KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Bersih 2.0 chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan will be awarded an honorary doctorate in law today from the University of Exeter in the UK.
The Malaysian Insider understands she will be present to receive the university award at its ceremony to be held later today.
Sources said Ambiga (picture) left for the UK over the weekend, where she plans to take a one- to two-week break after the landmark July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally for cleaner and more honest elections she spearheaded.
Close friend and fellow lawyer Tommy Thomas confirmed the news when contacted by The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
Thomas, a former Bar Council secretary, said in England, universities value seriously contributions to the professions but was unable to shed light on who nominated Ambiga for the award and what she was being recognised for.
He believes there are three possible push factors, the first two being services to her profession as a lawyer as Ambiga had been vocal during her two-year term as the Malaysian Bar president from 2007 to 2009.
Ambiga, 55, has played an active role in other sectors of the legal profession for almost 30 years including as a member of the Securities Industry Dispute Resolution Centre and speaking out on Malaysian intellectual property protection.
“She is well regarded by most of her peers and enjoys the ear of many of the judges,” Thomas said.
He added that Ambiga had also stamped her mark internationally when she became the first Malaysian and one of only eight women to win the International Women of Courage award two years ago.
The US Secretary of State award was given to her for championing human rights, the status of women and religious tolerance in Malaysia.
“There is no way anyone today can describe her without mentioning Bersih. I’m sure the person from University of Exeter who had a hand in her nomination will do the same,” Thomas said of the award speech.
He cited hearing reports that in Bersih 2.0’s Melbourne rally, hundreds had taken part wearing Ambiga face masks, turning her into an instant icon of reform.
“She is Malaysia’s best-known personality today,” he said, adding she thoroughly well-deserves the university award.
“Thanks to the Najib administration’s actions, Bersih 2.0 has been transformed into one of the best-known organisations,” he added.