Hailing from the graduating class of 2019, Isaiah Majahim Majinbon has continued to strive for excellence in all that he does. A proud Kadazan who calls the picturesque town of Kota Kinabalu home, he is presently a State Counsel attached to the Sabah State Attorney-General’s Chambers (‘SAGC’). Since his graduation from the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya (‘UM’), Isaiah’s colourful legal journey has been punctuated with his unique experiences that have equipped him with highly niche skills and knowledge.
‘Even during my formative years, I was constantly challenged to think critically and analytically of hypothetical legal scenarios. What constitutes murder? Was there a contract? Does legality equate morality? I was exposed to such mental gymnastics, otherwise known as the “Art of Law”’.
With these concepts impressed upon him at an early age, thus began his courtship with the law. Being raised in a family of lawyers, judges, and State Attorney-Generals, his fate in the legal field was guaranteed. Being accepted into the Faculty to read law only cemented his venture into the legal fraternity.
Gleaming with Sabahan pride and joy — Isaiah with his parents during graduation
‘As fate predicted, I could not avoid the law’s grasp on me. Thank God, I enjoyed it!’
Reminiscing about his Faculty days, Isaiah recounted that it was both a challenging and rewarding journey. The Faculty’s high standards and academic culture sharpened his critical and analytical thinking skills, while the competitive atmosphere prepared him for the demands of the legal industry.
Undoubtedly, UM housed many unforgettable memories for him. One of the major highlights includes being selected to deliver the final-year dining speech to his peers and lecturers. Luminous Faculty alumni comprising Chief Executive Officers, partners from esteemed law firms, and esteemed judges were also amidst the attendees! Being of Kadazan descent, it was a privilege for all to witness Isaiah represent the East Malaysian Native community in the most prestigious university in Malaysia. He also appreciates, of course, the precious friendships fostered during his undergraduate days. The people he met in law school and the strong relationships he made certainly prepared him for the people-centric environment of the legal profession.
The final-year dining speech was the icing on the cake for Isaiah’s journey in law school
Isaiah’s active participation in co-curricular activities also contributed to his wealth of experiences. His ventures beyond the classroom include being the Head of the Academics Bureau of the Asian Law Student Association of University of Malaya (‘ALSA UM’) for the 2016/2017 tenure, where he was tasked to organise symposiums, forums, and host students from Asia and Europe. Most notably, Isaiah organised two international conferences on the rights of migrant labourers and the rise of student activism in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This left a profound impact on his growth as a lawyer. Further, ALSA UM gifted him a plethora of opportunities, including a chance to participate in a Student Exchange Programme (‘SEP’) in Taiwan which was part of the ALSA UM Student Exchange Programme.
Isaiah and his fellow delegates during the Student Exchange Programme in Taiwan
‘As issues pertaining to migrant labourers and student activism involve multiple layers of society, I am mindful that the legal assistance I provide — in drafting bills, representing the State Government in civil proceedings, and providing sound legal advice to the State Government and its agencies — must consider public interest. Of course, one also has to be mindful and realistic about one’s duty to protect the interest of the State but where the strife of litigation can be avoided, where authoritative decisions can be rectified, and where oppressive policies and legislations can be revised, it is here, where humane and practical discretion is advised.’
Now often involved in cases dealing with the public interest. Isaiah emphasises the need to remain compassionate and considerate in finding common ground between the public and the State in order to achieve a just outcome.
Isaiah’s undertakings beyond the classroom were not just limited to the Faculty. He also managed a nationwide advocacy campaign against sexual violence on campus. Isaiah ardently began advocating for this important cause which garnered attention in 2017 when a male Japanese student was sexually assaulted by another student. This incident initiated several advocacy movements by various student bodies, including Demokrat UM — a non-partisan student movement that Isaiah was part of.
