Jansen Law Zhen Hao is currently studying LLB Law at University College London, and is graduating in 2021. This personal statement was part of his successful application to UCL, LSE, King’s College London, University of Bristol and University of Warwick for Law.
The judicial state of Malaysia is worrying. The catalyst of change for the prejudiced has been freedom of speech. Malaysia’s strengthening of the Sedition Act has harshly restricted this freedom as illustrated in 2015 whereby surges of government critics were prosecuted under the Act. It baffles me how a bygone act, abused by autocrats, is justified due to Malaysia’s racially tensed past and multi-faceted society. Democracy in Malaysia is dissipating as lines of permissibility are contingent on political convenience rather than legal foresight. The discussion on what laws should be universal, and variable based on the society it serves, is one that has sparked my interest in law.
Amidst questionable laws, the recent decline of respected lawyers has left citizens in a limbo of mistrust. “A strong legal system prevents tyranny” becomes an unattainable statement. The rule of ‘separation of powers’ in Malaysia has disorientated into a farrago of chaos. No thanks to politically motivated legal members and absurd constitutionally-granted power of parliament to amend free speech laws. The way faults in a legal system can change a country’s path is both a fearful and riveting trait that I would love to explore.
My interest led me to an internship with the chief criminal lawyer in Malaysia. Knowledge of legal terms and concepts made trials and commentaries easier to process. Mr.Salim developed my analytical skills by presenting me legal principles and asking for their applications in scenarios. While interning, I discovered a trend in Malaysian rape cases showing that a defense counsel had to not only raise doubt but actively prove an accused’s innocence. Due to cultural disgust for sex offenders, the rule of law has been distorted. This reaffirmed my view that the Malaysian legal system has been controversially morphed based on non-legal reasons. Differences between morality and legality interest me as it results in the discrepancy in punishments.
I had the opportunity to substantiate my views on the Sedition Act in my EPQ. My essay focused on how the Act deviated off legal principles and how these deviations weren’t justified in other contexts. I assessed that the Sedition Act was unlike other strict liability offences. Statutes of traditional offences clearly detail provisions to justify that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yet, there has been prosecutions under Malaysia’s Sedition Act based on broadly undefined terms such as ‘feelings of ill will and enmity’. I also questioned the proportionality of the punishment in the Act. I found a Malaysian Law, requiring proven intent, punished those that made offensive racial remarks with a lesser imprisonment time than Sedition. This was in spite of how those remarks would also constitute Sedition. Through my survey and interviews with lawyers and politicians, I was also able to contextualize Sedition in a political and social landscape.
The prospect of compounding my views with greater legal knowledge in university motivates me. Love for greater knowledge and varying planes of logic culminated in my election as President of the Debate Society. Debating refined my verbalized thoughts and enabled me to pick out main points of contention. I have learned that verbal smokescreens and clutter were prominent in my court visits – the ability to pick out the main issues would be vital. The opportunity to be a trainee judge at national level competitions solidified my debating prowess. Judging allowed me to critically contrast the pros and cons of an argument and analyze a participant’s thought process and logic post-debate.
I look forward to studying Law as the debate is a cornerstone of the course. My experiences have equipped me with discipline, persistence, and consistency to fulfill my potential in law and consolidated my interest. Studying Law will allow me to navigate through political discord and influence people on juggling Malaysian intricacies and democracy through laws.
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