It is no surprise that Loh Jing Rou embodies the lively essence of her Penang hometown with her adventurous spirit and fondness for challenging experiences. Hailing from the graduating class of 2018, Jing Rou has since flourished into an ardent advocate for human rights and currently holds the esteemed position of Human Rights Officer in the Office of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Law & Human Rights. This thrill-seeker is always open to observing the world through the lenses of adrenaline-filled adventures — be it hiking, scuba diving, or skydiving — all while advocating for human rights and equality.
A human rights officer during the weekdays, a thrill-seeker during the weekend
The history behind her current position as a Human Rights Officer to Dato’ Sri Azalina Othman Said, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Law & Human Rights, is certainly one for the books. Shortly after completing her Advanced Master of Laws (‘LL.M’) in European and International Human Rights Law, Jing Rou quickly received an offer to join the office of the newly elected Special Advisor due to her specialisation in the area.
Dato’ Sri Azalina’s flair in shouldering multiple roles as a lawmaker — such as being Member of Parliament (‘MP’), Chairperson of the Special Select Committee on Women and Children Affairs and Social Development, Chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (‘APPGM’) – Prison and Detention Centre Reforms, and Co-convener of the Parliamentary Caucus for Multi-Party Democracy — has provided Jing Rou much insight into the nature of the legislative process.
The Special Select Committee (‘PSSC’), APPGM, and Caucus consist of multi-party MPs who work hand in hand to investigate certain issues. The PSSC looked into issues concerning child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and refugee affairs. On the other hand, the APPGM examined matters pertaining to drug policy reformation, vaccination for prisoners, as well as the detention of immigrants and children. Upon conducting in-depth research whilst directly hearing from witnesses, stakeholders, and agencies alike, these bodies would then make recommendations to tackle said issues.
Being in the Office of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister has allowed Jing Rou to partake in the meeting with the highest judicial officials
Jing Rou also notes Malaysia’s exciting transitional period amidst unprecedented law-making practices. While the 2018 General Elections and subsequent Sheraton Move in 2020 witnessed the navigation of the political scene to uncharted waters, it also highlighted the unique impact of bringing a new coalition government into parliamentary debates. Instead of having one party dominate parliamentary votes, laws could only be passed if MPs from different coalitions considered each other’s viewpoints.
Jing Rou assisting the Parliamentary Special Select Committee during a meeting in the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Besides her daily responsibilities of organising meetings, maintaining relationships with stakeholders, drafting bills and parliamentary debates, and more, Dato’ Sri Azalina’s position also requires Jing Rou to assist Prime Minister Datuk Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on matters pertaining to human rights. Jing Rou admires Dato’ Sri Azalina’s ability to remain grounded despite the intimidating nature of her responsibilities while ensuring that various human rights are protected through legal frameworks. An example would be the recent development of the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 — colloquially known as the Generational End Game or Anti-Smoking Bill. Dedicated towards upholding civil liberties, the PSSC initiated discussions with the Ministry of Health and identified various flaws in the Bill that could jeopardise a child’s rights. By delaying the Bill’s ratification to engage with various stakeholders, further improvements could be made to the Bill before its implementation.
‘The Bill imposes legal obligations on minors, and the fact that there was no need for a warrant for a search and seizure did not sit right with me. Thankfully, I was able to voice out my advice and suggestions to the PSSC from a legal perspective for necessary amendments.’
Jing Rou is forever grateful for her ability to enact changes as a part of the Parliament
Her experience as an advocate and solicitor began in a small firm where she was required to handle cases from A to Z, regardless of how difficult the tasks were. Grateful for her journey in the Faculty, she emphasised that her undergraduate studies acted as a catalyst in developing and honing the basic skills required in the legal field, such as legal research, drafting, courtesy and communication, as well as familiarity with the legislative process.
Other law school endeavours further attributed to Jing Rou’s advocacy and litigation skills. As a fervent mooter, she acknowledges that litigation is similar to mooting as both require the fundamentals of legal research, drafting, and advocacy. Sheepishly admitting to her deep-rooted love for the activity, Jing Rou credits mooting for being an immense helping hand in her years as a litigator.
