A citizen of Malaysia retraces the path of her ongoing journey of political awakening and considers the importance of the Federal Constitution to our lives.
Politics, media and me
A couple of decades ago, I was one of those that did not bother much about the goings-on of the country (politics in particular), let alone my rights as a citizen. It was the Chinese news columnists that first sparked my interest and concern about the people and the country at large. The electronic media has slowly and quietly outstripped the print media. Following online news portals and blogs has become a daily ritual with me nowadays. It is an eye-opening experience to get access to variety of critical analysis and comments that help sharpen my thinking, lets me see things from different perspectives as well as learning more “inside” news or revelations that could never be found in print media. Some claimed that alternative media played a vital role in the 8 March 2008 tsunami. For myself, 8 March 2008 gave us new hope, i.e.: a two-party system is no longer mission impossible though we keep hearing news about party in-fighting too often, both from the ruling and opposition parties. That’s part of the political game – the art of possibility; I guess, we just have to learn to put up with it while keeping a close eye on their performances to see whether they fulfill their respective 2008 election promises. Was it the right stuff or all huff and puff?
The Malaysian Bar and me
I recall this line once said by the former Bar Council President, Datuk Ambiga: “When lawyers walk, something must be very wrong.” Frankly, it was something new to a novice like myself who just got into the goings-on in the country at the time. After all, we are so used to reading of only “good” news from mainstream print media. To someone that had no knowledge about the judicial crisis in 1988, the news coverage on Walk for Justice in 2007 sounded a red alert in me. It carried the message that our judiciary was gravely infected. That it was now time for restoring the integrity of our judiciary before it degenerates further and too late to be resuscitated. In other words, the Malaysian Bar needed support and concern from all walks of life to combat this long untreated disease. It’s an uphill task. It may take at least several years or much longer to see the desired change but it is certainly not a mission impossible.
What we do need though is to keep the faith for change and don’t give up hope.
Judiciary and me
What is in your mind when it comes to judiciary? Is it the 1988 Judiciary crisis or the infamous “Lingamgate” or both or others? I believe many right-thinking citizens would probably share the same feeling as me when our law minister said that the main player in “Lingamgate” was “morally wrong” and not “legally wrong” despite the Royal Commission of Inquiry unanimously concluding that the video clip was authentic and made significant recommendations. Ah, what new phrases that trial inspired besides the well-known jargon comprising of “correct, correct, correct!”, “it looks like me, it sounds like me, but it’s not me”, now we have added another.
Doesn’t this sound like “money politics is not a corruption”? Oh ya, how can I forget that this is the flip-flop 1Bolehland and just about anything can happen. First, the government did a u-turn in this case and declared no further action to be taken. Then the MACC operations review panel (PPO) expressed that they would seek Attorney General’s permission to review the case. But then our deputy prime minister said that the government would leave it to A-G to decide to review or the otherwise. The ball is in A-G’s court now, what will happen next? Let’s hope it’s something positive; but let’s not get our hopes up too high.
Law and me
I started to attend public forums and visit blogs only back in the second half of 2007. As I mentioned, my interest was sparked by prominent issues at the time: freedom of religion, the Walk for Justice Part II, abolish ISA, etc. I started doing this to improve my general knowledge on current issues and law related incidents. If I was asked what law or Act or Article that first appeared in my mind, it wass none other than the draconian act of ISA (a.k.a. “Ikut Suka Aku” Act).
I was touched when watching the Burma VJ’s film at the Freedom Film Fest 2009, I even cried for the struggle of the Burmese. I compared their fight with our anti-ISA rally on 1 August. So, we the people should keep calling for the repeal of the Act, along with Emergency Ordinance and and other Acts that provide for preventive detention. These laws are repressive and redundant; we don’t need them to protect the stability in our country as we already have sufficient laws to serve those purposes. In other words, we don’t want cosmetic amendments, repeal is all we want.
Lawyers and me
Lawyers are important catalysts that help drive away my naivety and ignorance about legal and rights issues. I awoke from political slumber after attending some forums and reading some blogs. These are some of the key areas where they have helped shape my thinking:
(1) Empathy: Put yourself into another person’s shoes; if the victim happens to be yourself or your family members or your beloved one, what would you feel and what would you do?
(2) The People’s power: Never underestimate the strength of the people’s voices and right causes. Put simply, persistence, perseverance, determination and enthusiasm are omnipotent.
(3) Take the ownership of the issue: treat the current issue as something that matters to you and think of the actions that you would take to resolve it.
LoyarBurok and me
The very first time I came across this website was when I added Edmund Bon as my Facebook friend. His profile photo; an image of a mischievous monkey piqued my curiosity. I wondered why he would associate himself with such a cartoonish figure? I’ve always known him as one of those dedicated lawyers that relentlessly champions human rights and other “serious” causes such as Constitutional rights. I have yet to discover why but that is of little matter now. What matters is that I now have an opportunity to do my little part in the making of our country, by contributing in whatever way I can.
Constitution and me
What is the Federal Constitution? How well do we know about the Supreme Law of our land? What are the legal rights enshrined there that protects every one of us? I believe many members of the public without legal knowledge would probably share the same answer as me – I don’t know much.
Why is that so? Is it because we were never taught in schooll? But why we never taught these important information in school? Is it too late to learn it? If not, how do we get started? How do we move ourselves to learn more about our rights and the apex law that most of us have taken it for granted all these years?
Well, the MyConstitution campaign that was official launched on 13 November at Bar Council Auditorium will help you to get informed and educated of your rights in 2 years time, but it has got to be YOU to partake it, after all, it’s a Constitution for all, for the people, for you and me. For those would like to find out what was going on this historical day, please go to: http://www.twitter.com/myconsti to figure out and feel the atmosphere or visit the official website at: http://www.perlembagaanku.com.
Here I’m sharing some points that are still resounding in my mind after listening talks by all the well-known speakers:
(1) The Constitution – a document that marks the blueprint of our country’s future, and a basic and supreme law that protects and secures your rights, and encourages democracy.
(2) The rules of the game: Akin to a football game, everyone should follow the rules. However besides the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, most of his successors did not do so. Please exercise your right to vote wisely and let the right person to take lead our country.
(3) The Constitution can be construed as (i) containment of power (ii) universalism (iii) hope. In other words, it allows you to live in the way you want to be, regardless of who you are, so long as you do not trespass against others or offend the law. It also is supposed to help restraint abuse of power. However, the shocking rate of detainee deaths and other high-profile criminal incidents have raised the perception that ours is a country ruled by law instead of the rule of law. Nevertheless, keep the HOPE alive, keep trying and keep fighting for justice and rights, someday, somehow it will be materialised.
So, people, let’s uphold the real spirit of our Constitution and champion our rights for a better nation and future.