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It’s sad universities sees this incident as us being used by people. Are we that mentally-challenged to not be able to make our own decisions, you know. You know, they are accusing us of so many things Ravinder: I’m not from UIA. (laughter)

What is the reaction from your families to what’s happened? Ravinder: For them it’s difficult to accept it. It’s of course the old fear of government authority, that you’ll compromise your future [livelihood] for a cause. There’s always this fear of... Fadiah: What ‘they’ might do to you. Ravinder: Or how ‘they’ will make your life difficult [if you try to change things]. That’s what the older generation believes. Murnie: The police actually said to us that we had been ‘blacklisted’.


position of fear for 14 hours, gets the whole family running helter-skelter. Now you know what it feels like. Suddenly you realise, the system can affect anyone’s life at any time. Puspawati: For example, my father. He always thinks that there must be a good reason behind all the government’s policies. So: ‘Ayah, harga minyak dah naik.’ ‘Takpe, mungkin sebab ekonomi dah jatuh, jadi dia naikkan harga minyak untuk balancekan yang everything else.’ ‘Ayah, kenapa interest PTPTN dah tinggi sangat? Dah naik 4 percent.’ ‘Yalah, sebab bukannya semua orang bayar.’ Fadiah: We’re too complacent living in our comfort zone. I want to know what’s going on with my money, with the taxpayers’ money, for example. Freedom of information. We don’t have it. I want to know what’s happening to Petronas, I want to know. I want to have the full report – give it to me. But older people, older generations, they won’t ask for it because, yeah maybe... they can go to work, live a normal life... Murnie: You see, while we have the Judicial Appointments Commission after the Lingam case, but what sort of improvement that we can do by having this judicial commission because at the end of the day it is the prime minister who has the prerogative. Fadiah: Yeah. You have – yeah – you have an inquiry for Lingam’s tape, but you don’t prosecute. At the end of the day it goes back to the A-G. He’s the most powerful man in the— Murnie: In every aspect. The system, the people inside it, the education system, it’s all inter-related and intertwined, not [treated] in isolation, of course. So when you’re talking about Malaysia as a whole and how we go forward from today, a lot needs to be done to improve because you know, we’ve been in this situation for, what, 50odd years. So it’s a challenge for the younger generation – us for instance – to actually make change in this country.



Fadiah: And it’s kind of terrifying to actually know that, for example, if our country does something that is internationally wrong for example, if they do something for example, trafficking in persons, we can use that point to actually lobby at the international arena, you know we need those courts, those human rights courts, the UN – look what our country is doing, say something so we can change something in our country. But now, they don’t care. We just got listed as the world’s most unfriendliest place for refugees and one of the top [countries] for trafficking in persons and that day they arrested refugees during the celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday. They don’t care what the world thinks about us. No shame at all. I think it’s scary. Puspawati: And Suhakam now cannot vote (at the UN Human Rights Council). Syuhaini: And here, you get condemned for what you’re trying to do. We just got to know that the law faculty at UIA (Universiti Islam Antarabangsa or International Islamic University) put up some articles and notices on the board saying that we were used by some people, by getting arrested.

There’s a blacklist of lawyers? Fadiah: After they took down our statements, we had to laugh about it because this whole episode was ridiculous. So they kept asking, ‘Tak takut ke? Tak takut ke muda-muda buat macam ni? Kenapa buat macam ni? Tak takut ke?’ The ‘takut, takut, takut’ thing. Kenapa nak takut? Why? Because we’re doing the right thing.

This whole fear thing is quite strange, because on the face of it, we’re here now in what seems to be a civil environment. You can sit down and have nice cakes and coffee... Puspawati: If you asked me ten years ago, yeah, maybe I was quite takut of the police lah. But now I’ve lost all my respect for them, [so] sudah tak takut dah (I’m not afraid anymore). Fadiah: It’s failing (this culture of fear). Ravinder: If they keep doing it this, they will lose respect, all from their own actions. Murnie: That’s why I say our arrests were actually a blessing in disguise because we actually experienced for ourselves what our clients go through when they get arrested. Ravinder: And tell people. Tell people Are you guys typical of UIA graduates who want to right the wrongs they see? exactly what goes on. Because if you don’t believe somebody who was caught on (the girls): Not really. suspicion of theft, if you don’t believe them, Murnie: But we’re not radical, are we? we can tell you what really goes on. (laughs) I will admit that before this, I was a lot Puspawati: Don’t look at me! like everyone else, so to speak. In the middle Fadiah: But back in uni, we weren’t that of legal aid duty, you start to realise that you active. We didn’t join student bodies and cannot look at what the government is doing all that. It was like, ‘I don’t care, you guys and say, ‘It’s nothing to do with me.’ are all politicking.’ But I started to have this I now cannot look at breaches of human revelation in my third year [when] I joined the Philip C Jessup Mooting Competition. We rights in any other country and say, ‘nothing to do with me.’ had to study public international law when I was in my third year. (eyes light up) I became familiar with human rights and developed an Additional reporting by Marc Jitab interest. It was like, wow! Human rights and COMMENTS all that, [chief] justice, you know.

5 lawyers  
5 lawyers  

Ravin Singh