Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sungai Layang Dam now at critical level

Pic by Zulkarnian Ahmad Tajuddin, New Straits Times
The Star

JOHOR BARU: The water level at the Sg Layang Dam has dropped to a critical level. The dam will only be able to supply water for between two and three weeks if the present weather persists.

So far, the authorities have not started any water rationing or scheduled water cuts for about 500,000 residents who get their supply from the dam.

The dam supplies water to those in Pasir Gudang and Johor Baru.

National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said that there was a high possibility of water cuts being implemented if the situation did not improve.

“The water level at Sungai Layang is now at 19.58m which is way below critical level of 23.5m.

“It is alarming because the level seems to be consistently dropping by about 0.03/0.04 metres per day,” he told reporters after visiting the Sungai Layang water treatment plant here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Resolving tugs of war

The Sunday Star 
With All Due Respect by Roger Tan

The Federal Court ruling on the custody battle between a Muslim convert and his Hindu ex-wife was a landmark decision. Can the thorny issue of unilateral conversion be finally be put to rest?

The much-awaited decision of the Federal Court involving S. Deepa and her former husband, now a Muslim convert, Izwan Abdullah, delivered on Feb 10, is sort of a landmark decision.

Deepa and Izwan (whose Hindu name is N. Viran) registered their civil marriage on March 19, 2003, under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, 1976 (Act 164). They have two children, a girl, V. Shamila and a boy, V. Mithran. ­Both were Hindus at the time of their birth. 

On Nov 26, 2012, Viran converted to Islam. On Jan 4, 2013, Izwan unilaterally converted the two minors to Islam surreptitiously without the knowledge or consent of Deepa. 

Shamila’s Muslim name is Nur Nabila Izwan while Mithran is named Muhammad Nabil Izwan. On May 15, 2013, Izwan also managed to obtain a dissolution order of his civil marriage with Deepa from the Seremban Syariah High Court under section 46(2) of the Islamic Family Law (Negri Sembilan) Enactment 2003. Then on Sept 19, 2013, Izwan was granted permanent custody of the two children by the Syariah High Court with Deepa having visitation rights and access to the children.

Meanwhile, upon the application of Deepa, the civil marriage was dissolved by the Seremban Civil High Court on April 7, 2014. The same court also granted permanent custody of the children to Deepa with Izwan having weekly access to the children. However, two days later, Izwan took Mithran away from Deepa’s house. Deepa then applied for and obtained a recovery order from the Civil High Court pursuant to section 53 of the Child Act, 2001. 

Izwan appealed to the Court of Appeal against the custody order as well as the recovery order. On Dec 17, 2014, the Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals. 

On Feb 10, the Federal Court ruled that as long as one parent was non-Muslim, the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction to hear any matter pertaining to the marriage solemnised under civil law at the very beginning (ab initio). The court also granted custody of Shamila (Nurul Nabila), 11, to Deepa, while son Mithran (Nabil), eight, is to live with Izwan. 

To be fair to the panel of five Federal Court judges chaired by the Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Raus Sharif who also delivered the decision of the apex court, the issue of unilateral conversion was not addressed simply because the court was asked to determine only two questions of law, namely:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Platform for strata woes

The Sunday Star 
With All Due Respect by Roger Tan

On board: Senior lawyer Teh Yoke Hooi, the only woman president, receiving her letter of appointment from Dahlan, flanked by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek and Norhayati.
With the Strata Management Tribunal, the myriad of related disputes should be effectively dealt with.  

ON July 9 this year, 20 lawyers received their letters of appointment as presidents of the Strata Management Tribunal from Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan. 

The much-awaited Strata Management Act, 2013 (Act 757), initiated by the previous minister, Tan Sri Chor Chee Heung, finally came into force on June 1, 2015, in the peninsula except for Penang which came into operation on June 12, 2015.

The Strata Management (Strata Management Tribunal) Regulations, 2015, came into effect on July 1, 2015. Act 757 also repealed the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act, 2007 (Act 663).

In fact, the tribunal is the precursor of the Strata Titles Board set up under the repealed provisions of the Strata Titles Act, 1985 (Act 318) which really did not take off despite Act 318 being amended on Dec 1, 2000, and again on April 12, 2007.

The tribunal’s headquarters is based in Putrajaya whilst offices have also been set up in Penang, Johor Baru and Kuala Terengganu (See table). The chairman of the tribunal is Norhayati Ahmad.

With more than three million Malaysians living in various stratified buildings, it is hoped that this tribunal will be an effective forum for the various stakeholders to settle their disputes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

131 receive awards from King

Proud moment: The King
bestowing the Darjah 
Panglima Jasa Negara upon
Tan at the investiture ceremony
in Istana Negara. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, presented awards and medals to 131 people in conjunction with his birthday on June 6.

Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah was also present at the investiture held at Istana Negara here.

Heading the list of recipients yesterday was Education Services Commission chairman Tan Sri Dr Haili Dolhan, who received the Darjah Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) award, which carries the title “Tan Sri”.

Among those who received the Panglima Jasa Negara award, which carries the title “Datuk” (PJN) were Roger Tan & Nurul senior partner Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee.

Tan holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree from Queen Mary College, University of London, and Master of Laws from the National University of Singapore.

