Thursday, 5 February 2009
Ushering in the Year of the Ox
Welcoming the Year of the Earth Ox
The week preceding the Lunar New Year was remarkable to me only because it had nothing to do with the Lunar New Year. Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the USA was an uplifting affair, not least because of the presence of Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Bono at the inauguration concert.
Things at home are less encouraging. We are a nation in crisis, as evinced by the violent assault on and subsequent death of 22-year-old suspected car thief A. Kugan while in police custody. The investigation into the allegations of police brutality seems to have proceeded along racial lines. One camp asserts that the deceased was a victim of systematic discrimination against and persecution of Indians. The other camp, to which some of our elected representatives belong, believe it justified to perpetrate violence against detainees because ‘the police have to do their job’, and it is not their fault if the majority of detainees who died while in police custody are of Indian heritage.
That’s rich. I have always thought that the responsibility of police officers was to interview suspects, collect evidence and commence court proceedings, not murder people in their custody. If violence is routinely used to elicit confessions from detainees, then I wonder how many people in our jails have actually been wrongly incarcerated (and executed, perhaps?) due to confessions made under duress. If police brutality really were a solution to crime, why is it then that our crime rates are higher than ever before?
We need to professionalise the police force. We need to retrain the force and sensitise them to issues concerning marginalised communities. We need to cull the corrupt and power-crazy from the force. While police brutality is not restricted to Malaysia, it is a matter of grave concern that we have Parliamentarians who rationalise it as necessary, or take on the attitude that the blame lies on the victim for having been suspected of a crime in the first place. What a morass modern Malaysia is, sometimes!
Saturday, 24th January 2009 was Lunar New Year Eve, and I had to relinquish my weekend of caring for shelter animals in order to clean the parental home and get things ready for the New Year. Being the genius that I am, I had applied potassium permanganate to Amber’s inflamed skin after her bath without having first put on gloves. I was knocked for six when I found my hands stained an indelible dark brown as a result. What was I to do? Even my nails were brown. I couldn’t go out for the reunion dinner with hands resembling a chimpanzee’s. I would probably have to walk around with my hands stuffed in my pockets and nod hello to everyone.
Thankfully, after a few more hours of scrubbing and cleaning things at the parental home, my hands returned to almost its original colour. The Covert Family had its reunion dinner at the same restaurant that we had been patronising for the Lunar New Year for the past 2 years.
I spent the first day of the Lunar New Year at the parental home with the dogs and managed to get some research done for work and some correspondence drafted. Watched “300” on DVD, which was awesome inspiring stuff, although I don’t think it was actually acceptable for me to shout words of encouragement for Leonidas to kill Xerxes on an auspicious day like the first day of the New Year.
There was supposed to be a partial solar eclipse between 1600 and 1900 hours, and so I dutifully went outside with my Killer Loop shades on and walked around like the big dork that I am trying to see the eclipse that wasn’t there. Finally gave up and went cycling in the evening after taking Amber and Chocky out for walks. Took my T-Bolt on some of the rougher terrain and did mostly uphill cycling for about an hour.
My T-Bolt offroad bike parked in the parental living room on the first day that I acquired her, in 2002. I won her in a newspaper competition.
A photo of my bedroom in the parental home taken in 2003 shows my T-Bolt parked in front of the bookcase because I didn’t want to leave her outside exposed to moisture and the elements.
Preposterous haikus I made up while riding my bike:
Steed of black and yellow
You propel me noiselessly
Slick with rainwater
Pedals chain spokes drive away
Gunmetal gray clouds
The derailleur whirrs.
I release the handlebars.
Woke up on time on the second day of the Lunar New Year to watch the World Lion Dance Championships on TV. Lion dances are probably the only reason why I continue to look forward to the Lunar New Year. Traditional songs and other Sinocentric art forms leave me cold, but lion dances seem to get better and more sophisticated each year.
Spent a good part of the afternoon trying to set upright one of the potted agave plants that had fallen over. Covert Dad and Covert Twin had tried unsuccessfully to get the pot back up. I wasn’t about to give up as easily, and as a rule, I like to do things solo. I used my jeans belts to strap the pot around the middle, just as I do in winching and tree-strapping exercises while on 4x4 expeditions. When the pot still wouldn’t move, I slid a sturdy metal rod under the brim of the pot, strapped the belts to either side of the rod, and pulled the plant upright. It still fell over because it was too heavy and unbalanced, so I took out my trusty Mora knife, asked the plant for permission, and lopped off some of the thick fleshy leaves that were preventing the pot from staying upright. Now I fastened the straps around the pot again and shifted the pot to the side of the compost pit before tying the pot around the middle and securing it to the brick wall to stop it from toppling over. When the parents asked how I had single-handedly gotten the 70kg pot upright again, I merely replied: “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. I wore the long scratches on my knuckles and forearms like a badge of honour. I had done battle with a thorny succulent and won. I spent another hour or two riding my bike again in the evening.
