Please, Sir, could you also clean up some other bad law?

Posted on January 6, 2018


many-colours-one-dream923089_576322912401152_1069880995_nIn May, 1994, my brother Adam, and I, were in the lobby at Parliament to listen to proceedings relating to a bill to amend the Constitution which, in my view, if passed, would remove an important institutionalised check against draconian law-making.

When the constitution was first promulgated, law making required the consensus of 3 institutions : Dewan Rakyat, Dewan Negara, and the King.

The King could veto a bill that had passed through both Houses of parliament by simply withholding his assent to the same.

Unless I am mistaken, the amendment to this law in 1984, introduced language to the effect that a bill passed by both Houses and brought before the King shall be assented to.

It appeared to take away the discretion that previously lay with the King whether to give the royal assent.

However, the law did not state the consequence of the King not giving the royal assent.

Did a bill passed by both Houses become law even without the royal assent?

The purpose of the proposed amendment in 1994 was to make it clear what happened if the King did not give his assent to such a bill.

With the amendment, the bill would become law within 30 days after it was presented to the King, whether he assented to it or not.

Why did I think the law as it stood then was necessary?

The institution of the monarch within our system of parliamentary democracy has a limited function. The real power of governance lay with the Executive and, whilst law-making was the function of parliament, it was usually dominated by the Executive, the latter commanding the majority of members in both Houses. The Executive could therefore, willy nilly, push whatever laws it wanted, however unjust and oppressive, through both Houses of parliament.

The King was, therefore, and in theory, at least, a useful and most important check against the possibility of a government turning rogue and moving to pass a law that was contrary to the interests of the people, particularly a King who had his finger on the pulse of the nation, and who had the welfare of the people at heart.

Might a situation arise where the sitting King refused the royal assent for a bill that truly served the interests of the people? In my view, most unlikely, for such a stance, as history in other jurisdictions has shown, places the very institution of the monarchy in jeopardy.

The King’s power to withhold the royal assent for any bill that had passed through both Houses of parliament was, in my view then and now, an essential check against a government that was no longer acting in the interest of the people.

Sitting in the lobby, we heard the arguments on both sides of the divide.

Anwar spoke in favour of the proposed law.

If I recall correctly, Tengku Razaleigh spoke in opposition of the bill.

The bill was passed and finally became law.

The King’s power of veto was no more.

The National Security Council Act, 2016, probably the most oppressive and dangerous law passed by parliament to-date, became law without royal assent.

Malaysiakini reported on 2/1/2018 that Anwar has now filed application in the Federal Court to, amongst other things, restore the monarch’s power of veto.

The next day, Free Malaysia Today reported UUM lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff as being highly critical of this latest move by Anwar.

His reasons : Anwar spoke in support of the bill in 1994, and he ridicules Anwar, saying that Anwar is now ‘desperate’ in his political struggle to the extent he is now willing to ‘swallow’ his words in parliament in May, 1994.

Honestly, I think Anwar is being brave.

He must be mindful of his supportive role in pushing that bill of 1994 into law, and that it will probably come up in the course of the hearing of his application.

He is in fact saying he was wrong to have supported the bill then.

Dr M should learn from this.

Whether he truly believed then that the proposed amendment was for the better, or was merely doing the bidding of Dr M, Anwar may, in good time, tell.

Don’t ask Dr M. He will lay the blame squarely on Anwar.

Now, whilst Anwar is in the mood to undo bad laws created, and brave enough to admit that it was a mistake to pass them, and then take the lead in moving the courts to take them off our statute books, I’d urge him to spend the little time he has left in Sungai Buloh to ponder on some bad laws that were passed during his watch.

I’ll just mention one, for now, but if he is up to it, there’s loads more.

There is a section in the Wilayah Persekutuan Syariah Criminal Offences act that makes it an offence to give, propagate or disseminate any opinion concerning Islamic teachings, Islamic law or any issue, contrary to any fatwa then in force.

The Holy Qur’an tells us that Abraham, from a community of worshippers of statues, found Islam when he embarked on an intellectual inquiry, first opining that the moon might be God, then later opining that it might in fact be the sun, and finally coming to the conclusion that it could not be any of these, leading him to reject the faith of his community, and embrace Islam.

Abraham’s opining led him to enlightenment.

The law under question has as its underlying assumption that the issuers of fatwa are infallible. If Anwar requires, I shall readily make evidence available to him to show otherwise.

This law, in effect, makes it dangerous for Muslims to think, lest that process takes them to a point where they reach a view at odds with a fatwa then in force.

Or having come to such a view, just shut up!

Muslims in Malaysia, be warned. Thinking may be hazardous to your well-being.

The constitution, in List 2 of the 9th Schedule, only permits for the ‘creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion’.

How does this offence of holding an opinion contrary to fatwa fit into this constitutional limit?

If Anwar now recognises that taking away the King’s power of veto was unconstitutional, will he not also see that denying the Muslims the right to think is no different?