LAWASIA owes its creation primarily to the international outlook of the (then) president of the Law Council of Australia, Mr J B Piggott CBE, (then) Mr Justice John Kerr and (then) Mr P B Toose QC. This group and their colleagues identified the desirability of forming a regional association of lawyers from what was then the Economic Commission of Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) region.
The law societies and bar associations of Asia and the Pacific responded quickly to this initiative and an inaugural conference was held in Canberra in August 1966, where the Law Association of Asia and the Western Pacific, known as LAWASIA, was founded through adoption of its Constitution on 10 August 1966, with representatives from 17 countries of the region present to discuss and agree on its form and content.
Again, nomenclature has changed to reflect a more modern world and the LAWASIA member organisations are now drawn from the Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region.
Past LAWASIA Presidents
Mr Prashant Kumar (INDIA)
President | 2015-2017
A policy economist turned lawyer, Mr Kumar heads a boutique law firm, KPA Legal, based at New Delhi, clientele of which includes major corporate houses from India and multinational corporations. In practice, he specialises in constitutional, commercial and civil matters, arbitration, intellectual property and information technology law among others. He joined the LAWASIA ExCo in 2006, was elected vice president in 2009 and president-elect in 2015. He is a life member of the Bar Association of India and has been, at various times, its joint Treasurer, joint General Secretary, Associate General Secretary and Honorary General Secretary. He currently serves as President-Elect of the Bar Association of India. Mr Kumar’s keen focus on LAWASIA’s delivery of continuing legal education is evident though the many events he has overseen, including LAWASIA’s 40th anniversary conference in Goa, India in 2006. In addition to arranging niche LAWASIA events, he chaired the 23rd LAWASIA Conference in New Delhi in 2010, the 27th LAWASIA Conference in Bangkok in 2014 and, as president, co-chaired the 29th LAWASIA Conference and Golden Jubilee celebrations in Colombo.
Mr Isomi Suzuki (JAPAN)
President | 2013-2015
Mr Isomi Suzuki became LAWASIA's twenty-third president in 2013 in Singapore, bringing with him to this position the deep respect of his peers on ExCo and Council, on which he had represented Japan since 2008, leading to his election as president-elect in 2012. The experience he delivered to his leadership of LAWASIA was gained through numerous appointments of significance both in Japan and internationally, including as a Commissioner on the UN Security Council Compensation Commission, Chairperson of the Committee of Japan Federation of Bar Associations on International Human Rights, Chairperson, Committee on E-commerce and Private International Law and Executive Commissioner, Center for Alternative Disputes Resolution regarding Fukushima Nuclear Accident. During his presidency, Mr Suzuki was appointed by Japan to the World Bank’s Arbitration Panel of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. His expertise in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms provided an emphasis to his presidency of LAWASIA, where he encouraged attention especially to private international mediation schemes.
Ms Malathi Das (SINGAPORE)
President | 2011-2013
The distinction of serving as LAWASIA’s youngest, first woman and first Singaporean president fell to Ms Malathi Das when she assumed the presidency from Mr Huang in Korea in 2011. Formerly a Council member and a vice president of the Law Society of Singapore, Ms Das became a LAWASIA ExCo member in 2003, was elected vice president in 2006 and president-elect in 2009. She brought to her leadership of LAWASIA a particular focus on the rights of families and children, playing a significant role in the development and promulgation of the LAWASIA Siem Reap Principles and Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Equally, she redeveloped a LAWASIA presence at the United Nations, representing it at several meetings in Geneva. Ms Das’ presidency provided particular LAWASIA encouragement to efforts that draw attention to the role the legal profession plays in supporting the UN Guiding Principles in Business and Human Rights.
Mr Lester Huang (HONG KONG SAR)
President | 2009-2011
Mr Lester Huang's long involvement with LAWASIA began in 1999, when he was appointed by the Law Society of Hong Kong as Councillor and elected as an ExCo member in the same year. In 2000, he became inaugural chair of the then Young Lawyers Section. Council elected Mr Huang as LAWASIA vice president in 2003, and in 2008, to the position of president-elect. He commenced his presidency in 2009 at the annual conference in Ho Chi Minh City. Mr Huang chaired the 20th Biennial LAWASIA Conference in Hong Kong in 2007, while president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, with the conference also forming part of the centenary celebrations for the Law Society. Throughout his lengthy service to LAWASIA, he maintained the strong connection between LAWASIA and the Hong Kong profession that remains of considerable ongoing importance. Mr Huang was appointed a Distinguished Member of Council in 2012 in recognition of his exceptional service to LAWASIA.