Went back to the ‘Quarters in the evening to clean the place up and spend time with the Rowdies. Returned to the parental home by midmorning to spend the last day of my festive break with the family. Cleaned the parental home, walked the dogs, and rode my bike again. Challenged Big Bro to two diabolical Sudoku puzzles and only just managed to solve them ahead of him. I attribute that to good luck as he is usually so much faster than I am at solving the puzzles on his cellular phone. Completed some letters and reports but deferred completing my research paper as I did not have adequate resources.
If tradition were to be observed, the fact that I have spent much of the Lunar New Year festivities agonising over my research paper is probably an indication that I will spend the rest of the year agonising over research papers. Let’s just hope it’s not going to be the same research paper. I’d like to get a move on with this one.
(Postscript: For those of you who are curious, I am drafting a paper on institutionalised rules for commercial arbitration.)
Saturday, 31st January – Monday, 2nd February 2009: Federal Territory Day Weekend
We had another long weekend thanks to Federal Territory Day . Took the parents shopping on Saturday, which I sometimes feel I am doing as a form of penance. Covert Mum had wanted me to buy new workclothes. I can only try on 3 shirts, max, before my brain starts to shut down. Why can’t I just try on one shirt, and then buy 3 others of the same size, only in different colours? By a stroke of good luck, we got to watch a sterling lion dance performance in the concourse area. I believe the troupe was one of the finalists of the previous year’s world lion dance championship.
Covert Uncle and his brood came over for lunch on Sunday, after which I washed the dogs, cleaned the parental home and walked Amber and Chocky again before going back to the ‘Quarters.
New merchandise at the SPCA. Come and get ‘em!
Arrived at the SPCA on Monday bearing gifts of festive treats for the staff. The vets weren’t around, but I entered the surgery anyway and mixed up a batch of Taktic EC to use on the dogs. I shampooed and tick-washed the dogs from the Central Area and Back Office, two-by-two.
The Kindest Man in the World (I still don’t know his name but I overheard Reve calling him Wally, which I don’t think is his real name anyway since Reve has a tendency to mix names up) was cleaning the puppy cages and he asked me if I could wash two mangy dogs from another kennel. I was, of course, only happy to oblige, and soon the dogs were clean and comfortable again.
I finished washing and tick-rinsing 16 dogs before the unpredictable sky got dark again. When I was in the midst of cleaning and disinfecting the Cattery, Reve approached me and asked if I could give our SPCA general worker, Jane, a lift home. Jane was to bring a family of cats home for fostering to prevent them from being euthanized the following day, and she could not bring them home on the bus. I agreed to drive her home as soon as I finished cleaning the Cattery. Reve offered to clean the rest of the shelter so I could concentrate on getting Jane and her cats safely home.
So off we roared in the Battletank to Taman Bukit Anggerik in Cheras, Jane chatting nineteen to the dozen and making my left ear go progressively deaf. We arrived at her house and I brought the carrier down. Her dogs went ape when they saw me come in with cats. Her house was full of bric-a-brac and smelled really malodorous, but I guess that is to be expected of someone with multiple pets who devotes more time to looking after animals than keeping her house spotless. I have never really gotten used to the smell of pet waste to be able to live with it, which explains why the ‘Quarters is cleaned several times a day.
A few diary entries ago, I talked about how I had spotted the covered litter trays first at the SPCA Charity Shop but had relinquished them to Rose and Jane. Well, it turned out that Jane’s cats never really took to the covered tray, so I bought it back from her and went home with my new purchase. It was raining so hard on my way home that it looked as though there was a solid opaque white wall in front of me while I was driving.
Reached the ‘Quarters, cleaned the newly-acquired litter tray with soap and Dettol, did the laundry, cleaned the house, played with the Rowdies, set up the now washed-and-dried covered litter tray, did the mark-ups for a letter I was reviewing/helping to draft, sorted out some correspondence related to the MNS and Green Living and waited up until 0500 hours for Jake to be sent home from the hospital after treatment for knee injury.
