Cecil Rajendra’s Speech
At the Extraordinary General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar held at the Renaissance Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 10 October 1998.

I wish to speak in support of this motion and resolutions, which have been endorsed in toto by the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council.

Let me at the outset, however, declare that I hold no brief for any party, politician or faction, but speak in pursuance of that sacred duty to justice enshrined in our Legal Profession Act.

1998, ladies and gentlemen, marks the 50th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  All over the globe, events are being held to celebrate this historic occasion.

From South Africa to South Korea, Philippines to Poland, Argentina to Indonesia, we have witnessed a liberalisation of policies and a broader shift towards democracy.

Sadly, in our country, there is little to celebrate as we have entered, as far as human rights are concerned, our longest, darkest night.

Never in the history of this country, not even during the Emergency of the 50’s or the judicial crisis of the 80’s have we witnessed such blatant abuse of every basic right.

Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to legal representation, the presumption of innocence, the right to information…all these rights have either been denied the public or been given such a distorted interpretation as to become utterly nonsensical.

For example, publication of the most vile slander and basest unproved allegations have been deemed to be freedom of the press; while legal application by members of our profession, to protect a client’s reputation pending trial, have been condemned as attempts to curb freedom of expression!

Yes, the rule of law has been turned on its head and our media licensed to run amok.

And hanging over all our heads, of course, is that sword of Damocles, the dreaded Internal Security Act which is being used to intimidate and harass our members in the proper execution of their duties.

Even as I speak, one of our very own members, Zulkifli Nordin, is being held in God-knows-what cell, in solitary confinement and incommunicado from his family or lawyers.

For your information, ladies and gentlemen, we are the only remaining so-called civilized, democratic country in the world today that still practices legitimises and justifies detention without trial.  This then, is the state of the rule of law that obtains in our country today.

Notwithstanding confessions to the contrary, ladies and gentlemen, the only thing that has been truly buggered in this country, is Democracy and the Rule of Law.

And so I plead with you all in the name of honour and justice, not to quibble and quarrel, as we lawyers are wont to do, about the phrasing and nuance of this or that sentence, but to given this raft of resolutions your unstinting, undivided and unequivocal vote.

**Cecil Rajendra, Advocate & Solicitor, is also an accomplished poet.