Monday, May 08, 2006

Open Letter By Article 11 - An Exercise In Futility?

The Open Letter:
An open letter launched in March that calls on the government to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and ensure constitutional protection for all Malaysians has garnered more than 18,000 signatures as of last Friday. An initiative of a coalition of 13 groups known as Article 11, the open letter said those who signed were concerned about recent events that undermined the Constitution's supremacy and increasing claims that Malaysia is an Islamic state. (The Sun)

The Demands:
* the government and judiciary to uphold the Constitution's supremacy;
* the government to ensure governance in accordance with the Constitution and the universal values of all Malaysians;
* the government to reaffirm that Malaysia shall not become a theocratic state; and
* the government to recognise the judiciary's proper position, within the constitutional framework, as an independent and equal arm of government.

My Questions :
Please don't get me wrong but isn't whatever that is being asked for in the open letter part and parcel of a genuine democracy? Doesn't a democratic government and the judiciary always uphold the Constitution's supremacy? Does not a truly democratic government act within the limits of the Constitution? Why should the government which claims to be an example of a modern democracy now reaffirm that the country shall not become a theocratic state?
If one were to impartially view the demands of the open letter it would seem that we are being ruled by a bunch of dictatorial religious zealots who have scant regard for the rule of law, have nothing but contempt for a cowardly judiciary and consider Malaysia a de jure and de facto Islamic theocratic state! Now, that, no one is going to buy.

When Dr. Mahathir declared unilaterally several years ago that we are an Islamic state it did not have the backing of Constitutional Law. It was a political statement calculated to appeal to Islamists here and abroad at a time when Malaysia was raising her profile and Islamic credentials. However that claim had the effect of galvanizing Malay support as well as providing a carte blanche for opportunistic politicians to jump on the bandwagon of an Islamic state; this group included Mentris Besar and party heavyweights who saw an opening to make something out of this situation. Therefore the country isn't in fact an Islamic state. Is it then necessary for the government to say so? Remember that political backtracking is akin to reversing your vehicle in landmine territory.

If the Judiciary is seen as weak where does the fault lie? If the ' buck stops here' criteria is used then the PM and the Chief Justice are equally to blame. What has been the quality of succesive CJs? Have they been guided in all things by the law or have there been other motives? Do our judges dispense justice as prescribed or do their personal, political and religious convictions get in the way? Will politicians in any country 'surrender' their powers to the judiciary? Questions, questions.

My Conclusions : Given the present situation prevailing in the country where religious, racial and linguistic divisions are so deep there is no way that the status quo will be changed no matter how justified the call of Article 11 is, even if they collect a million signatures.
God bless our country and our leaders. Above all God bless us the citizenry.


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