Sleeping Parliamentarians : The 160B Cock-Up

Posted on April 28, 2007

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I had asked for views as to whether the original contract or the translation should prevail. Thank you to those of you who responded. My task has been made easier.

 

A. Williams said :

 

‘…the original must prevail…the translation can only be said to have integrity if it sticks 100% to what was said in the original – both in letter and the spirit of it’

 

Johnleem said :

 

‘If there is an inconsistency between the original and the translation, obviously the harm is the that the language of the original will not be given effect…’

Libra said :

‘A translation can never prevail over any original…’

Gan said :

‘…translation shall NOT prevail…which is amounting to “underhanded” ways to bulldoze a situation’

clkhoo said :

 

‘Obviously original prevails…I though this was ABC or LAW 101’

 

Well, my friends, your parliamentarians did not think so.

 

Or, perhaps, did not think at all.

 

The Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) Act, 2001 received the Royal assent on 6th September, 2001. It was gazetted on 27th September, 2001 and came into force the day after. The bill leading up to this Act had its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on 30th July, 2001 and its second reading the day after.

 

It is a short Act comprising 14 sections, by which 9 existing Articles and 2 Schedules were amended and 2 new Articles were added. I will refer to an amendment to an exisitng Article and an addition of a new Article.

 

Section 3 amended Article 8(2). It was an important and necessary amendment to include in our anti-discriminatory Article a constitutional prohibition against discrimination on grounds of gender.

 

Section 12 of the Act introduced the new Article 160B into our Federal Constitution.

 

Article 160B of the Federal Constitution reads :

 

“Where this Constitution has been translated into the national language, the Yang DiPertuan Agung may prescribe such national language text to be authoritative, and thereafter if there is any conflict or discrepancy between such national language text and the English language text of this Constitution, the national language text SHALL PREVAIL over the English language text”.

 

What this means is that if there is a conflict or discrepancy between the ORIGINAL 1957 Federal Constitution in the English language that our forefathers left for us with a translation into the national language of the same done in 2007 by, say, Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka in collaboration with the AG’s Chambers and, maybe, JAKIM, and the translation is prescribed by the Agung as authoritative, the part that conflicts in the translation shall prevail over the original. Read together with Article 4(1), the discrepancy arising in the translation shall now prevail as the supreme law of the land.

 

You may well ask:

 

Is there already in place a translation in the national language and, if so, has it been prescribed as authoritative by the Agung?

 

If so, might not Haris be making a mountain out of a mole-hill? What’s the harm with Article 160B?

 

Save your judgment until the next post.