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August - September 2009



Lawasia and the Law Society of Singapore very successfully conducted the Children and the Law Conference on 21-23 May at Singapore. It provided a table for discussion on a wide range of contemporary issues involving Children and the Law in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Experienced family law practitioners and academics specialising in the area of family laws, decision makers who shape policies pertaining to children and Judges who decided such cases were amongst all who shared a unique platform at this conference for exchanging, learning, gaining, promoting and encouraging new ideas and information in the realm of family laws.

Ranjit Malhtra addressing the delegates

The Conference was declared open and inaugurated on 21 May 2009 in the panoramic majestic building of the Supreme Court of Singapore by Hon’ble Chan Sek Keong, Chief Justice amidst a galaxy of Judges, lawyers, academics, law officials and other experts from Singapore, India, Australia, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and New Zealand. On following days i.e. 22-23 May, 2009, ten distinct brain storming, well crafted and professionally designed sessions kept all occupied in this enriching memorable family law event.

L to R: Ms Chew Swee Yoke (Malaysia, Justice P Sathasivam, Justice AR Balakrishnan, Mr Russell Bywater (UK), Anil Malhotra & Ranjit Malhotra

A screening of a video titled “Child Court Proceedings” commenced the sessions on 22 May 2009 at the Swissotel, Merchant Court Hotel at Singapore. The breakup of the ten ensuing sessions and their respective distinguished speakers alongwith the dignitaries who chaired these individual invigorating groups are described as follows:

L to R: Harjit Singh, Anil Malhotra, Gurmeet Kaur, Ranjit Malhotra

Session 1:

Implementation of the Hague Convention: Practical Issues and Lessons Learnt in Convention Countries Chair: Mr KS Rajah Senior Counsel

(Singapore),Professor Frank Bates (Australia), Mr Andrew Davies (Australia),Ms Delia Williams (UK)

Session 2: More than the Order : Effective Enforcement and Related Issues Chair: Hon’ble Justice P. Sathasivam, Judge, Supreme Court of India, Mr Philip Sim (Australia), Mr Yap Teong Liang (Singapore), Ms Lalitha Menon (Malaysia)

Session 3: The Child Expert : Dispelling the Mystery Chair: Ms Ellen Lee (Singapore), District Judge Jocelyn Ong (Singapore), Ms Carmelia Nathen (Singapore), Dr. Parvathy Pathy (Singapore)

Session 4: Being Special: Providing for Children with Special Needs Chair: Mr Rajan Chettiar (Singapore), Mr Conrad Campos (Singapore), Mr Gregory Vijayendran (Singapore)

Session 5: The Abused Child: Battling Child Labour and Child Prostitution Chair: Mrs Wee Wan Joo (Singapore), Special Speaker, Ms Somaly Mam (Cambodia)

Session 6: Relocating the Child: Parental Movement and International Adoptions Chair: Mr. Ranjit Malhotra, Senior Partner, Malhotra & Malhotra Associates (India), Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe (Australia), Federal Magistrate Paul Howard (Australia), Associate Professor Debbie Ong (Singapore)

Session 7: Child Abduction: The Child’s Perspective and Problems of non-Convention countries Chair: Hon’ble Justice Dr A.R. Lakshmanan, Chairman, Law Commission of India,Mr Russell Bywater (UK), Mr Anil Malhotra (India), Ms Chew Swee Yoke (Malaysia)

Session 8: The Child’s Voice : Representation for Children and Specialists Courts Chair: Associate Professor Chan Wing Cheong (Singapore), District Judge Regina Ow (Singapore), Ms Minal Vohra (Australia), Ms Tamiko Nakamura (Japan)

Session 9: Custody, Care and Control and Access – Theory vs. Practice, Natural Parents vs. Non-parents Chair: District Judge Koh Geok Jen (Singapore), Ms Lim Hui Min (Singapore),

Professor Leong Wai Kum (Singapore), Dr Katijah Dawood (Singapore)

Session 10: The Family Lawyer Forum:

Ranjit Malhotra with Chief Federal Magistrate Kohn Pascoe (Australia), Federal Magistrate Paul Howard (Australia) and Assoiate Prof Debbie Ong (Singapore)

Common topic - Mechanisms for Effective Maintenance Enforcement: Thinking out of the Box.

Additional individual topics presenting Developments in Child Law Issues in the region. Chair/Moderator: Michael Hwang Senior Counsel and President Law Society of Singapore

Featuring: Mr Raymond Yeo (Singapore): Enforcement of Maintenance Orders, Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe (Australia): Family Law on De Facto Relationships, Mr Andrew Davies (Australia): Child Abduction Protocol for Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia, Ms Foo Yet Ngo (Malaysia): Developments in Child Law in Malaysia, Mr Russell Bywater (UK): Developments in Child Law in UK, Ms Winnie Chow (Hong Kong): Domestic Violence Ordinance, Ms Tamiko Nakamura (Japan): Amendment of Japanese Single Custody System, Mr Anil Malhotra (India): Surrogacy Issues in India – All Aboard For The Fertility Express.

Delegates relaxing after the seminar

This off-beat, exclusive and special conference was a treat for all family law practitioners and all other related professionals who shared common interests. The unique sessions which were designed for various specialists to present and share their views from their experiences in their jurisdictions was extremely gainful and knowledgeable for all present. The sessions relating to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction saw a very well narrated account by Ms. Delia Williams, in her working as Legal Secretary to Lord Justice Matthew Thorpe on various issues relating to inter-country child removal problems. Anil Malhotra related his professional experiences in his presentation titled “To Return or Not to Return: Hague Convention Vs. Non-Convention Countries”, to highlight the dilemma of problems surrounding return of children removed to and from India.

Justice Balakrishnan , Justice Venkataraman with Anil Malhotra and Ranjit Malhotra (standing)

Undoubtedly, all aspects relating to family laws concerning children were highlighted. The special presentation by Ms. Somaly Mam from Cambodia on her fight against the trafficking of women and children for sex slavery blended with her own personal tragic narrations was a breath taking, eye-opening and a chilling presentation. Ranjit Malhotra in chairing the session on Adoption laws made his unique reference to “Conflict of Law In Inter Country Adoptions: The Indian Perspective with Special Reference to the Position after India Ratifying The Hague Convention on Adoptions”

Delegates relaxing before dinner

The exceptional feature of the conference was the special Family Lawyer Forum in which all the speakers from different jurisdictions highlighted the methods for effective enforcement of maintenance orders as per their respective legal systems. Thereafter, each individual participant spoke of different unique legal family law issues in their separate territories. This idea of bringing legal experts of different countries together on one platform to speak on family law issues was a very enriching occurrence. The narration on commercial surrogacy issues in India by Anil Malhotra was very informative. Domestic Violence, Custody laws, child abduction, de facto relationships and other child law topics dominated this unique learning session. A well drafted concluding conference summary by Ms. Janet Neville, Secretary General, Lawasia who did a commendable job in putting so many family law specialists together with a full packed family law agenda in two days ended the meet.

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