ConstiLC’s maiden meeting starts Bar’s initiative on constitutionalism, raises expectations

ConstiLC meet2

Friday, 19 June 2009 marked the beginning of the Bar’s move to entrench constitutional study and promote constitutionalism as part of its already wide-ranging initiatives in society.

ConstiLC meet2

The first meeting of the newly-minted Constitutional Law Committee (ConstiLC) formed for the first time in the history of the Malaysian Bar saw a whopping 40 plus participants in attendance ranging from lawyers, academics, law students, activists and media practitioners. The agenda was to receive input and discuss the vision and work plan of the Committee for the term.

Various views were cogently and passionately presented, among others:

  • awareness and knowledge of the Constitutions (both Federal and State) and its effect on public life is low;
  • constitutional protection of fundamental liberties has been diluted by the State supported by pedantic interpretations by the Judiciary;
  • key concepts in the Federal Constitution such as political separation of powers between Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, demarcation of federal and state legislative and executive powers (including the issue of control of natural resources), and role of the monarch requires greater discourse;
  • mass education and capacity-building particularly of Members of Parliament, State officials, students and the “common person” living in rural areas is required;
  • constitutional reform is necessary such as the repeal of sanction for emergency laws (under Articles 149-150 of the Federal Constitution).

ConstiLC meet3Ideas as to initiatives for adoption such as the following were immediately proposed:

  • publication and dissemination of “easy-to-understand” guidebooks on the Constitutions;
  • documentation and production of short videos on key provisions of the Constitutions;
  • holding training workshops and forums around the country;
  • working with Government, SUHAKAM and civil society on strengthening their programmes to raise awareness regarding the Constitutions;
  • research and making policy recommendations for constitutional reform;
  • leading a campaign to engender greater “ownership” and understanding of the Constitutions by the people.ConstiLC meet5

A draft Blueprint was distributed for discussion. The Blueprint included:

I. The proposed “Vision and Mission” of the ConstiLC:

  • to promote the concept of constitutionalism and the rule of just law;
  • to educate and empower the rakyat, and increase awareness of the effect of Federal and State Constitutions;
  • to document, discuss and respond to constitutional issues which arise from time to time;
  • to compare and critique local and foreign constitutional cases for greater understanding and offering alternative interpretations for the benefit of Government, Judiciary and civil society;
  • to examine and conduct research on matters related to the Federal and State Constitutions and where necessary, make recommendations for constitutional reform; and
  • to assist and advice the Bar Council on policies for adoption related to constitutional issues.ConstiLC meet6

II. The proposed thematic areas of focus (2009-2011):

  • separation of powers doctrine;
  • emergency laws (enacted under Articles 149-150 of the Federal Constitution);
  • federal and state relations (including the division of legislative powers, control over natural resources, local government issues such as local council elections); and
  • economic and social rights (such as in India’s Directive Principles of State Policy) on matters such as food, housing, health, water, labour and the environment.

III. The proposed initiatives such as, among others, to launch a major “MyConstitution” Campaign / Kempen “PerlembagaanSaya”.

IV. The proposed partners to implement the initiatives.

Overwhelmingly, feedback was that the establishment of the ConstiLC is a timely initiative by the Bar, and is required to meet the pressing need to secure, promote and further the spirit of our Constitutions. The standing of the Bar will also enable the ConstiLC to reach a larger target group.

The ConstiLC is now to form at least three different components as part of its working structure: (a) on policy and law reform, (b) on education and training and (c) on communications and publications. Focus areas also require a consensus by members.

ConstiLC meet6

The meeting ended at about 5.00 pm, with the next one scheduled to take place on 10 July 2009 (4pm) to finalise the Blueprint of the ConstiLC and focus areas. Meetings have been fixed throughout the term: 31 July, 4 September, 16 October, 27 November, 15 January and 26 February 2010 (all at 4pm).

Members who have registered as being part of the ConstiLC 2009/10 include:

1. Edmund Bon Tai Soon (Chairperson)
2. Amos Kok Yee Woei
3. Aniza Damis
4. Au Yong Wai Nyan
5. Balan Nair a/l Thamodaran
6. Balbindar Singh a/l Ajaib Singh
7. Chew Ming Ling
8. Chow Wei Cheng
9. Colin Andrew a/l Pereira
10. Danial bin Abdul Rahman
11. Daniel Cheong Chun Hui
12. Daniel Joseph Albert
13. Derek Chong Ching Hsiang
14. Rusniah bt Ahmad
15. Azmi Sharom
16. Danny Choong
17. Khairil Azmin bin Mokhtar
18. Firdaus binti Husni
19. Firoz Hussein bin Ahmad Jamaluddin
20. Frida a/p Krishnan
21. Grace Wong Phui Mun
22. Gregory Marimuthu a/l Gevanantham
23. Harcharan Singh a/l Latchman Singh
24. Hj Sulaiman Abdullah
25. Jeewananthan a/l Subramaniam
26. Jeyaseelan Anthony
27. Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen
28. Joseph Lai Yew Peng
29. Joshua Tay H’ng Foong
30. Joy Wilson a/l Appukuttan
31. Lee Sim Kuen
32. Leong Yeng Kong
33. Lily Teo Hooi Hoon
34. Low Boon Seong
35. Lua Bo Feng
36. Mahaletchumi a/p Balakrishnan
37. Maimuna Hamid Merican
38. Malik Imtiaz Ahmed bin Ghulam Sarwar
39. Michelle a/p Gunaselan
40. Nadia bt Abu Bakar
41. Nazariah bt Abbas
42. Paul Linus Andrews
43. Abdul Aziz Bari
44. Shad Saleem Faruqi
45. Rachel Vanuja a/p Suppiah
46. Ragumaren a/l Gopal
47. Richard Yeoh
48. Ryan May
49. Sandra Coelen
50. Sashiraj a/l Uthrapathy
51. Selena Kong Soo Theng
52. Shaikh Abdul Saleem bin Shaikh Abdul Karim
53. Shamala Devi a/p Balasundaram
54. Shanmugaiah a/l Chelliah
55. Sheila a/p Ramalingam
56. Sonya Liew Yee Aun
57. Sreedaran Nair a/l A.Veloo Pillay
58. Sudharsanan a/l Thillainathan
59. Syahredzan bin Johan
60. Tey Jun Ren
61. Tiu Gi Gyn
62. Yap Boon Hau
63. Yeoh Tung Seng
64. Young Ai Peng
65. Zulqarnain bin Lukman

Thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend and contribute.

It is still not too late to join! Register here and send your forms before 10 July 2009 to me at [email protected].


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2 Responses to ConstiLC’s maiden meeting starts Bar’s initiative on constitutionalism, raises expectations

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  2. Kudos to the Bar Council. One very important area that needs study is the "translation" of the Federal Constitution by the AG's Chambers, which may soon become the official version. Careful study must be done to ensure that what purports to be a "translation" does not in fact become an amendment. For example, I note from the Government Gazette website that the word "parent" in Article 12(4) of the English Federal constitution is now "ibu atau bapa" in the Malay translation by the Attorney General's Chambers. It appears that this is not yet the authoritative text, and so it appears that this Committee must undertake this study as a matter of urgency.