Sunday, March 19, 2006

Erosion: Malaysian constitution

It took me a while to figure out a simple way to write today’s feature. I have opted for simplicity with the extreme attention towards passing on a very simple message to all Malaysians (and those who may be interested in Malaysian politics) who may be reading this.

Based on the speechs given by by Ms. Ivy Josiah (WAO), Prof. Shad Saleem Faruqi (Law), Dato Dr. Cyrus Das (Law), Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (Law), Dato Zaid Ibrahim (MP) at the recent public forum organised by "article 11" and the Malaysian Bar Coucil , i draw the following:

1.The federal constitution that was crafted by your forefathers is the most supreme document given to you.

2.The federal constitution of Malaysia says that any rule or policy that is adopted which are in conflict with the principles forwarded in the constitution shall be null and void.

3.The federal constitution makes it clear that Malaysia is NOT an Islamic state as Dr. Mahathir or other politicians may claim or wished it to be. Lets be very clear about this, Malaysia is a secular state, and such a privilege is guaranteed in the federal constitution.

4.The federal constitution assures us that no one race or religion has privilege over the other. Further, it assures that all people will be treated equally with equal privilege given to all

5.The federal constitution does not recognise the word “bumi putra” (translates to ‘sun of the soil’). Such reference is in fact unconstitutional and violates equal treatment of people in the nation. Further, the use of the word “bumi putra” is blatantly raciest. It implies that those not “bumi putra” are less deserving citizens. This is far from reality, as the federal constitution does not permit unequal treatment of people.

It has become clear that Malaysia masses are not aware of their constitutional rights as citizens.

Politicians have inserted confusing terms and policies to blur the understanding of the true implications of the constitution and what it stands for the public.

For example:

The referring to Malaysia as an Islamic state by a former prime minister has made people confused about their rights as Malaysians. It has also given extremist and radical Islamic groups to make use of the this blurred definition. PAS (an Islamic political party) for example has frequntly suggested replacing the supremacy of the Federal Constitution with the supremacy of Sharia.

The denial of justice in the recent Murthi case (reference), is a sign that the Sharia courts and religious groups have been going beyond their capacity. This phenomenon is thanks to the redefinition of Malaysia as a “Islamic” state.

Do not get it wrong, the constitution offers any one and every one, the opportunity to be heard. Denial of such an opportunity is unconstitutional. This is exactly what happened in the Murti case (and may others like it). She was denied justice when the civil courts said that it was upto the Sharia courts to decide, while she was unable to participate in the Sharia courts, as she was not Muslim. This is bad judgement on the part of the judge and a blatant disregard for her constitutional freedom.

The use of the phrase “bumi puthra” is similar. It has blur the public about their sense of worth. As if to say that certain sections of are more valuable than others. Consider this: any advertisement that says “10% discount for bumi putras” is unconstitutional.
What this means is that interested politicians (mind controlling insects) bring in concepts and segment society so that they are better able to rule.

The unconstitutional labelling of Malaysia as Islamic, when the it is clearly said in the constitutional documents that it is secular and the reference to a special “bumi putra” right, is unjust. It is stealing away from you (the common Malaysian) your freedom. It is denying you of your rights.

The next time this happens, remember, you have the right to sue any practice that is unconstitutional.

The public forum that was held in on the 12th of march by the NGO group “article 11” and the Malaysian bar council addressed this issue. Some ways to address this issue was suggested and included the setting up of a “constitutional court”.

following is a letter addressed to the current prime minister of Malaysia from the organisers of the forum. Clearly, it is of utmost importance that all malayaians become aware of this.

To: The Malaysian Government

Reaffirming the supremacy of the Federal Constitution

We, the undersigned, Malaysian men and women from all ethnic and faith backgrounds, are concerned about recent events and statements that undermine the supremacy of the Federal Constitution.

We wish to remind our national leaders that Article 4(1) emphatically declares that the Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and that the oath of office of all parliamentarians, cabinet ministers and judges is singularly to defend the Constitution.

Further, Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution states that ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation’. The Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission, 1956-57 Report, states that this Article ‘shall not imply that the State is not a secular State’. The Supreme Court decision in Che Omar Che Soh (1988) reaffirmed that “the law in this country is still what it is today, secular law”.

