Men and women in black: A rare sight in the court room

Men in black in Kuching High Court today (Sept 7, 2020)

By Lian Cheng and Ling Hui

It is a rare sight in the court room where a Sarawakian advocate – Voon Lee Shan’s intervener application was heard today.  Voon has submitted an intervener application, objecting to the applications made by former Chief Justices of Sarawak and Sabah (CJSS) Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Tan Sri David Wong.  And the case was heard this morning.

By 10.30am when the case was supposed to start, the court room was already filled with men and women in black at the public gallery.  There were at least 20 of them and believed to be junior lawyers or legal apprentices, judging by their age.

Meanwhile, the media were told only one reporter from a media organisation was allowed to come in, in anticipation that there might not be enough seats and that social distancing of one metre was mandatory to be observed.

While this side of the bar was half-filled, it was definitely a full house on the other side of the bar.

From the entrance of the bar, on the top left were senior advocate Chong Siew Chiang and Tan Kee Heng representing petitioners – Malanjum and Wong.  On the right side but in the middle, it was Ranbir Singh, president of Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS).

Right besides Ranbir Singh on the right were lawyers from Sarawak Attorney-General’s Chambers (SAG) – Nur Azhar Bujang and Supian Tarmizi.

Behind the two young lawyers of SAG were the legal counsel of Voon (who is also Parti Bumi Kenyalang’s president) – Lim Heng Choo, R J Noel and several others more.  There are eight advocates on Voon’s legal team.  Apart from Lim, Noel, there were Addy Termizi, Bartholomew Lopez, Tiong Ing Neng, Steven Sia, Wong Hock Siong, Peli Aron and Patrick Voon.  There were so many of them that they spilled over to the left side of the court room and some were seated behind Chong and Tan, though at quite a distance away.

It was a complicated case now that four parties were involved.

Court proceeding commenced upon the arrival of Chief Justice of Sarawak and Sabah Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim at 11am.

Based on Sarawak Advocates Ordinance 1953, Lim argued that the law provides for AAS’ and SAG’s opinions to be heard under Section 5 (2) on the former CJSSs’ applications.

Despite so, the law does not exclude the right for any advocate to intervene and be given an opportunity to be heard in the court with regards to the petitioners’ applications, thus AAS and SAG are not bestowed with exclusive rights on the matter.

Lim also argued that Voon has a “genuine interest” over the matter, thus entitled the latter to be a party to hear any application with regards to advocate admission.

To AAS and SAG, however, Voon did not have the locus standi to be another party to decide on the petitioners’ applications with Ranbir even described Voon as a “busybody” causing mischief.

Tan on the other hand, argued that since Voon is not a member of AAS, he questioned Voon’s ability to render any assistance to the proceeding should Voon be included as a party in the case of the two CJSSs.  The fact that Voon is not a member of AAS, to Tan, also showed that Voon has failed to show a genuine interest.

Sarawak Advocates Ordinance 1953, Section 5 deals with application of an advocate where “ (1) Any person eligible to be admitted to be an advocate may apply to the Chief Judge to the so admitted, and shall annex to such application – (a) proof of his qualifications and of his eligibility under section 4(2) and (b) two recent testimonials as to his good character.

“(2) A copy of the application and of the documents in support thereof shall be delivered to the State Attorney General who, and the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak which, shall be entitled to be heard on any such application.”

Nur Azhar on the other hand stated firmly that SAG objected to Voon’s intervener application and asserted that anything to do with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and public interest should fall within the ambit of SAG and not an individual advocate.  He thus requested for Voon’s intervener application to be struck out.

Prior to the case, Voon had claimed that he filed an intervener application pertaining to the two CJSSs applications to “safeguard Sarawak lawyers’ interest and to ensure that lawyers from outside Sarawak will be blocked to practice in the State.  He also stressed that he did it based on the spirit of MA63.-DayakDaily