Citation for
Datuk Mahadev Shankar

by Tan Sri V.C. George

The Star, March 18, 2014

have it from our President, Christopher Leong, that it was in the year 2011 that the Bar Council instituted the conferment of an award from time to time, to be called The Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition by the Malaysian Bar of past or present members, for outstanding contributions to the Malaysian Bar “inter alia in terms of leadership, service to the Bar and/or to the Nation, and/or in their practice at the Bar, which contributions had a significant, historical and lasting impact on the legal profession and on the community at large”.

The recipient of the inaugural Award was the late Raja Aziz Addruse; it was conferred on him posthumously in March 2012. For 2013, there was one recipient, Dato’ Dr Sir Peter Mooney.

For this year, 2014, the recipient is Dato’ Mahadev Shankar.

I have been greatly honoured by the Bar Council requesting me to prepare, on behalf of the Bar Council, the citation for the conferment of the Award upon Dato’ Mahadev Shankar.

Dato’ Mahadev Shankar was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1932. His father, the late Mr T V Mahadevan, had been from 1931 to 1958 (when he retired from Government service), Private Secretary to the Chief Justice of Malaya. Shankar’s primary schooling started in 1940 at the Pasar Road School. Two years later, the Japanese occupied Malaya. Under the Japanese military administration, the Japanese language, Nippon-go, became the mandatory language of education in our schools. Shankar went to one such school, Tek Sin Gakko, and by the end of 1942, Shankar had acquired a working knowledge of basic Japanese.

The Mahadevans lived in government quarters on Peel Road between Cheras and Pudu, in Kuala Lumpur. Shankar has recalled that the community of government servants in Peel Road, Cochrane Road and Shelly Road was a healthy mix of the main ethnic groups, with the children picking up each other’s dialect. By the time he was 12 or 13, Shankar was fluent in Cantonese and spoke Malay, Tamil and Malayalam as well as basic Japanese. However, English was the general medium of communication among the children. Shankar had a propensity for languages and eventually had a working knowledge of spoken Hindi and Punjabi as well.

By 1943, with the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the populace was subjected to extreme hard times. The country was cut off from the rest of the world and from the source of rice, the staple food of Asians. Acute food shortages in the country compelled Shankar at the tender age of 11 to go to work, the inducement being a monthly ration of rice, coconut oil and sugar, and two cartons of cigarettes that could be sold in the black market! He was not caught black marketeering and in fact was promoted to be assistant storekeeper and continued to be employed until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

Reflecting on the travails of the war years, Shankar, in an interview in 2011 by the Cosmic Magazine, summarised the lessons learnt:

So what were the lessons learnt here. “Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the venomous toad, has yet a precious jewel in his head”. Common hardship is a great unifying force provided it affects everybody equally. We were still a united people despite our different ethnic groups. Eternal vigilance was the other lesson learnt especially in matters of security of property entrusted to my care. The next lesson was an instinctive knowing of what was important. On three occasions I had seen a person being killed right before my eyes and on other occasions, seeing dead bodies at close range was a regular occurrence. But such was the ingrained sense of youthful immortality it never seemed to faze me that I too could be next in line.

He went on to say in that interview:

"When the war ended I was only 13 years old. But I had the mindset of a young man of twenty. The lost childhood had given way to an accelerated maturity and a burning curiosity to find out what lay on the other side of the hill."

Under the British Military Administration of the country, after the Japanese were ousted, the schools reopened in late 1946 or early 1947 and Shankar, the 13-year-old adult, was back at Pasar Road School, and with a double promotion moved on to the Victoria Institution (“The V.I.”). There, he was particularly active in debating and in the activities of the Drama Society. He also made his mark as a scholar, as evidenced by his being made, in 1950, the Treacher Scholar and in 1951, the Rodger Scholar, prestigious VI awards for scholarship.

To the great delight of his father, Shankar chose, and went on to England, to read law. He was called to the English Bar from the Inner Temple in 1955 and to the Malaysian Bar in July 1956 when he was accepted as a Legal Assistant in Shearn Delamore and Company. He began to make his mark as an advocate and was, at the early age of 29, made a partner of the firm, in 1961.