Mr Glenn Ferguson AM (AUSTRALIA)
President | 2008-2009
Formerly the president of the Queensland Law Society, Mr Glenn Ferguson was appointed Councillor for Australia in 2003 and a member of the LAWASIA ExCo at the same time. He became vice president in 2004 and was elected to the position of president-elect in 2006, assuming the presidency in 2008. An Australian solicitor, Mr Ferguson also served as president of the Law Council of Australia in 2010 and is a founding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. He was instrumental in relocating the LAWASIA secretariat to Brisbane in 2004, arranging much appreciated funding and support from the Queensland Law Society. He worked assiduously to build strong LAWASIA connections in his home jurisdiction always, in addition to representing LAWASIA ably as ExCo member, vice president and president throughout its region. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia under the Australian honours system for service to the legal community in 2015.
Dato' Mah Weng Kwai (MALAYSIA)
President | 2006-2008
Dato' Mah Weng Kwai's dedication to to the legal profession has been demonstrated through many positions of responsibility, locally, nationally and internationally. Importantly, he served as vice president, then president of the Malaysian Bar from 1999 to 2001. He led his own firm, Messrs Mah Weng Kwai & Associates, prior to appointment as a Judicial Commissioner of the High Court of Malaya in 2010 and in 2011 as a Judge of the High Court of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He was elevated to the Court of Appeal, Malaysia in 2012. Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai became LAWASIA Councillor for Malaysia in 2001 and was elected to ExCo and subsequently to the role of vice president. He became president-elect at Council elections in 2005 and served as president from 2006-2008. His involvement in LAWASIA before, during and after his presidency has been constant, with participation in observer missions to Fiji, Pakistan and Nepal a highlight of his term in office. He remains actively involved in LAWASIA and routinely contributes to the annual conference.
Mr Jung Hoon Lee (REPUBLIC OF KOREA)
President | 2005-2006
A member of LAWASIA since 1997, Mr Jung Hoon Lee was founding partner in one of Korea’s leading law firms, Bae Kim & Lee, in Seoul. He has held numerous profile posts including those of Director of the Korean Bar Association’s International Affairs Committee from 1999 to 2001, president of the Korean Intellectual Property Society from 2001 to 2005, president of the Korean Arbitrators Association from 2007 to 2010. In 2001, he became vice president of LAWASIA, a position he held until October 2005 when he was elected president, LAWASIA’s second from Korea. Mr Lee’s focus throughout his term was on developing LAWASIA’s influence with professional bodies and introducing LAWASIA to non-member countries of the region. In this respect, he was instrumental in building a relationship with PERADI, as the representative body of lawyers in Indonesia, and now LAWASIA member organisation. His term as president coincided with LAWASIA’s 40th anniversary and he presided over its anniversary conference in Goa, India in 2006. Mr Lee’s ongoing dedication to LAWASIA saw him chair the host committee of the 2011 annual conference in Seoul.
Mr GL Sanghi (INDIA)
President | 2003-2005
Mr GL Sanghi became a member of LAWASIA in 1985, assuming the role of Councillor for India in 1990, and was elected to the executive committee in 1995. He became vice president in 1997 and was instrumental in the establishment of the LAWASIA Indian Chapter. As a senior advocate for the Supreme Court of India, Mr Sanghi was revered for service to the profession, both in court and through his support of professional bodies. He continued to demonstrate a strong passion for LAWASIA’s human rights activities and frequently worked to pass on his acumen and vision to younger legal colleagues. Before assuming the LAWASIA presidency in 2003, Mr Sanghi was president of the Indian Association of Lawyers. In early 2006, during his term as immediate past president, Mr Sanghi passed away suddenly. The tributes that flowed to him were a testament to the respect, admiration and friendship that he earned from many quarters. At the time of his passing, he was vice president of the Bar Association of India. LAWASIA continues to honour his memory through the annual GL Sanghi Memorial Lecture, held at each annual conference.
