March 18, 2006

Write the Right

Posted in Malaysia at 11:45 pm by egalitaria

Last weekend a Forum was held on the Federal Constitution: Protection for all.

How many of us Malaysians know for a fact that the written Constitution in itself guarantees certain fundamental rights?

Loads of things were brought up during the morning debate and discussion, but these are some of the more important notes:

  • The Constitution is Supreme
  • Islam is the religion of the Federation, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation (Article 3(1))
  • Whilst some feel the Constitution is a secular document, others felt it is a hybrid one – combining secular and Islamic frameworks.

*note: Secular insofar as it contains laws that are not necessarily linked to any religion. this does not mean that they fully contradict any religion, but that they are not expected to follow any one in totality. Click below to see the open letter.

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

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

*Kindly sign on the signature page provided*

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