Isaiah and the Demokrat UM team distributing pepper spray for students
At the time, Isaiah worked with the Universiti Malaya Integrity Unit to raise awareness about sexual harassment, provide resources for students to report incidents, and even distribute pepper spray as a means of self-defence on campus. To him, universities should be a safe space for all students — regardless of gender, race, and religion — to learn and grow without fear of violence. He believes that when such incidents occur, the responsibility falls on the institution to support and assist the victim, as well as fully cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations. His strong interest in combatting sexual violence on campus led him and his comrades at Demokrat UM to pass a Memorandum to the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia at Parliament. The objective of the Memorandum was to highlight the rising cases and severity of sexual violence cases on campus to lawmakers. Further, the Memorandum also appealed to lawmakers to legislate against sexual harassment and review existing legislation in regard to sexual violence. This initiative was one of the catalysts in introducing the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act 2022.
The team behind the fight against sexual violence on campus with the then Deputy Prime Minister — Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
It has become evident that Isaiah did a fantastic job of involving himself in student affairs, as seen in his never-ending proactiveness in dealing with university issues. Hence, it comes as no surprise that his law school path was also punctuated with campus politics.
Isaiah successfully led the electoral campaign for Suara Siswa during the 2019 campus election. He was driven to be involved in campus politics due to the urge to contribute towards the student body. His engagement in university politics opened his eyes to various community concerns, such as the disparities in privilege and social class amongst the general public, the varying perspectives of individuals based on their upbringing, and the impact one person can have in striving for a more equitable society. This further led him to engage with several civil societies, student movements, and other non-governmental organisations.
A deep affinity for public interest was discovered during his days with Suara Siswa, sparking his humanitarian spirit that eventually led him to commence his journey at the SAGC. These encounters and memories from law school have gifted Isaiah with a clear pathway to his present role.
Suara Siswa contributed toward his exponential growth both as a student and as a human being
Aside from providing him a platform to give back to the community, law school also became an avenue for Isaiah to hone his advocacy and oratorical skills. In fact, Isaiah’s flair for advocacy stemmed from his debating experience prior to law school. He was extremely shy growing up. This prompted his parents to send him to the Boy’s Brigade in hopes of helping him come out of his shell. From there, he flourished into the friendly and sociable Isaiah we know today.
While his time in the Boy’s Brigade helped him overcome his shyness, it was debate that made him more comfortable and articulate. His interest developed further during his foundation studies, where he was involved in the UT MARA Debating Society before dedicating his time and efforts to the UM English Debating Team & Society. He was even employed as a public speaking coach at the Ebright Public Speaking Academy during his final year of law school.
Isaiah with the Universiti Malaya Debate Team
Isaiah greatly benefitted from his oratorical pursuits by gaining research expertise, the ability to defend unusual positions, and the persuasiveness needed to convince others with logical arguments. The critical thinking skills he picked up made him an expert in identifying fallacies and developing solid defences, which has been a huge help to him as a practitioner in dealing with cases and cross-examinations, as well as in business settings too.
Truly, Isaiah’s time in UM has equipped him with invaluable skills. However, it was no easy feat acquiring these abilities. Isaiah admits that juggling multiple roles while being a full-time student often required him to sacrifice his personal time, and even prevented him from returning to his hometown during semester break. Regardless, he is grateful for the support his family provided him during those tough times.
A useful tip he practised to balance his academics and co-curricular commitments was mastering the art of prioritisation. Completing works based on their importance and urgency can help keep one organised. He also stressed developing grit and relying on other resources, such as tutors and friends, to help with any difficulties that may arise.
Upon graduating, Isaiah kickstarted his professional journey in Kuala Lumpur. He began his legal career chambering, and then practising as a legal associate at Messrs Shearn Delamore & Co. However, he soon opted for a change of environment. He thus returned to the beautiful coastal city he lovingly calls home, Kota Kinabalu. Having chambered in Kuala Lumpur, Isaiah was exempted from having to undergo the full 12-month pupillage duration in Sabah. He completed an additional six months in the SAGC from February to August 2022.