Dr Gordon Hughes AM (AUSTRALIA)
President | 2001-2003
Dr Gordon Hughes AM, a leading international expert on IT law, became a LAWASIA member in 1988. His considerable service to the legal profession is documented through election to the roles of president of the Victorian Society for Computers and Law (1991-1994), president of the Law Institute of Victoria (1992-1993), and president of Australia’s peak body, the Law Council of Australia from 1999 to 2000. After serving as an ExCo member and vice-president he became LAWASIA president in 2001 and played a fundamental role in increasing its profile in all areas. He worked actively throughout the region during his presidency, earning the respect and admiration of many for his dedication to positioning LAWASIA as an invaluable resource for all lawyers with an interest in the international legal community. He was appointed a Distinguished Member of Council in 2005 and an honorary Life Member of LAWASIA in recognition of his significant and continued support. He currently chairs the LAWASIA Business Law Section and the LAWASIA Communications, Technology and Data Protection Committee and continues to serve on the ExCo as a co-opted member, a tribute to the extent to which his ongoing guidance remains valued by LAWASIA colleagues.
Mr Mervyn Encanto (PHILIPPINES)
President | 1999-2001
Originally serving LAWASIA in the capacity of Councillor for the Philippines, Mr Encanto was elected to the ExCo where he served as vice president, eventually becoming LAWASIA’s 15th president. Mr Encanto brought with him experience as a former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (1993 to 1995) and as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Legal Services Division of the United Coconut Planters Bank. He chaired the 15th LAWASIA Biennial Conference organising committee whilst juggling numerous roles with other organisations throughout the Philippines. In addition to his presidential role, he arranged a successful workshop on Legal Aid in Asia & the Pacific in Manila in June 2001. A LAWASIA life member, he was also vice president for finance in the LAWASIA Philippines Chapter and remained a member until his death in 2007.
Mr Takeo Kosugi (JAPAN)
President | 1997-1999
Mr Takeo Kosugi commenced his involvement with LAWASIA as Councillor for Japan in 1979 and has been an active and valued member since this time. Following ongoing and lengthy service to ExCo and Council, his subsequent ascension to the presidency in 1997 in Manila came at a time when the Asia Pacific region was undergoing a significant economic crisis. He identified the need for LAWASIA to strengthen its financial position and increase membership in order for the association to remain relevant within the region. During his presidency, Mr Kosugi was actively involved in the organisation of the 3rd LAWASIA Business Law Conference in Tokyo and the 16th LAWASIA Biennial Conference in Seoul. He was the organiser of the highly successful 18th LAWASIA Biennial Conference in Tokyo in 2003. His support of LAWASIA has not dwindled since and he chaired the Japan organising committee for the 5th LAWASIA Family Law and Children’s Rights Conference, held in Sapporo in 2014. He has worked tirelessly to promote LAWASIA in Japan through his position with Friends of LAWASIA in Japan (FLAJ) in the past, and continues this work today.
Mr Donald Yap (HONG KONG SAR)
President | 1995-1997
A solicitor admitted to practice in Hong Kong, Australia and England, Donald Yap took over the LAWASIA presidency in 1995, at the 14th LAWASIA Biennial Conference in China. Mr Yap began his involvement with LAWASIA as chair of the 11th LAWASIA Biennial Conference Organising Committee in 1988. As president of the Law Society of Hong Kong in 1990, he was appointed Councillor for Hong Kong and was elected as LAWASIA vice president in 1991. He oversaw preparations for the 30th Anniversary Conference held in Canberra in 1996, and held the presidency during that anniversary year. In addition, he was instrumental in seeing the LAWASIA secretariat relocate to Australia’s Northern Territory and increase its operations, thanks to support from the Northern Territory government. He was a Distinguished Member of Council from 1998 to 2006 and remains a valued member of LAWASIA.
Dato' Param Cumaraswamy (MALAYSIA)
President | 1993-1995
Dato' Param Cumaraswamy joined LAWASIA as a member in 1968. His involvement with the Human Rights Standing Committee dates back to its inception, first as co-chair and then chair from 1994 to 2003. During his presidency of LAWASIA, Dato’ Param convened the inaugural Business Law Conference in Bangkok. However, it is for his devotion to human rights that he is best known. Notably, he held the role of United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers from 1994 to 2003. He continues this work through active support of groups like LAWASIA and the International Commission of Jurists. Dato’ Param has received many awards, including the 1999 International Peace and Justice Award from the Irish American Unity Conference, the 2002 Justice in the World Award from the International Association of Judges and the 2005 Peter Gruber Foundation’s Justice Priz. He is a former president of the Bar Council Malaysia and has been a life member of LAWASIA since 1988.
