The chairperson of Malaysia's Bersih 2.0 movement for a "free and fair" Malaysia will tonight (25 October) speak at the University of Melbourne.
Dato'Ambiga Screenevasan, a human rights activist and former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, was one of 1,700 people arrested at a rally in July 2011 to demand a clean up of the country's electoral laws.
The Bersih 2.0 rally - a demonstration held in Kuala Lumpur as a follow-up to the 2007 Bersih rally - was deemed illegal by the government, but Screenevasan led the movement regardless, pushing the Election Commission of Malaysia to clean up the electoral roll, reform postal voting, use indelible ink, introduce a minimum 21-day campaign period, allow all parties free access to the media, and end electoral fraud.
A practising litigation lawyer, Screenevasan has been involved in drafting memoranda on issues relating to the rule of law, the judiciary and the administration of justice, legal aid, religious conversion and the rights of Orang Asli (indigenous persons).
Speaking after the July rallies, Dato' Ambiga said the events in Malaysia had taught her more than she had learned in 30 years of legal practice.
"My team and I faced first-hand the full force of the unleashed power of the state, and I realised then the importance of the independence of the institutions of government, particularly the judiciary, to check such abuses of power," she said.
"As lawyers, we are in a unique position. Our years of legal study and practice teach us to see and appreciate the fundamental role that the Rule of Law plays in guaranteeing that the state governs its citizens in a just and democratic manner."
The free public lecture on "Electoral Reform and the Quest for Democracy in Malaysia" will commence at 6.30pm tonight at Melbourne Law School.