About this segment: Person of the Month is an initiative by the University of Malaya Law Review which aims to feature a prominent member of the University of Malaya’s Law Faculty towards the end of each month. The purpose of this segment is twofold. Firstly, to give due recognition to the contributions of our student leaders and secondly, so that their achievements might inspire other members of the faculty towards greater success.
Iqbal Harith Liang, in front of the Faculty of Law
Iqbal Harith Liang, known endearingly to most as Iqbal, is a final year student of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (“UM”). Iqbal has left an impression on many, be it as the strict disciplinary officer in Lex Ordinem, the senior with the exemplary work ethics or the laid back student playing pool with friends in the student lounge. The commonality of each impression left to the members of the Law Faculty is that Iqbal is a kind and passionate student who is willing to lend a hand to anyone, regardless of his relationship with them. Iqbal has been involved in various student organisations and will leave the faculty with a multitude of achievements, which will be explored in this write-up.
Hailing from Johor Bahru, Iqbal honed his English proficiency growing up by reading an extensive list of books on war. His passion for Law was ignited by having insightful discussions with his brother on various areas of the law. He remembers vividly learning about the famous case of Donoghue v Stevenson which established his interest within this career path. He also attributes his pursuance for this practice to fate, as his high school grades dictated that he had to pursue Law as a degree. This stroke of luck had led to the Faculty of Law benefiting in a myriad of ways due to his involvement in many societies.
His involvement in the UM Law Society has left a mark in his four-year legacy within the Faculty. Iqbal’s sheer dedication to the student body has enabled him to climb the ranks of the organisation, even helming it as President in his 3rd year. He attributes his personal growth to his tenure within Law Society where values such as teamwork, work ethics, passion towards student relations, and administrative matters were instilled in him.
Iqbal fondly reminisces his experience during one of Law Society’s program which is the Legal Executive Apprentice Programme (“LEAP”), a networking session that his board had organised to expose the student body to the legal world and meet notable legal practitioners. At the start of the session, Iqbal noticed that there were various introverted students who were not active in this networking session. As a result, he had personally introduced many lawyers to these students, facilitating their conversations to ensure that the networking process had run smoothly. Watching students successfully exit their comfort zones and learn about career prospects whilst securing internship positions brought an immense feeling of fulfilment to him. The cherry on top was to see the success of this initiative, which was founded by his Law Society Executive Board, and had been the revamp of the Law Career Convention. Amidst all the contributions he had made in his three-year tenure in the Law Society, the memory he treasured the most from Law Society was a group trip he had in Rawang during his third year of study. This much-needed retreat was planned by the members within his board, and the amount of joy they experienced amidst the stress they had to endure that year will undoubtedly leave an everlasting memory for him.
Iqbal and his board as the UM Law Society 2018/2019
As the President of the UM Law Society 2018/2019, some may purport that being innocuous and neutral would be strategic as a leader or director of an organisation. Iqbal, however, strongly refutes this belief. His core principle even as an undergraduate is that all disciples of the law have a social duty to the rightfulness of the law. For example, Iqbal and his board had released a press statement regarding the issue of the non-ratification of Malaysia to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”). Regardless of the intense reactionary backlash he had received on social media, Iqbal remains adamant on his stance of speaking out in light of injustices.
‘If we don’t shed light on sociolegal matters, then who will? As long as our statements are made with sufficient research and without political bias, then we should not shy away from an opportunity to invoke discussion on such an issue. The Law Society has the mandate of the students. Therefore, the Law Society, as the voice of the students, should strive to make impacts beyond the four walls of the Faculty. Even if such statements are considered controversial, coming from a student body, we should commit to it as long as it can raise awareness and trigger meaningful discourse among the society. Even if such awareness penetrates a small portion of society, we may consider ourselves discharged from our duty in this respect.’
Aside from his affiliation with the UM Law Society, Iqbal’s law school involvement within student bodies also extends towards Lex Ordinem where he committed to this initiative for 3 years. Despite this often-misunderstood student-run programme which may be misconceived as archaic and outdated, Iqbal holds firm on his stance that this orientation programme is paramount in instilling key values into our freshmen as Lex Ordinem inculcates a sense of professionalism and mental fortitude to survive Law School. There exist many ethical requirements that are expected from anyone within the legal profession, and this programme seeks to mould our future graduates so that they may buttress UM Law Faculty’s strong reputation within the legal fraternity, as established by our alumni. His undying commitment to actualise these core principles within our student body had led to Iqbal becoming the Director of the 2018/2019 Lex Ordinem Orientation Programme.
