Preliminary Investigation – Progress

Before I left for Malaysia, my sv has conveyed all his expectations from the preliminary investigation plan. We met briefly for a supervision discussion before we both went overseas and amongst his expectations was to use the time in Malaysia:

  • to explore ideas through personal and professional contacts;
  • to seek out suitable documents;
  • to establish what is the policy (govt) development in regard to my area of study;
  • to ensure that the EPU approval process is under control, so that when I lodge my application things go according to plan; and
  • to get my Malaysian co-supervisor involved in getting a local perspective for my topic and area of discussion.

It is expected that when I return, I’ll have a much clearer idea of who I should be interviewing and the issues that should be discussed. So far, I’ve made some progress in getting all the above expectations fulfilled before my return back to Melbourne soon.

Malaysian co-supervisor:

My Svs were very happy with my choice of co-sv in Malaysia. She recently got promoted to Associate Prof and her Malaysian networking is very much advantageous to my work. I have met AP Dr. NAB before, but this was our first personal discussion with each other. She was more than happy to accept me as her student, due to the win-win situation involved in the arrangement of supervision and the area I chose was very much her cup of tea. Unfortunately, up to the day I met her Latrobe University has yet to send her a formal appointment letter (buek malu jo) Regardless, we continued with our discussion.

In regard to the topic, although I’m sure of the focus, but contents wise, she stressed the importance of highlighting the Sulh program as part of the background context of the thesis. She also gave a valuable insight on how to include the information received from key informants in the thesis through the methodology chosen, thus avoiding the thesis from looking patchy or without a flow.

According to her, two important elements of a PhD thesis, contribution to knowledge and originality must be present, which made me requesting her to highlight some of the recent PhD topics in Family law under her supervision. It seems that socio-legal research is an ‘in’ thing at the Law Kulliyyah nowadays. Hence, what I planned to do is generally an encouraged research plan.

AP NAB also recommended that I interview several key people and bodies, including the ex-Director General of JKSM, ex-Judges from the Civil Family Division, Registrars, Judges from the family law section and Mediators, and also the Legal Aid Bureau in order for the information received from them to contribute either in terms of context or content to the thesis. She also agreed to read and comment on my draft chapters, (which is an excellent thing for me, as she would be another set of eyes and views for me) and wished me all the best in my PhD endeavors.

Exploring Ideas and Contact:

I’ve also managed to meet Mrs. ZS, a court appointed mediator of the WPKL Syariah Court to discuss the practical aspects of the Sulh program practiced in Malaysia (well, at least in KL) and the differences of the model applied in comparison to the one in Australia. One major difference is the fact that the Sulh program has no screening process prior to its intake or first mandatory session. However, the program acknowledges that if either or both parties failed to attend the first session or if either or both parties started to make allegation against each other, then the session will not progress passed the first session and the case will be transferred for trial and decided by a judge in court.

She admitted that although the aims of the mediation session was to achieve a mutual agreement or agreed settlement between the parties but in some cases (or more) the parties seems ‘insincere’ in their joint decision making and agreement, because they either wanted to avoid more time and cost wasted in court or to avoid from the other party contesting the custody arrangement of the children. Some reasons for contesting includes when the father disagrees with the amount of maintenance requested of him. In such cases, mothers thus, would bargain the amount of maintenance in order to avoid such contest from the father of the children. In most instances, according to her, women are at a disadvantage.

According to her, considering that the program has not even reached its 10 years mark, (in fact the KL program was officially established in 2004), a review of such program is yet to be a necessity. Thus, any need for improvement is yet to be acknowledged. Furthermore, although the major aims of sulh/mediation is said to be improving the relationship between the parents post separation and help settle disputes amicably, but such aims was not the initial aims of the program. The program was establish to improve the efficiency of the court, which is what the program is generally achieving nowadays in the Islamic Family Law system in Malaysia.

In terms of training, the trainers from Australia setting up the training module for the Sulh program basically employed a negotiation or facilitative settlement model. She agreed that some training in Psychology would actually assisted the mediators in dispensing their mediation tasks. Interestingly, mediators in the Sulh program would also avoid the issue of burnout, because since they are appointed with a general title and grade, they would not be in the profession forever. They get to rotate to another post under the same grade or upgrade to another post in a higher grade in the system. I am not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing in term of improving the quality of the profession.

Anyway, the discussion gave me a better idea of the running of the program in KL currently and hopefully would put my future thesis discussion in better perspective, Insya Allah. Thanks again to Mrs. ZS for her time.

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