About this segment: Person of the Month is an initiative by 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 successes.
Mr. Kalaivaanan Murty
Kalaivaanan Murty is a current final year law student from the Law Faculty of University of Malaya who was a two-term Student Council Representative for the law faculty (2014/2015) & (2015/2016), President of the Tamil Language Society of University of Malaya (2015/16) and an active student activist who was involved in the Solidarity4AzmiSharom movement, Penang Youth Parliament, University of Malaya Humanitarian Squad, and our faculty's very own Legal Aid Clinic. A prominent figure in the law faculty, almost every student in the faculty has heard of his contributions towards the students' welfare. He is not only bright, friendly, passionate and lively; he is also determined, vocal and a visionary who is known for his zeal always to go the distance for what he believes is right.
When asked about the sources of his inspiration, Kalaivaanan told this Law Review that he derived inspiration from the works of former representatives of the faculty and those who were part of the Student Council in 14/15 and 15/16. His experiences serving the students as a Pemudahcara Mahasiswa (PM) in his second year also gave him an insight regarding working with the administration and motivated him to take a bold step in the direction of pursuing public office. With that, he embarked on a journey of self-sacrifice with the purpose of giving back to the students by running for the General Student Election in the 2014/2015 Session as the Representative of the Law Faculty when he was only in his second year. He hoped that by being part of the Student Council, he would have the means to address the various critical issues faced by the students.
Ng Seng Yi, Kalaivaanan, and the Dean in what was Kalaivaanan’s final meeting with the Faculty as a Student Representative
During his tenure as Faculty Representative in 14/15, Kalaivaanan served the faculty with Miss Kamariah, and in the 15/16 session, he served with Mr. Ng Seng Yi. Although Kalaivaanan was the Vice President of the Student Representative Council in 14/15 and held the Academic and Internationalisation Portfolio in 15/16, his focus was always towards the well-being of the faculty. Some of the valuable services he provided as student representative include the setting up and maintenance of water coolers in the Student’s Corner and library, an increase in the availability of internal electives and discussions with the faculty’s administration and operators of the faculty’s cafeteria regarding pricing and cleanliness of the vicinity.
Apart from that, Kalaivaanan is also known for his various initiatives for student activism and advocacy of academic freedom. This virtue is most apparent from his leadership in organizing the Solidarity4AzmiSharom Campaign in September 2014 where students rallied in opposition to the Sedition Act when Dr. Azmi Sharom was charged under the Act for exercising his freedom of speech. In 2015, partly as a result of student activism and outrage from civil society, the Malaysian Sedition Act was amended to remove provisions outlawing criticism of the government and the judiciary. Another milestone was reached for the Solidarity4AzmiSharom movement in February 2016, when the Malaysian Government eventually decided to drop the charges against Dr. Azmi.
Besides all that, Kalaivaanan also orchestrated the Keep-it-clean Campaign which disseminated the importance of keeping the faculty clean as a student representative, led many academic activities such as forums on academic freedom and constitutional rights as part of Progressive UM, as well as humanitarian programmes such as soup kitchens to feed the homeless as part of the University of Malaya Humanitarian Squad.
Kalaivaanan giving an interview regarding the work he does as a Student Representative
Juggling between many duties and responsibilities was no easy feat. According to Kalaivaanan, his experience as a student representative was a life changing one because it allowed him to appreciate looking at issues from various points of view. “While a student representative needs to project the viewpoints of the students, one needs to understand the perspective of an administrator to resolve the issue. I believe this ability in understanding the workings from a different angle is my biggest takeaway", he adds.
When asked what he would have done differently during his tenure if given a chance, Kalaivaanan replied “The memories were abundant, and I have no regrets." He does, however, continue to state that it gets tough when faced with administration officers who prefers to take a defensive stance. Kalaivaanan says it is always more fruitful if members of the administrative body are progressive thinkers and willing to listen to students’ concerns. He recalls Professor Dr. Faisal Rafiq, DVC (Vice Chancellor of Development) who is a man of great humor and welcoming towards student ideas.
Kalai leading the Solidarity4AzmiSharom Walk
"Be bold but remain respectful." Kalaivaanan urges new faces of the faculty. He advises that the upcoming student representatives’ conduct their research thoroughly before forwarding concerns. “University of Malaya’s Faculty of Law has remained a beacon of hope in guiding the Student Council during difficult times. It has provided principled views with impeccable integrity and therefore, upcoming student representatives must look to the ethics of the Faculty as truth.”
Today, as a final year law student, Kalaivaanan hopes to expand his horizons outside the University someday, to serve the nation and society as a whole. However, before that, he insists that his next adventure will first revolve around his loved ones, friends, and family whom he admits have taken a back seat on his priority list. Kalaivaanan finally reminds future student leaders that “To serve others, one must begin by serving your family."