‘We cannot expect each and every student to have a template law school experience. Everyone has their own personal journey in Law School. The Lex Ordinem Orientation Programme is premised on this understanding. With that, it wishes to weave a set of basic principles into the fabric of all incoming students, so that they are well equipped to go about their personal journey in law school. These principles will help them develop positive work ethics and strong passion towards the law.’
Iqbal’s enduring passion for this programme had him underlying the importance of future directors in remembering the higher purpose of this initiative. Furthermore, he emphasised that healthy racial dialogue is integral to remove students from their racial bubbles, as our faculty is comparatively more diverse than any other Law Faculty in public universities, and we must develop this to its fullest potential. This is a testament to his estimable quality of having a diverse set of relationships that is not predicated on race or religion, but on unity and diversity.
Iqbal and the 2018/2019 Executive Board for Lex Ordinem
As Iqbal is an outspoken character who enjoys legal research in great depth, he has also accumulated a collection of achievements within mooting. To name a few, he was crowned the runner-up for the Price Media Moot Competition regional rounds, in addition to his team achieving second place for the Best Memorial Award in 2018. He had also obtained the Best Oralist Award in the Novice Arbitration Moot Competition (“NAMCO”) in 2017 whilst also bagging the Best Memorial Award that year.
Regardless of his excellent achievements within mooting, the uniqueness of his mooting journey is due to his experience as a student coach. He applied to become a student coach as a redemption arc as he had painfully missed being crowned the champion as a mooter on many different occasions. He also wanted to give back to the mooting community as he had reaped a great deal of benefits from other coaches, particularly Raphael Kok and Lee Suan Cui.
He had also derived most of his inspiration from Saifullah Qamar, an alumnus of the Law Faculty for whom Iqbal has great admiration. Saifullah was a student coach when Iqbal had first ventured into his mooting journey. He recalls Saifullah being an inspirational coach who instilled the drive to pursue a career in mooting. Whilst Saifullah was brilliant, he never failed to be encouraging and accommodating to the weaknesses that Iqbal had. His respect to Saifullah was succinctly portrayed when he said:
‘My only wish is to be half of the coach that Saifullah was to me. Not only was he brilliant, he was also highly inspirational. If it weren't for him, I would not have chosen to devote myself to a career in mooting.'
Iqbal’s determination to fill in the shoes of past student coaches was not in vain, as the team he coached had emerged as champions of NAMCO 2019.
The feeling of fulfilment and joy was unparalleled. To him, this victory was a form of closure. Although he had never tasted victory as a mooter, seeing these young mooters fight their way to victory gave him a deep sense of accomplishment. The absence of victory that constantly rattled his confidence as a mooter had finally been quelled, and he had finally gotten the catharsis he had desired for in mooting.
Regardless, Iqbal believes that he was merely a component to this success. To him, this triumphant victory was owed primarily to the collective effort of each and every member of the team. Their sheer dedication and grit in the face of surmounting adversity paid off at last. Seeing these young mooters lift the NAMCO trophy with such euphoria, was a memorable end to Iqbal's coaching experience.
‘Thank you, Team Autumn, Summer and Winter for giving me the privilege of coaching each and every one of you. Thank you for making this such a wonderful learning experience for me, and for giving me the closure I have longed for. May all of you excel further in your mooting careers.’
The Champions of NAMCO 2019, along with their student coach, Iqbal
Aside from Iqbal’s impressive accolades within the Faculty, he has left a mark on society beyond the red brick walls of the Law Faculty. He is one of the founding convenors of HAKAM Youth. HAKAM Youth is a subcommittee under HAKAM Malaysia, comprising of passion-driven youths aiming to ignite the desire in Malaysian youths to promote, preserve, and defend human rights. His underlying goal is to galvanise the youth to be more socially aware of current issues and capitalising on the youth power to its best ability. The emergence of youth participation within Malaysia’s political sphere can be seen in many forms, with YB Syed Saddiq and YB Prabakaran Parameswaran being elected as Members of Parliament for their respective constituencies, Parlimen Digital being convened successfully along with the age requirement to vote being lowered to the age of 18. Given this context, Iqbal adamantly stated:
‘It is high time for the youth to not be complacent and sit still with the reality of our political climate. The youth can influence the trajectory of our country in more ways than the previous generations of youth had thought they could. Given the prevalence of social media and how it enables more youth participation in political discourse, politics should not be left solely to the older generations. We must always remind ourselves that we are the ones who are most impacted by political outcomes’
Iqbal and the founding convenors of HAKAM Youth
As for his future aspirations within HAKAM Youth, his personal goal was to provide a stable foundation for the growth of this organisation. With their social media pages consistently gaining more traction, and with new blood entering HAKAM Youth soon, Iqbal is comforted with the knowledge that the trajectory of HAKAM Youth is only going up. He now waits to pass the baton to more ambitious youths in the future.