Yet, increasingly we hear claims that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

Liberty and justice for all Malaysians may only effectively be realized through an independent judiciary with full powers of review. Sadly, Malaysians have witnessed the abdication of this power by our judges largely due to an ill-conceived amendment to the Constitution in 1988. In recent cases in the High Courts, judges have declined to adjudicate on pressing issues simply because they involved some elements of Islamic law, leaving litigants without any remedy. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs and one which no civil society must endure.

We recognise that the spirit of the Constitution encompasses universal values of democracy, good governance and respect for all. This is compatible with the principles of all faiths represented in Malaysia.

We therefore

* call on the government and judiciary to uphold the supremacy of the Federal Constitution;

* call upon the government to ensure governance in accordance with the Federal Constitution and premised on the universal values of all Malaysian peoples;

* call upon the government to reaffirm that Malaysia shall not become a theocratic state;

* call upon the government to recognise the proper position of the judiciary within the Constitutional framework, as an independent and equal arm of Government


The Undersigned

*Kindly sign on the signature page provided*

Article 11 has this to say:
We are in the process of collecting signatures for our open letter to the Prime
Minister and hope that you are concerned enough to be part of this campaign.

Please find attached the Open Letter and the Signature Form. If you support the call we are making in the Open Letter we would be much obliged if you could download these documents, disseminate them and collect signatures to support this campaign.

Please approach your relatives, friends and any organisations that you might be in contact with to support this campaign.

Every signature collected is valuable and adds on more voice to the call that we are making to the Prime Minister.

Signature forms can be mailed back to us at The Secretariat, P.O. Box 493, Jalan Sultan, 46760 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

i do not have soft links to these documents. Please drop a note to for one.


mythsn_legends said...

Thanks for the insight on the federal's a real eye opener!

I guess we Malaysians are not educated about our rights and what is written in the federal constitution that deals with our rights. Call it strategy or whatever but I guess this (the lack of the people's education abt their rights) is one way of oppression; of not 'encouraging' them to have a voice.

So, ts it the price we have to pay to ensure that we live "in harmony"?

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

A lot is going on there. You are doing a great thing explaining and highlighting. Iknow you are pursuing psychology, but you also have such a flair for politics and law.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

A lot is going on where you are!! You are doing a great thing explaining and highlighting. Iknow you are pursuing psychology, but you also have such a flair for politics and law.

Steph said...

I'm impressed by your interest (to the extend of taking actions)in the Malaysian politics even when you're not a Malaysian yourself. And as Malaysian, I feel ashamed of not having an insight on such issues.

But we were never told these things in school. Some very important things in our history textbooks were (or was it are?) obviously been distorted and were misleading to us, young people, the future malaysians.

And knowing the way people in governmental sector works (not the government itself), and from a friend's mom who is working in the government department and has written numerous time to papers regarding some of the unjust issues in the department, I doubt that this petition would go any further than having people to sign.

Nevertheless, we should do our part and have our voices heard. Wonder if there is other more effective ways than petition alone.

What do you think?

astrorat said...

Dear mythsn_legends,

you are spot on.. its something like informed consent that we hear in our psych classes every day.. they say that ignorance is bliss... rather in this case, ignorance is going make you experience some pretty nasty stuff..

you don’t need to pay a price to live in harmony. the price was sent when your forefathers drafted the federal constitution in 1947. they price you have to pay to protect that right, is to demand that this original constitution is not altered to benefit a few...

Dear Deb,

I have just started realising that i feel deeply for social issues. tied up really close to social issues is the politics that governs us all. my work with Burmese and Acehnese refugees in Malaysia thought me that sometimes the current human condition is caused by people we put into power making horrid choices for us.

you are right.. i thoroughly enjoy politics :D *grins*

Dear steph,

its not really important where a person comes from. But, its more important that s/he understands his/her social world, and then educates the people around him/her.

Working with politics is thoroughly discouraging. Bureaucracy, which is meant to protect and enhance social systems, sometimes work against us. But, thats no reason why we should give up. i agree with you for social change to occur, you need to make sure that you are heard, again and again and again.

Have faith in the petition.. if it does not work.. make sure you don’t elect the current political party to power next time. place your vote to someone who cares! tell your friends about it.. and make them tell their friends..
soon.. a kind of snow ball will occur and government WILL have to listen to its people.