A Lawyers’ March … Fuh!
Writer: Lee Lian Kong
Published: Fri, 09 Dec 2011
Labels – most commonly used by confused hormonal teenagers desperately grappling for an identity; may be manipulated by the media and bitchy, good-looking girls and boys to determine social hierarchy in high school. The thing about labels is that we usually grow out of them when we graduate from high school and discover that there are more pressing things at hand like mortgages and stagnant wages.
Street demonstrations – Action by a mass group of people in favour of a political cause.
The organisers of Walk for Justice 2011 seem to have missed that period of discovery that labels are dumb and insignificant. They also seem to not quite grasp the concept of what a street demonstration is for.
This year’s Walk For Justice saw a few hundred lawyers walking from the Lake Gardens to Parliament to protest the Public Assembly Bill 2011.
Now before I proceed, let me make this clear. Any street demonstrations or protest for a just cause is highly commendable. They are brave men, women and children who put aside their comfort and safety to fight for their freedom and rights.
The Walk for Justice did not make that list. Their premise is that when lawyers walk, that means there’s something wrong.
Now is it me, or is there just the slightest tinge of arrogance there?
There is a backdrop to such a statement, and it isn’t pretty. What are they trying to imply here? Are they saying that when others walk, it isn’t as important? That when accountants walk, when construction workers march, when teachers protest, their cause is not as paramount?
Ouch. That’s a bit insulting, isn’t it?
“When lawyers walk, that means there’s something wrong.” The functional word here is lawyers, not so much their cause, which is justice.
Any resistance effort depends highly on the visual impact it creates. The more sectors of society, the bigger the number of protestors, the more readily it engages with the public and in turn, the more successful it will be.
That was what the Reformasi and both Bersih protests were all about. Organisation is vital to ensure the numbers and if possible, the diversity of protestors were there to drive home the point of a united large pool of people.
But the Walk For Justice was a demonstration which did not get other sectors to join. Some may defend this exclusivity to present a “learned professionals” impact. Now, surely if the Bar Council had mobilised accountants, brokers, doctors, construction workers to join them, the impact would have been doubled or tripled. If you multiply a number, you end up with a bigger number. Elementary mathematics.
The deal is the Bar Council did not do all this. And their shortcoming in doing so is telling.
To be honest, I never buy the pitch that lawyers are justice fighters and “one with the people”. It’s hard to believe you’re selling justice “for the people” when you’re sauntering about in RM800 aviator shades and a RM2,000 suit. There are Rudy Baylors, honest-to-goodness Davids fighting against the Goliaths type of lawyers out there, but they are few and far in between.
Anyone who has worked in a law firm knows there is an invisible class divide between the secretaries and lawyers. You cannot profess you’re in solidarity with the people when you don’t even have lunch with your own secretaries in the common break room.
Here’s the deal. Lawyers have always been an elitist bunch. They are neither the proletariat nor the revolutionary class. Their socioeconomic backgrounds starts with their upbringing in a middle to upper class society to an expensive education graduating into a prestigious job with an above average starting salary that only gets higher. It’s a pathway mostly for the privileged, like it or not.
Now you have a couple of hundred of them saying it is beyond them to see such a repressive bill being passed for the sake of the people. If this is genuine, then do so without the basis that it is because when lawyers march, something is very wrong. Because when you do so, you get this impression that it’s some sort of “back to nature” programme, where lawyers extend their privileged hand to the “commoners”. You cannot escape feeling that slightest prickling of vanity and elitism.
Or was that their intention all along?
Lee Lian Kong is a second-year law student who wishes she can prosecute hippies, hipsters and hypocrites. You can contact her to help her with her cause or send her feedback about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org