Shankar was actively involved in general litigation. He achieved great success at the Bar as an advocate, and by the early 1970s was striding the corridors of the superior courts of the land, a veritable colossus, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ramani, David Marshall, R R Chelliah, Ng Ek Teong, Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Lim Kean Chye and Peter Mooney. A measure of Shankar’s contribution to the law can be seen in the many judgments, in which he was counsel, which found their way into the law journals. His skill as a counsel and legal advisor straddled many fields of the law, including in commercial, civil and medical negligence issues and cases. He even found time to appear and excel in the criminal courts. The written judgment in many of the cases in which Shankar had appeared as counsel are reported in the law journals from as early as 1962.

A criminal case that he handled brilliantly, of which I know something because he used to try out some aspects of the cross-examination and submissions he was going to make, on me, was the trial of an Englishman, Dr Kingsley Lewis, who had been a senior official in the British Council in Kuala Lumpur, and who was charged with the murder of his Congolese wife, whose chopped-up body was found in a trunk in the accused’s home together with a meat chopper which apparently he had purchased. Between the evidence of an astute pathologist from Singapore, handpicked by Shankar, and the brilliant conduct of the case by Shankar, as counsel for the accused, the accused was found guilty, not of murder, but of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, reminiscent of the spectacular Brighton trunk murder in which Norman Birkett provided one of the great defences. That other great English lawyer Sir Patrick Hasting once remarked:

"If it had ever been my lot to decide to cut up a lady in small pieces and put her in an unwanted suitcase, I should without hesitation have placed my future in Norman Birkett’s hands. He would have satisfied the jury (a) that I was not there; (b) that I had not cut up the lady; and (c) that if I had she thoroughly deserved it anyway."

Busy as he was in his legal practice, somehow Shankar found the time and spared no effort to render public services over a wide field. I emphasise that it was indeed a wide field.

During the troubled times, the aftermath of May 13, 1969, he was very active in resettling the refugees of the riots, regardless of their origins. He served as a member of the prestigious National Emergency Fund and the National Goodwill Council. In the field of community service, he played a useful part in the education of the underprivileged members of the community in his capacity as a Trustee of the Gandhi Memorial Fund. He was the founder Chairman of the KoperasiNesa. He was President of the Astronomical Society of Malaysia. He was Vice-President of Zoo Negara for many years.

He had been a member of the Whitley Council Staff Panel, of the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal, a member of the Bar Council and editor of INSAF. He was in great demand as a speaker at legal and other conferences. He was one of the earliest members of SUHAKAM. He was the founder president of the Malaysian Medico-Legal Society.

He is a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International and had been nominated by the Human Rights Commission as its Advisory Jurist to the Asia Pacific Forum. In 1985, he was made a Freeman of the City of London.

Since 1974 and up to the time of his elevation to the Bench in 1983, he had been a director on the Board of our national airlines — Malaysian Airlines System Bhd. He made valuable contributions towards the development of the airline and took keen interest in the welfare of its staff.

A Royal Commission is a major ad hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue in some monarchies, including in Malaysia, created by the Head of the State — in Malaysia by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong — on the advice of the Government. Royal Commissions are called to look into matters of great importance, some of which could be controversial.

Mahadev Shankar holds a record of sorts, having been appointed to and served on no less than three Royal Commissions — the first being as early as 1971 — the very important Royal Commission on Law Reform of the Laws of Marriage and Divorce. In 1999, he was on the Royal Commission to enquire into the injuries including the notorious black eye, alleged to have been suffered by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and in 2007, on the Royal Commission Inquiry into the startling and revealing Lingam video clip.

In 1983, Dato’ Shankar was elevated to the Bench of the High Court in Malaya and thereby sacrificed a very lucrative legal career at the Bar. He served as a Judge with distinction in Johore, Shah Alam and in Kuala Lumpur. In 1994, he was promoted and appointed to the new Court of Appeal. He retired from the Bench in 1997, on attaining the retirement age. A large number of his written judgments grace the pages of the law journals. I can say without fear of contradiction that Dato’ Mahadev Shankar, the Judge, epitomises what a great Judge should be.

Recognition of his contribution to the law and his work as a Judge came from many quarters, including by His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor, who awarded him the prestigious DPMS, by virtue of which he has to be addressed as “Dato’”. But the greater feather in his cap is not having been given the recognition he so much deserved, by the Chief Justices and the Government of that time in their bypassing him when it came to promotion to the apex Court, an indication of recognition of the independent spirit of the man since it could not have been a lack of merit!