Iqbal’s prelude to his impending contributions to the legal fraternity was his involvement as a Judicial Clerk at the Palace of Justice in 2019. His duty as a Judicial Clerk was to prepare written legal opinions on specific cases for various Federal Court judges. The drafting of preliminary legal opinions for the perusal of these judges enabled him to work under the tutelage of YA Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima David Wong Dak Wah, and Dato’ Abang Iskandar bin Abang Hashim, all of which remain prominent figures within the legal fraternity who are undoubtedly idolised within our community.
‘It was a wholesome experience as everyone treated me as an equal. I was allowed to put my legal research skills to test and garnered heaps of experience in public law litigation. I was also privileged enough to directly network with Federal Court judges who were generous in imparting their wisdom to me.’
This opportunity was a result of Iqbal’s formidable capacity in creating insightful legal articles. In fact, his publication of ‘Understanding Coram Failure: Tidal Waves from the Federal Court Decision of Bellajade v CME Group & Tan Sri Lim Cheng Pow’ in the University of Malaya Law Review: Lex in Breve had captured the attention of YA Datuk Nallini, who offered him this internship. The judicial clerkship internship is conventionally only available to graduated students from different law schools. Thus, this impressive feat showcases Iqbal’s exceptionalism and that more students within the Law Faculty should submit more articles to the University of Malaya Law Review!
Iqbal as a Judicial Clerk at the Palace of Justice
Despite the peaks and valleys that Iqbal had to confront within his four years in the Faculty of Law, it is indubitable that he will leave the Faculty with a lasting impression to his juniors, serving as an inspiration to each and every student. Regardless, Iqbal is a staunch advocate for allowing the definition of success to be determined by ourselves, and not by the conventional standards that society has entrenched.
‘I encourage each and every student to explore various societies made available in our faculty, be it sports, mooting, debating, or any student-run club. Do not be solely fixated on attaining academic awards such as getting into the Dean’s List. This is not to say academics should not be a priority, but that Law School has many other facets that should be explored. Step beyond your comfort zone.’
Amidst all the achievements that Iqbal has amassed, Iqbal credits various groups for constantly being his support structure.
‘To my close friends, Corina Robert, Muhaimin Rosli and Zarif Khairuddin, thank you for being the best group of friends anyone could ask for. I also have to express my gratitude to my drafting teammates, Hazeeq Syahme, Yeap Yee Lin and Neoh Kai Sheng. The successes of my tenure within the Law Society and Lex Ordinem was also made possible due to the board that I had the privilege to work with, so thank you, each and every one of you. Lastly, I would like to express my love and appreciation to my buddies, be it the senior buddies who have been so patient in guiding me to become the person I am today, and my junior buddies who have given me the chance to be a brotherly figure to each and every one of you. Thank you, Ohana.’
Iqbal with some of his closest friends
Iqbal is also appreciative to the lecturers who have been so generous in imparting their wisdom to him, making his experience in the Law Faculty live up to the prestigious reputation it had made. He is also grateful to the Law Faculty for exposing him to the realities of bureaucracy. His experience in administrative matters was a biproduct of the patient faculty staff who had educated him on the nitty gritty details of faculty bureaucracy. Needless to say, Iqbal has remained modest and unaffected, even with his name being placed on a pedestal by members of the faculty.
Iqbal along with his drafting teammates
As one would expect, it is most unfortunate that his final semester in Law School was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Having to conclude his last lecture in front of a laptop, and not being able to say his proper goodbyes is a pity. Nevertheless, Iqbal remains optimistic that this is merely an end to a chapter in a story that has yet to unfold.
‘It is true that my batch had it tough, ending Law School in such melancholic circumstances. However, to me, this trying period has proven the mettle of my fellow batchmates. Looking at how they have persevered through the uncertainties of online classes and exams, I am certain that this COVID-19 batch will produce world-class lawyers, wise judges, integrous officials, and brilliant academics. I am honoured to have been in the company of people who I believe will leave an indelible mark on our nation one day, people whom I will always be proud to call my batchmates. Thank you Batch 45; it was an honour.’
Batch 45, the COVID-19 batch
Written by Luc Choong.