Jing Rou with her teammates for the Monroe E Price Media Law Moot Competition 2018
Her team’s determination and unwavering sense of camaraderie fanned the group’s ambition into a greater flame as everyone shared a common goal to elevate the Faculty to greater heights. As a result, she triumphantly cinched the title of Champion, Best Memorial Award, and Best Oralist in the Cyber Law Moot Court Competition in 2017. The harmony between group members further contributed to the team’s victory as they garnered the Runner-Up title and Best Memorial Award in the Regional Rounds of Monroe E Price Media Moot Competition 2018.
A common goal fuelled the 2017 Cyber Law Moot Court Competition team to their triumphs
Law school also served as a starting point for Jing Rou’s love of human rights. Both the undergraduate academic syllabus and numerous impactful encounters with dedicated lecturers encouraged her to focus on this area of law. She remembers the Law and Society module in her first year of law school as one of the most pivotal experiences that uncovered her interest in humanitarian aid. Her lecturers’ involvement in activism — namely, Mr Stewart Manley, Dr Azmi Sharom, and Datuk Emeritus Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi — inspired her to follow suit and venture outside the academic field in order to help others to the best of her abilities.
The continuation of her studies at Leiden University was inspired by the recognition that a majority of individuals working in the human rights sector possess postgraduate degrees, leading her to realise that she could not do the same unless she obtained one herself. According to Jing Rou, her journey at Leiden University was truly one of the highlights in her life. As one of the oldest universities in Europe, this historical institution’s prestigious and renowned human rights course made her postgraduate experience vividly enjoyable. The diversity of her class — which consisted of students from every continent in the world — added to it as well.
Freshly graduated from her postgraduate studies with her batchmates who contributed to her joyous time at Leiden University
Human rights law first caught her eye due to its emphasis on the people’s welfare as well as its ability to bring about societal change. Jing Rou felt an urgency to construct an honest account of the humanitarian issues we face today so that lawmakers can effectively cater to the needs of the people while being held accountable.
Jing Rou strongly believes that everyone has the power to spark change in their own unique way. She sparks change herself by partaking in community-related activities. For instance, she has participated in initiatives for refugees, been involved in beach-cleaning activities, and organised blood donation campaigns. Jing Rou is grateful to be surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals who fight for various causes — all of whom she has kept close contact with since her law school days. Ranging from environmental awareness to children’s right to education, Jing Rou often finds herself inspired by her peers to participate in community-related works. Should you ever find yourself paralysed by inexperience, Jing Rou suggests taking a leap of faith.
‘The best way to start is to talk to the people behind the volunteering initiatives. Usually, they will welcome any help they can get, and you will find that there is nothing to fear after all.’
Simply approaching the organisers works wonders, as most movements are led by passionate and welcoming people who have small teams and little to no financial backing. Once the barriers of fear and insecurity are broken, one would be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the experience is. Other ways that the public can make a mark within their communities include participating in awareness programmes and creating conversations about pertinent issues.
When Jing Rou is not delving further into human rights law, she shares a passion for the unconventional skill of scuba diving with her friends from the Faculty. She was able to enjoy obtaining her diving certification with her close friend and class representative from law school, Agnes Tan. This unforgettable experience allowed her to partake in a few diving trips that opened her eyes to both the wonders of the sea and that of enduring friendships.
Jing Rou with her fellow thrill seeker and confidante, Ms Agnes Tan
Climbing via feratta – no better way to explore the Swiss Alps and appreciate nature’s own enchantment
Despite leaving the Faculty years ago, the bond of the class of 2018 remains strong till today
Her formative years in the Faculty have undeniably shaped her into the person she is today. She sincerely thanks her family and friends, especially the 43rd batch and her mooting teammates for their unwavering support. Thanks to their infectious passions, Jing Rou recognises the privilege that the study of law brings, as it equips one with the necessary skills to find solutions to a seemingly unsolvable problem. In other words, the study of law enables a person the invaluable power to inspire hope even in the most dire of situations. She also wholeheartedly thanks the lecturers from the Faculty to whom she owes her knowledge and development.
As a parting note, Jing Rou calls for increased student involvement in the legislative body. A lack of legal assistance and guidance to MPs underline this gap in our legal system, which can only be remedied by the new generation of legal minds. If she is able to provide such assistance, she believes that the bright minds from the Faculty can do so too.
Written by Siti Nur Radhwa.
Reviewed by Chrystal Foo, Pravena Sreetharan, and Ee Jie.