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DiaLAWgues with Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan

She is a voice for the people, a spearheader for justice in Malaysia. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan plays a vital role in advocacy for human rights and democracy in our country. On the 8th of May 2020, she was featured in an online DiaLAWgue session held by Taylor’s Law School. Dato’ Ambiga is no stranger to the law faculty of Taylor’s University as she is a frequent honourable guest speaker, however, this was her first experience speaking virtually with the Law School. 

The session commenced with Dato’ Ambiga placing a special emphasis on her opinion of the changes in the contours of the rule of law ever since the political crisis in early March. The rule of law essentially encapsulates the idea of “no man is above the law” and this applies to the three branches of government: the judiciary, the legislative (Parliament) and the executive. She explained that the previously elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had stressed on the prominence of the rule of law for good reasons and she complimented their efforts in upholding the rule of law. These include the dynamic appointment of the cabinet members, the amendment made in the Federal Constitution to reduce the voting age and setting up parliamentary committees which consisted of the opposition party as well. However, with the abrupt change of government, one that was not directly chosen by the people, she has several reservations and concerns with their capability in upholding the rule of law. 

The first concern Dato’ Ambiga highlighted was the heavily reduced parliamentary sittings in light of battling the Covid-19 pandemic with the Movement Control Order (MCO). This comes as a disadvantage to the people as the executive and the parliament should be working hand-in-hand to combat this global issue with thorough discussion. Another major concern is the lack of diversity in the appointment of cabinet members, pointing out the underrepresentation by women, technocrats and professionals. The PN government has elected mostly politicians to be in the cabinet and this is worrisome as “what the nation wants, such as transparency, may not be there”. Thirdly, Malaysians may face more authoritarian governance under PN, as evidenced by their treatment towards the Rohingyas and migrant workers. 

Despite her reservations of the current government, Dato’ Ambiga acknowledged that they are doing a satisfactory job in combating the virus thus far. However, it can be difficult to judge the performance of our new government due to the current health crisis. Hence, an overall analysis of the political capability of the current government can only be done when the MCO is lifted completely. 

During the Q&A session, Dato’ Ambiga gave some interesting insight into issues ranging from human rights, civil issues and political matters. She generously shared her views on the refugee crisis in Malaysia, the rights of migrant workers and press freedom in Malaysia. Civil and political questions included a possibility in the change of the voting system, her opinion on remote parliamentary hearings and actions to be taken to reform the Dewan Negara. Dato’ Ambiga attended to all the questions patiently and stressed on the importance of the people to continue striving and voicing out to improve Malaysia in all these issues. 

As the session came to a close, Dato’ Ambiga shared her final remarks with relation to her most recent article. She believes that the future belongs to the youth and has hopes to empower the youth to take part in parliamentary sittings and voice out for the younger generation. She also reminded the youth to not neglect our environment and Mother nature while bringing justice to the country. 

That is my call for the youth - reclaim the world!” she concluded passionately.

Dato’ Ambiga has once again blessed and graced Taylor’s law School with her empowering ideas and challenges for the younger generation to uphold democracy in Malaysia. Taylor’s Law School looks forward to hearing from her again in the future. 

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