After his retirement from the Bench, Dato’ Shankar was appointed a legal consultant with Zaid Ibrahim & Co. He found himself being actively involved as an arbitrator, both in domestic and international arbitrations. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Arbitrators and is a registered panel member of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration and of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

Meanwhile academia was given to tapping from his vast knowledge and experience: he has been a visiting Professor to the University of Malaya and of Monash University, Melbourne, and an Associate of the College of Law of Sydney.

Shankar’s interests went well beyond law. He has always been a voracious and serious reader of all forms of writing, and being endowed with both a photographic and an elephantine memory, was and is able to spout out at a drop of a hat, apt quotations from where you will, including from the Holy Bible, the Holy Qur’an and from the Holy Hindu scriptures, the Vedas; from Shakespeare to D H Lawrence and even from Frank Harris’ Life and Loves.

I pause to note that Shankar attributes his elephantine memory to the fact that from a very early age, his Brahmin parents, devoted Hindus, insisted on his learning, by heart, extensive passages from the Vedas. I can see his loving mother, rattan in hand, putting Shankar and his siblings through their paces, as was happening in the early hours in many a Malaysian home, including in my parents’ home, in those days. It’s a good thing that neither Shankar’s parents nor mine were living in Sweden! The Mahadevan siblings, and I and my siblings, could have been forcibly separated from our respective parents and brainwashed into believing that our parents and billions of Asian parents were ogres not fit to bring up children! We would have been scarred for life and guilt-ridden at having snitched on our parents!

It was just a few weeks ago that Shankar sent me a copy of an email he had sent in response to a friend’s website on different forms of love defined by the ancient Greek philosophers. Shankar’s response, was to refer to and to quote, inter alia from Dosteyevsky’s The Idiot, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native (or he wondered whether it was from Tess), and before ending his piece by “plumbing the bowels of Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White”, and then quoting from Eliot with a caveat that, now he is eighty he may not be word perfect!

All that in a response by return of email, by a man who suffers from a serious deterioration of the gift of eyesight!

Shankar had been an enthusiastic ornithologist, including birdwatching. I have seen him in action at the annual birdwatching competition in Fraser’s Hill, armed with camera and binoculars and leech-resistant boots. At his insistence, I gave it a try. My reaction: “Fraser’s Hill is a misnomer — it’s a bloody mountain. No, thank you! I reserve my birdwatching to the featherless kind!”

Apart from reciting from the Vedas, often in verse, Shankar never had any education in music. He has always regretted that. But he eventually became a student of aspects of music, Western and Carnatic. He actually gave a lecture at the Lincoln Centre, the American version of the British Council, on Jalan Ampang, on the history of music!

I recollect his pestering me to hear him hold forth on the Gregorian Chant, a form of Medieval plain song, with video recordings of hours of somewhat boring verses of the Gregorian Chant!

When I once stayed overnight at the Judge’s House in Johor Bahru, I was awakened in the very early hours by the haunting sound of a flute coming from the roof just outside my window. Shankar was the flautist!

I respectfully suggest that Mahadev Shankar is without any doubt one of the very small number of us Malaysians who can be said to be of the literati.

A matter of great pride and joy to Shankar, is the fact that his three children have done well: the elder son, a chemical engineer working in a senior position between China and Malaysia; and the other, a solicitor in London; and his daughter, a great gift to the community, using her Montessori training to focus on little children with special needs.

Finally, Shankar has been a passionate participant of that which I myself am somewhat familiar — food, drink and witty conversation. Shankar is a bon vivant, a veritable gourmand and connoisseur of good wines. With his walking stick, hearing aid and magnifying glasses, he turns up at many a food-and-wine gathering, often hosting it and contributing to the evening with his large store of anecdotes, with his knowledge of good food and quality wines, with his hearty wit!

Shankar has had a long and meaningful life experiencing a lot of good and some bad. When I see him at those gatherings of friends, turning up year after year, I am reminded of the old Negro spiritual, Old Man River. The world changes, Shankar had his share of toting barges and lifting bales, but Old Man River just keeps rolling, rolling along and may Mahadev Shankar himself, roll on for many more years. Having been close to Shankar for some 60 years and been with him in some of his bad times and in many of his good times, I think it relevant to end by quoting from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and along, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart.

Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drink delight of battle with my peers

Mr President, Honoured Judges, Members of the Bar, ladies and gentlemen, ecce homo — Behold the man, Mahadev Shankar!

Without integrity,
you have nothing

by Santha Oorjitham

The Star, March 18, 2014

Among the bigwigs: Mahadevan (fifth from left) standing proud among the judges when the Supreme Court opened in 1957.

Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar, who says his ‘cradle’ was the Supreme Court building, salutes judges about whom there was no whisper of corruption.

Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar recalls that when the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941, he and his brother helped their father to carry all the law reports from the court library in Kuala Lumpur and to hide them in the garret of their home.

His father, T. V. Mahadevan, served as private secretary to all the Chief Justices from 1931 until 1958 – including during the Japanese occupation. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the family brought the documents down and restored them to their shelves.

Shankar, now 81, remembers the huge influence his father had on his life and his choice of career.

Last Saturday, he became the third person to receive the Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award.

In his citation, former Court of Appeal judge Tan Sri V.C. George said Shankar “epitomises what a great judge should be”.

George listed Shankar’s achievements but quipped, “the greater feather in his cap is not having been given the recognition he so much deserved, by the Chief Justices and the Government of that time in their bypassing him when it came to promotion to the apex court, an indication of recognition of the independent spirit of the man since it could not have been a lack of merit!”

Shankar traces his passion for the law to his father. “My cradle, my playpen and my kindergarten was the Supreme Court building,” he says.

He roamed around the corridors above his father’s chambers during the weekends and listened when his father brought home judgments to correct and edit, discussing them with a friend.

In 1957, Viscount Kilmuir, Lord High Chancellor of the United Kingdom, attended the ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court of Malaya. Shankar’s father arranged an official photograph of all the judges in their full-bottomed wigs.

“The Viscount told my father he had a greater right to be in the photo than ‘any one of us’,” he recalls, which Shankar sees as “due recognition of his services to the judiciary”.

From exploring the building, he knew all of those Supreme Court judges and stresses that “these were judges about whom there was not even a whisper of corruption”.

Kilmuir’s speech covered the role of the Bar and the Bench and what they needed to do to ensure democracy. Shankar summarises it in one word: integrity – moral, intellectual and fiscal.

“If you don’t have these things, you have nothing,” Shankar says. “You have a shell of an institution which pretends to be carrying out its functions but the core is painfully missing.”

Shankar was called to the Malaysian Bar in 1956 and started out as a legal assistant in Shearn Delamore and Co. By 1961, at the age of 29, he became a partner in the firm.

He remembers a “highly placed gentleman” from Singapore who asked, in 1969, whether he would come to work in a “judicial capacity”. Shankar replied that he would not leave, because he loved his country. The man asked, “What do you do if your country doesn’t love you?” Shankar responded, “It does not in the least matter. I love my country and am needed here. Here I will stay.”

Since then, he has often wondered where he might have ended up in Singapore’s judicial hierarchy but, he laughs, “That is a parlour game!”

He was appointed a High Court judge in 1983. His first posting was in Johor and his father accompanied him as he entered his chambers for the first time. “I told him: ‘All your working life you sat on this side of the table. Today, before I sit in that chair, I want you to sit in it and sanctify it for me.’”

His father did, and later wrote to him, “This is the summum bonum, the finest present you could ever have given me.”

Shankar also served in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. In 1994, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal where he remained until retiring in 1997. Shankar was appointed for the first two-year term of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in 2000 and was then nominated advisory jurist to the Asia Pacific Forum until 2006.

He served on the Royal Commission on Law Reform of the Laws of Marriage and Divorce back in 1971 and, more recently, the Royal Commisions of Inquiry into the injuries sustained by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 and the V.K. Lingam Video Clip in 2007.

The latter, he notes, recommended creating a Judicial Appointments Commission. When this was done the following year, he says, “it went some way to allaying public disquiet about the way in which persons were selected for judicial appointment”.

Shankar was a legal consultant with Zaid Ibrahim & Co until 2011 and is a registered member of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

Today, he is as independent as ever.

“The judiciary must have the confidence of the community,” he says, speaking slowly and choosing each word with care. “It is not just a question of actual bias. It is also the perception of bias. If judges are not so myopic that they cannot see that their judgments do not have the confidence of the community, they must surely ask themselves what is wrong.”

He quotes the words of British churchman and historian Thomas Fuller, “Be you never so high, the law is above you”.

If judges are not perceived to be the benchmark by which the community is to decide what is wrong and what is right, he argues, “the law would have failed to serve its fundamental purpose, namely to be a deterrent against potential wrongdoers. If powerful people do not fear the law, where are the checks and balances?”

Shankar is “dismayed” that some Malaysian laws still include the ouster clause, “the decision of the Minister shall not be questioned in any court”.

