Trade, (1999), 180-275;  Myint Zan ‘A Comparison of the First and Fiftieth Year of Independent Burma Law Reports’ (2004) 35 (2) Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 385-426. I would immediately add that I have great respect for -indeed long for the days- of the judiciary in Burma’s independence- before the mid-1960s. For my tribute of U Myint Thein, independent Burma’s third Chief Justice which when the military takeover of 1962 was extra constitutionally terminated from his post and imprisoned for six years by General Ne Win’s Revolutionary Council see Myint Zan, ‘U Myint Thein, MA,LLB,LLD’, (1995) 69 Australian Law Journal,  pp225-227.

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Court Listings : Updated 7-11 May 2012

  • By AdminL
  • May 7, 2012
  • Comments Off on Court Listings : Updated 7-11 May 2012
  1. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 7-11 May 2012.YA Datuk Halijah)
  2. Yang Arif of High Court (Updated 7-11 May 2012.YA Dato Nasfy)
  3. Deputy Registrar 1 & 2 (Updated 7-11 May 2012.TP)
  4. Senior Assistant Registrar (Updated 7-11 May 2012.PKP Pn Sasha)

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