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In this talk organised by Function 8, coordinated by Teo Soh Lung and held at The Agora on 21 May 2016, M Ravi talks about cause lawyering and the cases that spurred him to take a different path in his legal profession. M Ravi's synopsis of his talk: "Cause lawyering is a form of mobilization that uses a public arena and “the law” rather than “politics” for causes. The law is utilized through mediums such as the courts to protect the capacity of individuals and civil society groups to challenge the state in the public arena through litigation. There seems to be a complete lack of cause lawyers. The reason, I think as we all know, can be attributed to Singapore’s political history and socio-political context. Under one party rule by the PAP for five decades, civil liberties have been kept strictly in abeyance. We have all heard of de facto ‘OB markers’ that defines what constitutes acceptable speech or behavior. In Singapore, the legal community faces the very same problem. ‘OB markers’ too define what constitutes socially acceptable cause lawyering. As in the press where there appears a trend of self censorship amongst journalists and writers, so too there is an ostensible form of ‘self-restraint’ practiced among the legal community. "So, It is as if lawyers quarantine their specifically legal capacity for advocacy, such that public statements against state positions are almost never articulated. Instead, in a masked mode, lawyers facilitate the less audible, less visible work of deciphering actual and proposed legislative and regulatory requirements, researching alternatives, and drawing upon their professional networks to further causes they believe in. Instead of furthering causes by openly contesting state sanctioned positions and ideologies through legal processes, lawyers mute their involvement in causes by occupying civil society spaces(through associations for environmentalism and gay rights for example) in much the same way as non-lawyers do." This is what is referred by Professors Jothie Rajah and Arun in their research paper on cause lawyering in Singapore, as ‘masked cause lawyering’. Final Words As I conclude, I just want to say a few words, especially for those who are aspiring lawyers and seek to use their legal knowledge to contribute to the advancement of society and morality. ◻ It is always crucial to bear in mind that What is legal is often not just. And what is just is often not at all legal. Apartheid and the racial segregation laws in America were prime examples of unjust laws. ◻ Developments in law, as history shows, follow social change rather than lead to it. Exercise leadership, be that change. Do not be afraid to challenge convention. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zones, because you will make adversaries. But stay true to your principles and that is what will lead you to a sense of fulfillment knowing what you have done is for the better good. ◻ You are never alone, there are luminaries who have trodden on this path too, no matter how arduous it was. Luminaries like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Karpal Singh of Malaysia. Take inspiration from their service to humanity and their dedication in advancing social justice. ◻ Social Justice isn’t solitary work. Always seek to engage the community, network and talk to like minded people. Great movements were part of an amorphous group of peoples with like minded goals and ideals. The bigger the collective, the stronger the clout, the better we are at synergizing our efforts towards the cause. No one goes it alone. We all need support too." This video was uploaded to The Online Citizen's Facebook on 22 May 2016: Links:

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  • M Ravi

    M Ravi has been involved in some of the most high-profile and politically sensitive...

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