When asked why he chose to leave Kuala Lumpur, Isaiah expressed that he felt the call for a breath of fresh air alongside the need to contribute to his community at home. The move also allowed him to continue his favourite pastimes, which are deeply intertwined with the luscious landscapes of Sabah, such as diving in the beautiful blue waters of the state’s many islands as well as hiking its ancient and sacred mountains.
Isaiah is euphoric every time he explores the blue waters of Sabah
Isaiah together with his family upon completion of his chambering with the Sabah State-Attorney General Chambers
Presently, Isaiah is assisting the litigation department, primarily in the Native Affairs Division. His duties primarily focus on revising and drafting legislation in order to uphold the sanctity of the native court system and guard the interests of the Natives of Sabah as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. To illustrate, his recent work involves establishing the minimum age of marriage for the Natives of Sabah, which is not currently provided in the statutes. He is also tasked with defending the State Government in judicial review proceedings.
‘I take pride in the fact that there is a sense of duty to the public in regards to the work we do in SAGC, which permeates into all layers and corners of society. Truly, I could not have asked for a better opportunity than serving the State Government and its people.’
Passion for matters pertaining to public interest aside, Isaiah’s versatility is distinguishes him from the rest. Identifying himself as a ‘legal nomad’, he was always open to the prospect of venturing into many different legal areas. He would apply to several firms, organisations, and government departments in hopes of a vacant internship position. His efforts eventually paid off, as he secured multiple internships throughout his studies. One of those memorable experiences included his tenure alongside the Federal Attorney General’s Chambers and the Royal Malaysia Police (‘PDRM’).
Isaiah together with the Narcotics Division of Polis Diraja Malaysia Kota Kinabalu on patrol in the neighbouring islands of Sabah
His internship with PDRM was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Stationed in the Narcotics Division of PDRM, Kota Kinabalu, Isaiah was exposed to the ever-alarming issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse in Sabah. During his time there, he conducted island patrol on a rotational basis, which was vital in securing the safety of the inhabitants while also combatting any illegal activities that may be taking place. He also had the privilege to understand and witness the entirety of PDRM’s investigation procedures, starting from the first information report all the way to the drafting of charges against accused persons. Additionally, Isaiah had the opportunity to witness criminal proceedings at the High Court of Kota Kinabalu and the Court for Children, wherein minor offenders are tried and punished for offences such as drug abuse.
This was a reflective time for Isaiah as he came to realise how damaging drug-related crimes are to underprivileged communities. Children — who are prone to drug abuse, especially if they were raised in an environment where drugs were commonplace — are also unfortunate victims to this life-damaging substance. Isaiah hopes to shine a light on this prevalent issue in order to reach a resolution soon. Needless to say, Isaiah’s time in PDRM taught him to that law and humanity must go hand in hand, and he continues to perpetuate this humanistic approach to the law in his involvement with the National Legal Aid Foundation and Legal Aid Clinic under the Sabah Law Society.
For those who wish to embark on a similar path, Isaiah encourages contacting the internship coordinators to inquire about vacancies within relevant PDRM branches. Should there be any vacancies, the date of commencement will be arranged and one’s journey will begin. That being said, it is important to note that PDRM requires a high standard of confidentiality and may need interns to be prepared for aggressive confrontations during investigations. Nonetheless, Isaiah’s internship with PDRM served as an invaluable experience that allowed him to engage with his community and those in need.
‘It was an eye-opening experience in acknowledging that beyond our world of corporate transactions, briefcases, and black suits and ties, there lies a world of communities left behind.’
With so many exceptional experiences under his belt, we eagerly anticipate Isaiah’s future accomplishments. Welcoming a new year ahead, amor fati — the Latin term for the love of fate — is something Isaiah aims to emulate as he strives to be at peace with who he is in every aspect of his life. He wishes to express his sincere appreciation and gratitude to all the Faculty members who have supported and inspired him during his journey, making him the person he is today.
Isaiah is eternally grateful for the Faculty in leading him to his destiny
Written by Sulakhni Kaur Khosa.
Reviewed by Siti Nur Radhwa, Chrystal Foo, and Pravena Sreetharan.