“If they are not to be questioned in any court, where are they to be questioned at all?” he asks.

“We need to think about this because even powerful people need the protection of the law so that they do not exceed themselves.”

In Reply

Datuk Mahadev Shankar

Yang Amat Ariff Tun Ariffin Zakaria, Ketua Hakim Negara;
Chief Justice Emeritus Singapore The Hon. Mr. Chan Sek Keong;
My fraternal Judges and retired Judges from the Malaysian Judiciary;
Your Excellencies Distinguished Ambassadors and your gracious consorts;
My fellow contemporaries, colleagues, and collaborators from the Malaysian Bar, warriors all in the pusuit of justice - although I must say my contemporaries are already an endangered species because we are a rapidly diminishing in numbers - even as the numbers of young lawyers are growing exponentially;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

There is one thing I am NOT going to do this evening. I am not going to sing I did it my Way.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly the rich baritone voice of which I once boasted has become a querulous falsetoo.

Secondly and more importantly, for sheer egoism, ego-centrism and ego mania that song and the man who first sang it take the cake.

Far from doing it MY way let me confess in all humility that every step of he way from my infancy to the day I now stand here before you, I had the care, compassion, love guidance and camaraderie of everyone who came my way.

In everything I did my thoughts and acts were tempered and my character was moulded by those blessed people.

From one to five it was my mother who patiently got me to stand and then walk because I suffered from some congenital deficits which all but immobilised me.

From kindergarten till I was eventually called to the Bar it was my father who sustained me at great cost to himself.

In School I had great teachers of whom I would like to single out the late Mr. Goh Keng Kwee, and Dato Baharuddin Marji and that great headmaster of the Victoria Institution, Mr. Frederick Daniel.

As a budding law student in London I was blessed to find myself incarcerated under the tutelage of the one-armed martinet Mr. Gerald Hart in whose Chambers came to be called “Heartbreak House”. He saw me through to the Bar Finals in 20 months flat.

I could not be called to the Bar because I was below 21 and had not completed my dining terms.

So I attached myself to the firm of Foot and Bowden in Plymouth where I was mentored by John Foot later Lord John Foot where I came of age and returned to London for my Call and my pupillage under Commander Ingram Poole in the chambers of Dingle Foot who became such a household name in Malaysia after the Railwaymen’s Union of Malaysia case that David Marchall actually asked his local solicitors in KL to remind the public that we also had a Singapore Foot here for the asking.

After my return to Malaya in 1956 my master was the redoubtable Robert Humfrey Vere Ritoul in Shearn Delamore and Drew and Napier.

Through him came the start of my journey to fame when he entrusted Tun Tan Siew Sin’s brief to draft the M.C.A memorandum to the Reid Commission for the inclusion in the Federal Constitution of the right to citizenship by birth or jus soli.

Bob could so easily have told Tun Tan that my product was the firm’s work but being the gentleman he was he told Siew Sin that it was the work of a Chambering student who had just been taken into the firm. At Tun Tan’s behest I was immediately transferred to Seremban on full pay and the rest as they say is history.

We had no post final practical classes and we literally had to learn on the hob. The Court interpreters were exemplary in the practical hints they gave us. May I single out Mr. Koh Pooi Kee whose son Philip Koh is here today, Majid Khan, and Lee Kong Beng to name but a few.

All my years at the Bar were years of happy camaraderie both with the giants and the gentiles. The judges were all kindness and except for Moodie Hashim who terrorised us. And they were all models of courtesy and they LISTENED. And when they gave judgement they told you why in a way where the dignity of even those who lost was never ruffled. These were judges about whom there was never even a whisper about corrupton.

My tenure as a Judge from 1983 till I retired in 1997 was ennobled by the greats like Justices Ali Hassan, Wan Sulaiman, Ong Hock Thye, Gill, Ismail Khan, Suffian , Raja Azlan Shah and Eusoffe Abdoolcader to name but a few.

If there was one critical quality they inspired in me by example about the art of judging it was to assiduously cultivate the virtue of listening to counsel and then delivering a prompt judgement which dealt squarely with the relevant issues.

Guides, philosophers, and friends from all walks of life whose paths crossed with mine, it is as a recipient of their humanitarianism that I now stand here before you to receive this prestigious award of a lifetime achievement. Whilst I wholeheartedly accept your unanimous standing applause let me publicly acknowledge that this achievement is as much the end product of all these wonderful people who each in his and her unique way shaped me to the man I am today.

