“You are never too small to make a change” – Uza Noorbaan Fahmy

Uza. Noorbaan Fahmy

Welcome to our very first interview under ‘Humans Of Business’.

This week, Maldives Business Review interviewed with Uza. Noorbaan Fahmy, who is among the leading ladies in the Maldivian legal sector.

Uza. Noorbaan Fahmy is the COO & Legal Counsel of Maldives Stock Exchange and Maldives Securities Depository.

She is a private sector Director on the Board of Maldives Pension Administration Office. Uza. Noorbaan has expertise in the securities market, pension laws and  regulations, corporate governance as well as corporate and commercial law.

She has acted as counsel for state institutions and other private sector entities. She is also the Managing Director of King’s Attorneys & Consultants Pvt. Ltd. She has completed her Msc in Public Policy and Management  from SOAS, University of London (2017) and  her LLB from University of Bristol, UK in 2011.

Maldives Business Review reached out to Uza. Noorbaan Fahmy to get a better understanding of her vision and focus of the future;

1. As the current COO and Legal Counsel at MSE & MSD, what are your responsibilities?

As COO, I am responsible for managing the day to day operational direction of the Exchange and the Depository. This includes providing market development direction to increase accessibility and efficiency of the services provided to investors and the general public. A lot of my work in recent times have included providing business logic and direction to the in-house software development team, towards designing and developing technologically enhanced services for the capital market.

As Legal Counsel, I advise the Chief Executive and the Board of Directors in all matters relating to the Exchange (trading, listing, implementation of the listing rules and regulations, compliance issues related to Listed Companies) as well as overall Central Depository related functions. I also engage and represent the Exchange with relevant stakeholders, such as the CMDA in regulatory and enforcement matters. Additionally, I am also the Board Secretary for both companies, and undertake secretarial functions and ensure governance compliance for the Board. Further to this, I undertake advisory roles for ancillary services of the Depository, which includes providing pre-listing advice to potential issuers, such as those relating to prospectus review, regulatory compliance, public offer process etc.

2. You have years of experience in the legal sector, what do you think are the challenges in the sector?

I have been practicing as a lawyer since 2011. I started as an Intern in AGO, worked in the President’s Office as a Legal Director, and then moved again into private practice. Even at the early stages, I worked through a law firm of my own and did most of my work in the private sector. One significant factor that I found to be challenging was the difficulties associated with the court processes and procedures, especially from an administrative angle. Submission of cases to court, court hearings, schedules, appeal processes all involve administrative inefficiencies which ultimately result in hindrances in obtaining justice. Other than this, I found it challenging that fundamentals like the criminal code, criminal justice procedures and civil procedures were absent for a long time within our justice system, which again made access to justice difficult. Whilst a criminal code and procedure have come into place, implementation issues remain significant.

Another inherent systemic problem I note especially within the court system is the embedded level of corruption amongst judges and lawyers. I can say I find it relatively difficult even in the most clear-cut cases, both in criminal and civil process, to obtain fair grounds for justice amidst influence and patronism of connected people within the judicial system.

3. How do you plan on contributing to the field in the future?

I intend to continue practicing as a lawyer and my area of expertise and interest is predominant to the financial and corporate sector. With the new Legal Professions Act, there is a significant need to train new graduates into the legal practice. I would like to extend my guidance and mentorship in my areas of expertise, as far as practicable to assist the lawyer’s community.

I also have aspirations to serve the legislature and the people of Maldives through the Parliament. Holistic approach to law making is needed to ensure equitable justice by practicing lawyers.

For a more immediate contribution, I am contesting for the vacant position of the Executive Committee of the Bar Council of Maldives, elections due on the 28th of September 2019. A significant statutory responsibility is incumbent upon the Executive Committee of the Bar, and I believe that I can contribute to lay the right foundation to strengthen the legal profession and practice in the Maldives, if elected to the position. The Bar has potential to act as a catalyst towards progressive reforms in the legal and social fabric of our country, and I consider this the right time to contribute.

4. Serving at various NGOs, how do you think individuals from legal profession can contribute towards constructive change in all areas?

I have always been keen towards pro-bono work. I have had relatively good experience working with the Cancer Society of Maldives (CSM) and Women on Boards (WoB) as well. I would say being a part of NGOs, even if not directly related to your professional areas of practice, enhances you as a person, broadens the horizons of your thinking and adds value to your character.

As lawyers we have a diverse understanding of different social and economic issues especially within the paradigm of the justice system. We can contribute to establish social justice, harmony, and strengthen democracy through support rendered to NGOs working on different social, civil issues and causes. Be it acting as counsels, secretaries, Board Directors or even as pro-bono advisers or even as ordinary members, we can contribute through knowledge and expertise sharing with these institutions.

5. We have also come to know of your ambitious decision, can you tell us how you envision to bring change if you are successful?

I think the most important thing right now for the Bar Council and Executive committee is to ensure the right foundation is set for the future of the legal profession. My commitment if elected would be mainly to focus on assisting the Ex-com to deliver to the primary statutory deadlines in formulating relevant rules and regulations, guidelines and practices and educational curriculum for the legal profession.

I have the capacity, dedication and experience needed to deliver to the responsibilities of the Bar ExCom. Additionally, as an individual, I can say I will bring in an energetic drive to the ExCom, as I have exceptional ability to lead and achieve set targets. I will  put in my best effort along with the rest of ExCom to ensure the rights of all members of the Bar, young and experienced alike are protected and strengthened. Given the increasing trend of young lawyers (approx 57%), I will definitely make a strong voice and a like-minded representative to instigate future change for the legal practice.

 

6. What is your advice to those who are interested in the legal profession as well as your advice for the aspiring and future lawyers?

I would say be interested and dedicated to practice as a lawyer. And always do just by the law. Aspire to succeed whilst taking along the rest of your fellow lawyers with you. Learn to work as a team and success shall follow.

7. Would you play an active role in promoting women in the legal profession, or do you currently have initiated any notable movements towards it?

I will play an active role in promoting women to leadership, in the legal profession as well as in the top tiers of the corporate and political realm of Maldives. Approximately 43% of registered lawyers are women. It is important that the Bar-Excom have a fair representation of women. My stand for the Bar Excom is my effort to lead by example, to aspire women of caliber to rise to the top.  I always keep saying, “you are never too small to make a change”. Let’s just say, I intend to be the change I want to see in my country.

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