He is currently a commissioner of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) and president of the Strata Management Tribunal. — Bernama

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mourning a great leader

The Sunday Star
Legally Speaking by Roger Tan 

IN MEMORY: Sunday Star columnist Roger Tan paying tribute to the late Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew in the condolence book at the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
Spontaneous and emotional outpouring of grief by Singaporeans is indeed a testament to Lee Kuan Yew’s extraordinary achievement in creating a united nation out of a divided, polyglot, multi-racial and multi-religious population.

THE fact that today our Yang di-Pertuan Agong will represent Malaysia at Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral – an epochal event in the history of Singapore – speaks volumes of the island’s founding father as the greatest statesman in South-East Asia. 

In fact, President Richard Nixon held him up as a leader of similar stature as Winston Churchill. Most importantly, Lee was also instrumental in the formation of Malaysia and hence he and a generation of Singaporeans were once, albeit briefly, Malaysians between 1963 and 1965. 

Born on Sept 16, 1923, Lee read law at Cambridge University and obtained a starred double first and started practising as a lawyer in 1950 for almost a decade. As a legal assistant, he took up cases for trade unions, often on a pro bono basis. This undoubtedly helped him later to generate mass support for him when he became prime minister in 1959. 

Almost half a million Singaporeans have already turned up at Parliament House and the 18 community tribute sites to pay their last respects to the nonagenarian. Thousands more did not mind queuing for up to 10 hours the night before in order to reach the Parliament House where the body is lying in state. 

This spontaneous and emotional outpouring of grief by Singaporeans is indeed a testament to Lee’s extraordinary achievement in creating a united nation out of a divided, polyglot, multi-racial and multi-religious population. It is ironic that someone who had believed in Machiavelli, making him the most feared person in Singapore, is now someone who is most loved by his people. It is understandable that Singaporeans’ biggest regret is that their founding father would not be there on Aug 9 for their 50th national day celebrations. 

Lee was indeed a great leader in every sense of the word. He was humble enough to say sorry if he was wrong and if it was in the best interest of his county to do so. Hence, he had apologised to Malaysia a few times for some of his acerbic comments. 

He was also a first-class diplomat whose advice was often sought by leaders of superpowers even though he was just the head of “a little red dot” on the world map. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Moderation is the key, says lawyer

The Star 
by Adrian Chan 
One for the album: Liow (right) posing with speakers at the forum (from left) Dr Tan Chong Tin, Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung, Tan, Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon, Prof Mohamad and Dr Chandra (front).
KUALA LUMPUR: Moderation is the key that opened the door to the formation of our Federal Constitution, says lawyer Roger Tan Kor Mee. 

“Our Constitution is moderate and balances the competing interests of the country’s various communities.

“If not for moderation, we would not have been able to put together a written constitution,” said Tan, who is also a columnist for The Star.

He said while the Constitution guaranteed many rights for the citizens, it also demanded that moderation be exercised with self-restraint, self-control and self-discipline.

“The thought of resorting to violence should never even cross the mind of anyone,” he said.

Tan added that in a moderate society, a person should be able to hold a rational discourse with his peers even on sensitive issues affecting his community.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Case for judicial review

The Sunday Star 
Legally Speaking by Roger Tan
Landmark judgment: In the Nov 7 decision of the Court of Appeal in Muhamad Juzaili Bin Mohd Khamis & Ors v Negri Sembilan State Government, 2014, the court struck down section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan), 1992 which criminalises Muslim men for cross-dressing, as unconstitutional.
Is judicial review the correct procedure to challenge the validity of a statute? 

IN the last two weeks, two interesting cases relating to homosexual and cross-dressing men were dealt with by the appeals courts in Singapore and Malaysia. However, the manner in which the two courts interpreted the equipollent provisions of our respective Constitution, described as consanguineous with one another as well as that of the United States and India, differed sharply.

In the Singapore case of Lim Meng Suang vs Attorney General, 2014, the highest court in Singapore, the Court of Appeal, ruled in a 101-page judgment on Oct 29 that section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises physical intimacy and sex between men, was not unconstitutional.

The appeals were brought by gay couple Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon who have been in a romantic and sexual relationship for the past 15 years, and Tan Eng Hong who had been arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man in a public toilet cubicle in 2010.

In a nutshell, the appellants had questioned the constitutionality of section 377A on the following grounds:

> that it infringed Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution (SC) that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law”;

> that it infringed Article 12 SC in that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”; and

> that section 377A was a colonial legislation incorporated into the Singapore Penal Code in 1938 when she was a British colony and prior to the promulgation of SC.

Senior Counsel Deborah Barker (daughter of Singapore’s first post-Independence Minister of Law, EW Barker) argued for the gay couple that the right to life and personal liberty under Article 9 should also include a limited right of privacy and personal autonomy allowing a person to enjoy and express affection and love towards another human being.

Delivering the judgment of the court, Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong ruled that the phrase “life or personal liberty” in Article 9 when read in entirety refers only to a person’s freedom from an unlawful deprivation of life and unlawful detention or incarceration. Period.

He went on to caution that foreign cases (with particular references to those decided by the Indian Supreme Court) that have conferred an expansive constitutional right to life and liberty should be approached with circumspection because they were decided in the context of their unique social, political and legal circumstances.

As regards Article 12 SC, the court applied the Malaysian case of Malaysian Bar v Government of Malaysia, 1987 in that to determine the constitutionality of a statute under Article 12 SC, the test is one of reasonable or permissible classification. It is a two-stage test which is applied only if the impugned statute is discriminatory in nature.

In other words, any law that treats people differently can still be held as constitutional if it passes this test.