Mr Anil Divan (INDIA)
President | 1991-1993
A senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, Mr Anil Divan became Councillor for India in 1986 and a member of the Environment Law Standing Committee. Whilst his main practice areas included constitutional, administrative and corporate law, his experience with environmental law saw him appointed as chair to the Environmental Law Standing Committee within months of joining LAWASIA. He was instrumental in organising the first LAWASIA/NELA (National Environmental Law Association of Australia) Conference on Environmental Law in Sydney in 1989, a conference considered by many to be among the most successful environmental law conferences held in Australia. As LAWASIA president, Mr Divan was very active in representing the association throughout the region, participating in IBA and POLA meetings and raising LAWASIA’s profile. He became chair of the then LAWASIA Research Institute on completion of his presidential term. His prominence in the Indian profession continues to lend great value to LAWASIA, where he remained a revered supporter of the organisation until his passing in 2017.
Mr David AK Ferguson AO (AUSTRALIA)
President | 1989-1991
Mr David Ferguson began his involvement with LAWASIA in 1977 as Councillor for Australia, a role he held until 1988. The following year, Mr Ferguson was elected LAWASIA President and improvements he made to consolidation of LAWASIA’s finances were a hallmark of his presidency. He implemented changes to LAWASIA’s constitution, opening membership to legal practitioners from outside the immediate LAWASIA region, and facilitating the ability for Section Chairs to sit on Council in an observer capacity. Mr Ferguson was president during the 12th Biennial Conference, which celebrated LAWASIA’s 25th Anniversary. Mr Ferguson established a LAWASIA Human Rights newsletter, which proved a valuable platform for highlighting human rights issues faced by the Asia Pacific legal community, and promoting LAWASIA’s human rights activities. In 2006, he was awarded an Order of Australia for service to the law, the legal profession and to fostering links with peak legal bodies in the Asia Pacific region.
Mr GTS Sidhu (MALAYSIA)
President | 1987-1989
LAWASIA's ninth president, Mr GTS Sidhu was instrumental in the establishment of a number of LAWASIA’s sections. His relationship with LAWASIA began when he assumed the role of Councillor for Malaysia in 1975. He was elected chair of the Family Law & Family Rights Section in 1979 and was linked to the increase of individual members in Malaysia during this period. Mr Sidhu, a highly respected member of the Malaysian legal community, was president of the Bar Council of Malaysia in 1981. He was elected as LAWASIA’s Vice President in 1983 and President in 1987. During his presidency, he established an Asian Commission for Justice, serving as the chair and giving substance to his commitment to the rule of law and human rights. Mr Sidhu passed away in 1993.
Mr Fali Nariman (INDIA)
President | 1985-1987
Mr Fali Nariman, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, has long been among India’s most distinguished jurors. In 1979 he became LAWASIA Councillor for India and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Standing Committee. Mr Nariman became Vice President of LAWASIA in 1983. The following year, he chaired the organising committee for the 9th Biennial Conference in New Delhi. He assumed the LAWASIA presidency in 1985 and successfully persuaded the then Prime Minister of India, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, to open the conference. In addition to editing and publishing a number of LAWASIA human rights publications, Mr Nariman was the General Editor of The India Advocate, a quarterly publication of the Bar Association of India. Mr Nariman became president of the Bar Association in 1991 and was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s second highest Civil Honour, by the President of India for his services in the field of jurisprudence, among other awards for his service to the law. A noted and respected figure in India’s legal community, Mr Nariman is a LAWASIA life member and served three terms as a Distinguished Member of the LAWASIA Council.
H.E. Mr Raul Goco (PHILIPPINES)
President | 1983-1985
Mr Raul Goco’s involvement with LAWASIA began in 1973, when he attended the Council meeting as President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. He became Councillor for the Philippines in 1975, a role he retained until 1982. Mr Goco was chair of the organising committee for the 8th Biennial Conference, held in Manila in 1983, at which time he became LAWASIA president. In this capacity, he resolved the issue of Chinese membership, with Council ratifying the China Law Society as a member in 1985. After his presidency, he continued as Councillor until 1991, when he was nominated a Distinguished Member. He became Philippine Ambassador to Canada in 1997 and is a former Solicitor-General of the Philippines. Mr Goco was a jurist at the United Nations International Law Commission from 1997 to 2001. He was the first Filipino to head LAWASIA and remained active though his role as chair of the LAWASIA Philippines Chapter. Mr Goco passed away in 2014.
