Ambiga Sreenevasan

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Yang Berbahagia Dato'
Ambiga Sreenevasan
அம்பிகா சீனிவாசன்
24th President of Malaysian Bar Council
In office
March 2007 – March 2009
Deputy Mr. Ragunath Kesavan
Preceded by Mr. Yeo Yang Poh
Succeeded by Mr. Ragunath Kesavan
Chairman of Bersih 2.0
Incumbent
Assumed office
2011
Preceded by BERSIH 2007
Chairperson of Bar Council Orang Asli Committee
Incumbent
Assumed office
2010
Director of Securities Industry Dispute Resolution Centre
Incumbent
Assumed office
2011
Executive Committee of Women's Aid Organisation
Incumbent
Assumed office
2009
Personal details
Born 1956
Nationality Malaysian
Relations daughter of Dato' Dr G. Sreenevasan
Alma mater University of Exeter, England
(LLB Law, 1979)

Member of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn

Occupation Lawyer
Award(s) Darjah Dato' Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP), 2008[1]
International Women of Courage Award, 2009
Honorary Graduate of University of Exeter, 2011–12
Honorary Doctorate in Law (LLD) of University of Exeter, 2011
Legion of Honour, 23 September 2011[2][3]

Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan (born 1956) is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights advocate, and is one of the eight recipients of the US International Women of Courage Award in 2009. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Exeter in 1979, and was called to the English Bar at Gray's Inn in 1980. After having worked in two London law firms, she was subsequently admitted to the Malaysian Bar in 1982.[4] She formerly served as the President of the Malaysian Bar Council from 2007 to 2009, and is currently co-chairperson of Bersih, an NGO Coalition advocating for free and fair elections. In 2011, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by the University of Exeter.[5]

She currently serves on the executive committee of the Women's Aid Organisation and is involved in the Bar Council Special Committee on the Orang Asli (indigenous persons) rights. She is a Director of the Securities Industry Dispute Resolution Centre. She has been involved in the drafting and presenting of several papers and memoranda on issues relating to the rule of law, the judiciary, the administration of justice, legal aid, religious conversion and other human rights issues.

As President of the Malaysian Bar she played a significant role in the establishing of a panel of eminent persons, together with LAWASIA, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute and Transparency International-Malaysia in the year 2008. This panel reviewed the judicial crisis of 1988 and issued a report which was the first of its kind, setting an important precedent for organisations to establish their own panel inquiring into abuses of power.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

During her high school days, she studied at Convent Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur. She was also the Head Prefect of the school in 1975.

Ambiga read LLB Law at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.[6] In July 2011, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law (LLD) by the University of Exeter.[7]

Career[edit]

Dato' Ambiga has been a practising Advocate and Solicitor since March 1982. She is a founding partner of Sreenevasan, Advocates & Solicitors.

She was also a panellist of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration under the Malaysian Network Information Centre Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("MYDRP") from 2006 to 2009. She was Chairperson of the Intellectual Property Sub-Committee of the Bar Council from September 2005 to March 2006. She was the Vice-President of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Association in 2002.

Currently, Ambiga is a Mediator on the Panel of the Bar Council, Malaysian Mediation Centre. She is also Co-chairperson of the Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights and a member of the Executive Committee of the Women's Aid Organisation. She is a Director of the Securities Industry Dispute Resolution Centre. She has been involved in the drafting and presenting of several papers and memoranda on issues relating to the rule of law, the judiciary, the administration of justice, legal aid, religious conversion and other human rights issues.

Malaysian Bar Council President 2007 – 2009[edit]

Elected in March 2007, Dato' Ambiga is the second woman to serve as president of the Bar Council. Six months after assuming her leadership, she organised the "March for Justice," in Malaysia's administrative capital, calling for judicial reform and the investigation of a videotape allegedly showing a key lawyer fixing judicial appointments and judges' case assignments. Her public actions, and an intense lobbying campaign, led to the formation of a Royal Commission, which called for corrective action.

Dato' Ambiga has also supported the rule of law during her tenure, condemning the politically motivated arrests of two journalists, and the government's banning of an ethnic Indian activist group and the arrest of its members.

