Friday, 12 February 2016

Let’s not muddle the conversion issue in Deepa's case

I have kept silent about the recent Federal Court's decision in Deepa v. Izwan. There really was nothing for me to say. But this piece by Datuk Zainul Rijal prompted me to write something, because it skirts around the elephant in the room.

I will write in English because I want this to come out as soon as possible. If I can manage, I will write and expand this in BM, because what I want to say should be said in BM as well.

Disclosure: Zainul Rijal is a Facebook friend. I first knew of him some years ago when I wrote to him personally on another issue (can't remember what) relating to Islam in Malaysia. We don't see eye to eye on the topic. But we have, I believe, mutual respect for each other. So please don't think this is a bash-Zainul-Rijal piece. It is not.

His explanation – at paragraphs three and four of his piece – of section 51 and the position (or rather non-position) of the Muslim convert in family matters in the civil court is accurate. The main point he makes in the article is that the convert has rights too, and that has been overlooked, and the solution would be to establish a tribunal where judges from both the civil and shariah jurisdiction can sit and rule on cases such as Deepa's.

In the past, I would have agreed to and supported such a proposal. It's quite a win-win solution.
But now, I propose a simpler solution.

Conversion to Islam, in Malaysia, has to be done at the appropriate state authority and there will be the requisite registration so that there would be no doubt as to the status of the convert's religion. An extra step that can be done to ensure fairness is this: before a conversion is officially registered, the parents (if the convert is not married), or the spouse and children (if the convert is married), should be required by law to be informed of the proposed conversion and be allowed to make representations or objections, and all pending issues must be sorted out before the (proposed) convert is allowed to convert.

There can even be an out-of-court agreement between all parties if there is any urgency to the conversion taking place (for example if the convert is dying and wishes to die as a Muslim), and this agreement can be formally recognised at the civil and shariah courts later when ancillary issues have to be settled.

My solution merely adds an extra step in the administrative process. It is cheaper and faster than establishing a tribunal. And it forces all parties to deal with reality, i.e. the person wishes to convert, and that is that.

Faith is a powerful thing. It should not produce misery and heartache. Children being separated and growing up away from their parents is not right (not when there is nothing other than religion being used as a reason for the separation).

Fair is fair. Just is just. Let's not muddle the issue. – February 12, 2016.

*Jason Kay is a lawyer practicing in Malacca.

My thoughts on unilateral conversion of minors, in 2013 —

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Using the iPad in your legal practice — 2016 update

iPad, sidduz, FlickrIt has been over 3 years since I wrote this piece – – I feel an update is in order. What I want to convey is merely what has worked for me, and what hasn't. Let's start with the apps I've been using regularly for work.

For emails, I am still using the native MAIL app but now in tandem with INBOX BY GMAIL. The reason I use the second app is because I need its "defer till later" function which allows me to put aside unimportant emails which will reappear in my inbox later in the day, the next day, the weekend, or to a specific date and time, or (and this is cool but not really useful for me) to a time when I arrive at a particular place (this is useful when I need, say, a batch of emails to reappear in my inbox when I arrive at a particular location for a meeting).

My calendar is still the native CALENDAR app mostly. But since my phone is an Android, I also have the GOOGLE CALENDAR app running because the "schedule" view totally works for me.

For word processing, I use the native NOTES app for quick pieces since basic formatting is now available. I will only use PAGES when the need arises to edit the raw text since anything pasted into PAGES is pasted as raw text, while formatting is maintained when you paste into NOTES. I have not used the MICROSOFT WORD app after trying it out for a month or two. But it is a good app. When collaborating with other lawyers, I use GOOGLE DOCS because it allows for realtime editing with collaborators and we can leave comments for each other. This speeds up work tremendously.

When preparing cases, I work mainly with scanned PDF of my files – annotating them to remind myself of salient points in each case file. I still use PDF EXPERT. It is, to me, the best app on my iPad. For organising the development for each case file, I use EVERNOTE and devote 3 notes (usually) per file – chronology, examination-in-chief/cross-examination flow/questions, and the submission flow. Each case file gets a specific name, and I do not create individual folders for each case file. What I do is use tags to remind me what each case is about, for e.g. statute, court, active or closed case file, area of law, and anything that will help me tap into research already done when preparing a future case. I use the tag function as guideposts.

To convert photos to PDF, I use SCANNER PRO, and I have PDF PRINTER on standby to convert web pages to pdf (this can also be done with the 'save to PDF in iBooks' function now available on the latest iOS).

I still use DROPBOX and GOOGLE DRIVE for my cloud storage needs. iCloud is on by default.

For instant messaging, I have WHATSAPP and TELEGRAM on the phone, and TELEGRAM on the iPad. Having Telegram on both the iPad and phone is liberating because there is the option of typing out longer messages (and it's easier to proofread on the iPad), sending it to myself via Telegram, and then forward to others via WhatsApp (which is the preferred app for most of the people on my contact list). There is less chance of typographical errors. I also use ZELLO on occasion – usually when coordinating large events or outings.

As part of my continuing education, TED talks are still a staple. I use the YOUTUBE app. Channels that I find particularly good are The RSA and The School Of Life.

New things that I currently use: IKEA's ISBERGET tablet stand. Cheap, and works brilliantly when I'm conducting a case at court.

Things/Apps that I do not use anymore: The stylus. iPad works best with fingers. That is its magic. As for all the other apps that I mentioned in the first article but not in this, I don't/rarely use them anymore.

And this article? Written on the iPad with the 2-thumb typing method, and final editing using a laptop.

Explore the apps mentioned in the article:-
Jason Kay is a lawyer residing in Melaka.  His interests include legal aid (YBGK) (Bar Council LegalAid Centres) and war crimes (Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal).  He blogs at Open Letters, and tweets @JK_mlk

Friday, 5 February 2016

Public Servant – what it is and what it is not: A primer for the know-it-all middle class of Malaysia.

Public SERVICE (and SERVANT) does not mean what you think it means. Public servants serve the public (collectively). Yes, we are all MEMBERS of the PUBLIC. That does not mean that the OCPD in your area is YOUR SERVANT. That's just dumb. If you think this is in any way remotely true either linguistically or in the real world, then you are dumb. 

Public servants are very qualified persons who have gone through rigorous tests and are trusted to work for the good of the nation. That is why they are given very favourable working conditions and a pension. Their service to the nation is highly regarded. Their capabilities are highly regarded. 

They are not your "servants" in the sense of what you understand the word "servant" means. They are not there to wait on you hand and foot. If you think like this, then you are dumb.

Oh, you may say, "I pay taxes. My taxes pay their salary. So they work FOR ME." Again, you are dumb. You pay taxes because that is your DUTY as a citizen to the nation. That does not make you the boss of the public servants.

So, to summarise: "Public Servant" is a term for people in the civil service. They are not servants for individual members of the public. They are servants to the nation. And yes, they are also "the public". 

So yeah, if you think you can order or belittle or insult members of the civil service, then you are dumb. And there are laws against such behaviour. So, try to not be dumb.