Professor Marut Bunnag (THAILAND)
President | 1981-1983
LAWASIA’s sixth president, Professor Marut Bunnag is one of LAWASIA’s long serving members, having attended the 1966 inaugural conference as an observer in his capacity of President of the Lawyer’s Association of Thailand (now Lawyer’s Council of Thailand). As LAWASIA Country Councillor for Thailand, Professor Bunnag increased Thai membership to more than 100 by 1971, the same year he became a member of the Board of National Research Council of Thailand. As chair of the organising committee for the 7th Biennial Conference, Professor Bunnag arranged for the conference to be opened formally by His Majesty, the King of Thailand, a great honour for LAWASIA. He played a key role in inviting the People’s Republic of China to become a member of LAWASIA, and remained an active Country Councillor until 1988.
Mr H W Jayawardene, QC (SRI LANKA)
President | 1979-1981
Mr Jayewardene took on the role of LAWASIA Country Councillor for Sri Lanka in 1978, and was chair of the organising committee for the 6th Biennial Conference in Colombo the following year. His interest in human rights was demonstrated through the establishment of the LAWASIA Human Rights Standing Committee at the time of his election to the LAWASIA presidency in 1979. Human Rights was also a prominent theme during the biennial conference. Mr Jayewardene was instrumental in the adoption of a set of Basic Human Rights Principles. The introduction of a corporate membership category was attributed to Mr Jayewardene. In addition, he also established the LAWASIA Membership Directory as an annual publication. After his retirement, Mr Jayewardene continued his interest in the affairs of LAWASIA.
Dr Joon Mo Yang (REPUBLIC OF KOREA)
President | 1977-1979
Dr Joon Mo Yang was first affiliated with LAWASIA through his role as country councillor for Korea in 1975. He was elected vice-president of LAWASIA shortly after this, working closely with Professor Suzuki in organising the 5th Biennial Conference in Seoul. This included the publication of a widely circulated 548-page report on its proceedings. He highlighted the need for a full-time secretary-general to create a more active LAWASIA, a proposal implemented by the end of 1978. Dr Yang also introduced annual Council meetings as a way of facilitating constant and current communication. He established the LAWASIA Research Institute, and was chairman from 1979 to 1992. In recognition of his constant enthusiastic support for LAWASIA, Dr Yang became an esteemed Life Member until his passing in 1993.
Emeritus Professor Takeo Suzuki (JAPAN)
President | 1975-1977
The establishment of the Japan committee for LAWASIA in 1969 was a significant development for LAWASIA. Professor Takeo Suzuki was the inaugural chairman of this committee, and later became LAWASIA Country Councillor for Japan (1971). He assumed the LAWASIA presidency in 1975 and led the organising committee for the 4th LAWASIA Biennial Conference. He was actively involved in raising funds for various LAWASIA projects and was noted for his key role in organising the 5th LAWASIA Biennial conference, held in Seoul in 1977. Professor Suzuki continued his role as a LAWASIA Councillor until 1979. He remained a conscientious member of LAWASIA throughout his life.
Mr Soelisto Sh (INDONESIA)
President | 1973-1975
Mr Soelistio’s involvement with LAWASIA began in 1971, representing Indonesia as Country Councillor. In the same year, Mr Soelistio was instrumental in the establishment of a new legal body, the Madjelis Hukum Indonesia (MAHINDO) or the Law Society of Indonesia. This society went on to provide a central rallying point for Indonesian jurists and lawyers to welcome and stimulate their ideas and activities. Mr Soelistio contributed considerably to LAWASIA during his term as president. He was an influential force during the formation of LAWASIA’s interest groups and, in particular, the Judicial Section. Mr Soelistio was also the first to donate to the proposed LAWASIA Foundation, subsequently known as the LAWASIA Research Institute. Even after his term ended, Mr Soelistio continued to be an active member of LAWASIA.
Sir John Kerr, QC (AUSTRALIA)
Founding President | 1966-1973
As founding president of LAWASIA, John Kerr, QC (later Sir John Kerr) brought with him nearly 30 years of legal expertise. Following a distinguished academic career, he was admitted to the Bar of New South Wales in 1938. During the years of 1942-1946 Mr Kerr left the legal profession to serve in the Australian Army and became the first principle of the Australian School of Pacific Administration. He returned to the bar in 1948, after acting as organising secretary of the South Pacific Commission, and took silk in 1953. Prior to his involvement in LAWASIA, Mr Kerr was vice-president (1962-1964) and then president (1964-1966) of the Law Council of Australia. Mr Kerr was instrumental in the founding of LAWASIA and continued as president until 1973 at the request of its Council. In 1974, he became the Governor-General of Australia following appointments as Justice to the Supreme Court of ACT and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Sir John Kerr passed away in 1991.