Probably Dato' Ambiga's most controversial work has been in the areas of religious freedom and women's rights. She has repeatedly confronted sexism in Parliament, taking her case directly to the public when necessary. "Gender equality is a responsibility of all Malaysians," she wrote in a press release that protested remarks made by a politician that she found patronising. She successfully fought to amend Malaysia's Federal Constitution to ensure that women's testimony would carry equal weight to men's in sharia courts. She continues to campaign for the religious freedom of women who convert to Islam upon marriage. Under current law, these women are not allowed to return to their original religions after being divorced, regardless of the reason for the divorce.

As a result of her attempts to resolve issues that continue to generate inter-ethnic tensions and constitutional problems, Dato'Ambiga has received hate mail, death threats, and had a Molotov cocktail thrown at her house. Hundreds of people from religious groups and conservative members of government have protested at the Bar Council building and called for her arrest.[8]

In 2008, as President of the Malaysian Bar she played a significant role in the establishing, in collaboration with LAWASIA, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute and Transparency International-Malaysia, of a panel to review the judicial crisis of 1998. The panel issued a report that was the first of its kind, setting a precedent for the establishment of panels to inquire into abuses of power.[9]

Bersih 2.0 rally[edit]

Ambiga chaired Bersih 2.0, the organisation behind the July 2011 rally in Kuala Lumpur that drew 20,000 people.[10] She summed up the main issues raised by Bersih as "unhappiness... in the Sarawak [election], unhappiness about corruption, [and] unhappiness about the lack of independence of our institutions."[11] She said demands made during the first rally in 2007 have not been addressed, hence the follow-up rally.[12]

Ambiga later said that the rally "exploded many myths" in Malaysia, including the notion that people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds could not work together and that the middle class was "too comfortable to step up to the plate."[10]

Her involvement in the Bersih 2.0 rally, however, was not without controversy. While promoting "clean, free and neutral" elections, she also admitted and found to have received considerable foreign fundings and support from various organisations and foundations in the US

The Malaysian Insider reported on 27 June 2011 that Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevassan "admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations – the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) – for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march."[13]

Memberships[edit]

She is a member of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Association, the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI), as well as the Asian Patent Attorneys Association (APPA). She also heads Bersih 2.0, a citizen’s movement for free and fair elections

Honors and awards[edit]

In March 2009, Ambiga became one of the eight recipients of the 2009 Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award.[14][15] In the ceremony, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented:

In July 2011, Ambiga was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by her alma mater University of Exeter.[17]

Marc Barety, the ambassador of France to Malaysia, granted the Legion of Honour insignia to Ambiga in 23 September 2011. She was recognised for her contributions to the human rights defence.[2][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Perak hounours list
  2. ^ a b "Bersih's Ambiga receives top French award". Malaysia: Malaysiakini.com. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Conferment of the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour to Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan". Embassy of France in Malaysia. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  4. ^ February 2014 "Ambiga Sreenevasan". 
  5. ^ a b "Ambiga Sreenevasan – Honorary Graduates – University of Exeter". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  6. ^ SIDREC Board of Directors Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan Profile. July 22, 2011
  7. ^ Ambiga conferred honorary doctorate in law by UK varsity, July 2011.
  8. ^ Ambiga Sreenevasan: “Gender Equality Is a Responsibility for All Malaysians” Mar 09, 2009 by US Department of State
  9. ^ Ambiga Sreenevasan As President of Malaysian Bar. July 22, 2011
  10. ^ a b Pooch, Liz (8 August 2011). "A Reluctant Symbol for Electoral Reform in Malaysia". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Boo, Su-Lyn (12 June 2011). "Bersih rally goes on, says Ambiga, PAS". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Boo, Su-Lyn (12 June 2011). "Ambiga asks politicians to join Bersih rally". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  13. ^ http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/mobile/malaysia/article/Bersih-repudiates-foreign-Christian-funding-claim/
  14. ^ "Presidents' Roll". Malaysian Bar. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Remarks by Clinton on International Women of Courage Awards". U.S. Department of State. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  16. ^ "Remarks by Clinton on International Women of Courage Awards". America.gov. United States. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  17. ^ Ambiga to be conferred doctor of law by UK varsity. July 21, 2011