The first day I assumed duties as a High Court Judge in Johor Bahru I took my Dad into the Chambers with me. There I told him, “Dad, all your working life you have sat at the other end of the judge’s table. Today please sit in the Judge’s chair and consecrate it whilst I, the judge, will sit at this end to do obeisance to you, my Lord.”

He was so overwhelmed that he wrote me a letter which was hand delivered to me at the end of the day where he said that what I had done represented the summum bonum or the best present in his life. In like vein to be honored with a lifetime achievement award tonight by my contemporaries, colleagues and compatriots in the Promethean pursuit of justice is surely the best accolade that I could ever hope to receive in this life of mine.

To all of you let me give my heartfelt thanks.

In my twilight years my life desires and support systems are wholly in the keeping of my dear wife Datin Janet, and to her too I owe a special vote of thanks.

Life has a curious way of coming full circle. After I retired from the Bench in 1997 I was offered a consultancy in Zaid Ibrahim and Company. I had quite forgotten that I had moved his call to the Bar. My fifteen years in that firm has been one of the most fulfilling periods of my life. I never tire of telling others that if there is a heaven on earth for me, it is the law office of Zaid Ibrahim and Company now called Zicolaw after he retired from the firm to enter active politics. That office with its ethnic racial mix which is a microcosm of Satu Malaysia is surely an inspiring example to all of what a united Malaysia should be. If my life has been dedicated to the law let me say here how gratified I was when Dato Zaid accepted my invitation to attend this dinner as my guest along with Datin Suliana. Her work in Kelantan as a carer for spastic children is well known.

But Dato Zaid deserves the standing ovation of you all because it was he alone who as Minister for Law in Tun Badawi’s government, rehabilated the five judges who were so unceremoniously deposed during the term of his predecessor.

The valiant efforts made by the Bar to stem that tide was surely its finest hour. It is ironic that in this very hall, as co-Chairman of Olympia College I have handed out thousands of diplomas and degrees to our graduands to launch them into the rough and tumble of life with a good education. Today it is my turn to be the recipient of this prestigious award, and once more let me specially thank the persons who must have nominated me for this honour and closer home my undying gratitude to Tan Sri Dato Vadaketh Chacko George, Dato Sundra Rajoo, and the effulgent Mr. Philip Koh.

I was also touched to my heart to have my first pupil, Dato V. Letumi Kandan, to read the citation. The world is a very changed place from the Bar which only had less than a hundred in 1956 to the fifteen thousand plus today. In like manner our challeges have multiplied exponentially. Somewhere in that citation, I heard the words of Tennyson.

May I respond with Tennyson but from Morte D’Arthur:-

“The old order changeth
Yielding place to new;
And God fulfills himself in many ways.
Lest one good custom shoud corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself, what comfort is there in me.
I have lived my life
And that which I have done
May he within himself make pure….”

Thus can I fade away and leave everything in the laps of the Gods. But you my fellow warriors all in the pursuit of justice how should you go about facing the future? Once again let me turn back to Tennyson but this time articulating the valedictory thoughts of my great hero Ulysses.

After Chief Justice S.S. Gill retired he was so lost that he applied to be re-admitted to the Malaysian Bar. Dato Dollah Rahman representing the Bar Council opposed the application on the ground that retired judges should not come back to practice. Dato Azmi Kamarudddin made the order subject to the caveat that Gill should not appear in Court and asked for that assurance which was silently given. In my closing submission I quoted the direction we should all take:

“It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

One final point before I sit down.

When I saw your hand painting artist put on the scales of justice on the screen I ruefully ruminated that the symbol of the ruling party was actually a Sailing Ship perhaps to remind us of the ethic diversity of our multicultural nation. Our logo then and still is Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu.

Somewhere down the line, and I am not sure how it happened the scales of justice which has always been a time honoured symbol of JUSTICE was taken away from us to become the emblem of a political party. What is worse the judicial power which was vested in the Judiciary has also been taken away by a parliamentary majority who would have us do only what they tell us to do.

We are a very divided nation today.

So my wish list which I hope our Chief Justice will help us achieve is to restore the scales of justice and the power it represents back to where it rightly belongs.

In conclusion, I echo what Tun Suffian once so prophetically announced. “Article 5 of the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. It does not guarantee freedom AFTER speech.”

So Yang Amat Ariff and my fraternity of judges if ever I should find myself in trouble before you for talking too much, I hope and pray that you will be kind to me.

Thank you.

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