Behind the Tottenham Hotspurs’ jersey and striking ponytail lies a charismatic scholar. Image via http://ktemoc.blogspot.com
Starting out his career in the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya back in 1990, 2019 sees Associate Professor Dr Azmi bin Sharom drawing the curtain to his time in this Faculty and moving on to play the role of Deputy Chairman of the Elections Commission. To celebrate his 29 years of service towards the Faculty, the University Malaya Law Review pens this tribute to him.
A fresh law graduate from the United Kingdom, Dr Azmi joined the Faculty and was placed under the mentorship of the current Dean of our Faculty, Dato’ Associate Professor Dr Johan Shamsuddin Bin Hj Sabaruddin. For Dr Azmi, university life was in itself a pleasure. Dato’ Dr Johan was one of the first few people to show Dr Azmi around the university, allowing him to get acclimatised to university life — which back in the early 90’s was ‘a lot more fun’. In his words, ‘We had a lot more activities going on, some were political, but there was also Pesta Konvokesyen, which back then, was full of dangerous, fun-fair styled rides. These are things we no longer have.’
Dr Azmi sharing his thoughts with participants in one of his talks at the Faculty of Law. Image by University of Malaya Consti Team during the Constitution Carnival 2018.
After 29 years, Dr Azmi admits that the teaching element of his career will be the thing he misses most. He started off teaching due to the mere reason that he did not want to practise law. Dr Azmi recollects that, ‘When I first joined law school as a young lad, the idea was to be a lawyer. After the first year, I went to work in a law firm over the summer break, and I didn’t like it. To me, working in a law firm was just a business.’ He persevered through the remaining years of his degree as he did not feel it was right to change course mid-way. Dr Azmi loved law as a subject and wanted to utilise his love for it in a beneficial way - hence, he taught. Dr Azmi supplemented his teaching career by partaking in a myriad of other jobs. Some of these jobs included writing for the newspaper, amateur acting, working at other universities and even being an extra on the set of a film, just to name a few. He also reviewed comics before writing political and legal commentaries for the past decade.
Well-known for being a prominent voice in today’s society, Dr Azmi believes that ‘it is important for everybody to have a voice and not just the younger generation. Everyone should have the freedom to speak without fear because it is a right and frankly, if we do not do it, it is difficult for us to progress.’ He also added that without debates, discussions or open criticisms, it is easy for those who are in power to abuse such power, and it is why everyone has the right to speak.
Dr Azmi often delivers his talk articulately and with passion. Image via themalaymailonline.com
Stepping into his new role as the Deputy Chairman of the Elections Commission, Dr Azmi highlights his vision for the reformation of the electoral system. Amongst these reforms include the gerrymandering of election boundaries, as this has caused constituencies to have great disparities in sizes. Additionally, he opines that the electoral roll needs to be cleaned up. Currently, the electoral roll not only has names of deceased members of society, but also a large number of people registered under a single household address. Dr Azmi envisions transparency in postal voting as well as a clearer set of electoral rules. The rules should include the use of government machinery, the issue of funding during elections, as well as the cessation of racist comments in campaign speeches. ‘The difference is, the Election Commission now is a reformist commission, unlike commissions in the past which just went with the status quo,’ states Dr Azmi.
Dr Azmi receiving a certificate in recognition of his involvement in a forum. Image by University of Malaya Consti Team during the Constitution Carnival 2018.
Apart from being an esteemed member of the Faculty of Law, Dr Azmi is also known for his noteworthy ponytail and a nonchalant personality. When asked if his upcoming job required a chop at the barber, he chuckled and said, ‘That was the first thing I asked when they offered me the position. I said “do I have to cut my hair” and they said they cannot see why I should and I answered that I would not have joined if I had to.’ He also added that there are no particular rules in regard to the length of his hair, but rather the neatness of his hair. Much to his dismay, he will have to wear formal trousers and shoes when his new job comes knocking.
Although Dr Azmi’s new posting is a great loss to our University, it is definitely a great benefit to our nation. The University of Malaya Law Review wishes Dr Azmi every success in his brave new role as the Deputy Chairman of the Elections Commission.