I am so going to fall asleep at the wheel tomorrow. If it weren’t for Red Bull, I would be a dead Commando by now.
Wednesday, 4th February 2009: A guide to a companion animal ‘custody’ dispute.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog entry is NOT legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied in any specific factual situation. Any use of the information provided DOES NOT create or constitute a Solicitor-Client relationship between this Blog Administrator and the User/Reader. As the law differs in each legal jurisdiction, any information relayed in this Blog Entry cannot be a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. The Blog Administrator is not responsible for any liability, loss, injury, damage or claim arising or resulting from the use of the information provided.
I received a phone call from a stranger today, which is not exceptional ever since I started being interviewed by newspapers and magazines a few years ago for my volunteer work. Well-intentioned strangers often call or e-mail me with inquiries, offers to volunteer and requests for assistance, often in matters where I am powerless to intervene.
In this situation, the Client of the caller (hereafter, “Client”) had been separated from her partner (hereafter, “Partner”) with whom she shared the guardianship and care of a dog (hereafter, “Dog”). There is now a dispute over the ‘custody’ of the Dog.
The Client therefore wishes to know what her prospects of gaining custody of the Dog are, and if there are any specific laws governing the guardianship of companion animals.
I was silently thrilled to know the facts of the case, because for once I am dealing with a companion animal that someone actually wants. For once, I am not dealing with an animal cruelty, abuse or abandonment case.
Sadly, Malaysia, as with most developing countries, does not have specific laws concerning the care and custody of animals. Even our animal protection and welfare laws are grossly outdated and inadequate. Animals are chattels without locus standi and are not treated as companions or ‘children’ whose interests are to be protected in a custody dispute.
This matter is therefore a dispute over ownership of chattel and the matter should be referred to the High Court for a declaration.
Client’s solicitor would be well-advised to proceed by issuing a Writ of Summons against Partner, stating its intention to proceed to apply for a declaration for the ownership of the Dog, and any additional or alternative claims, monetary or otherwise, against the said Partner.
In the Writ of Summons and Supporting Affidavit(s), Client’s solicitor should include facts to support the claim, such as whether the Dog had been in the care of Client before the relationship, whether Client was the one who had purchased or adopted the Dog, and whether Client had been the primary caregiver of the Dog. Client should also add information that will work in her favour, such as her ability and financial means to care for the Dog, and append evidence to support the claim, such as adoption certificates, receipts, and veterinarian’s invoices.
If the Partner files an Affidavit In Reply annexing an adoption/live animal purchase certificate in his or her name, the Client’s solicitor should respond by appending receipts for veterinary treatment, pet supplies and other purchases, and submit that the purchase of the Dog was by the Partner as a gift to the Client, but the Client remained the primary caregiver and provider. It’s rather like arguing that a vehicle registration card was issued in someone else’s name but you had been the one to service the loan repayments, and therefore, have an interest in the property.
Do NOT use emotional arguments such as the fact that the Client plays with the Dog more, or loves the Dog more, or is distraught over her separation from the Dog. You do not want anyone to question the Client’s emotional fitness. Remember, you are here to establish that your Client is the OWNER, not the PARENT, of the Dog. Play your cards right. Use all your lawyerly resources.
Once a declaration has been obtained for the possession of the Dog by the Client, it should be served on the Partner and a request for the immediate surrender of the Dog to the Client should be made.
As you can see, it is all very clinical and merciless, and no thought is given to whether there is a caregiver, child or other companion animal that the animal may have grown attached to. But if you draft your cause papers well and refute the defendant/respondent’s defence/counterclaim point-on-point, you may be able to persuade the Court, regardless of whether you are the best person to look after the animal, that you have established ownership over the animal.
And you know as they say, possession is still nine-tenths of the law, especially where a straightforward ownership dispute is concerned.
Note: A companion animal is not just any ‘movable property’ and will be traumatised by the proceedings and the shuttling from one caregiver to the other. Speaking as an animal care provider and not a lawyer here, I would advise the parties to any dispute over a companion animal to work out an amicable settlement in the best interests of the animal, where the animal remains in the care of the primary caregiver, in the home that it has been living in and in the company of children/other animals whose companionship it has grown to depend on. It is quite foreseeable that legal proceedings could easily turn into a source of great distress, confusion and misery for the animal concerned.
CO78, at your service. Over!