Defending constitutional democracy

February 28, 2015

Defending constitutional democracy

by Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Bin Kassim

Sheriff KassimI THINK anyone reading the open letter on December 7, 2014 (published in The Star on Dec 8) by the G25 (a group of prominent Malays) will find it easy to understand its core message about the kind of country that we want Malaysia to be.

We want Malaysia to remain a constitutional democracy because it is the most effective form of government in defending the rights and freedoms of citizens.

It is also most suited for Malaysia, given the multi-racial character of its population; the differences in language, culture and religion among the people; and their desire as citizens for fair and equal treatment under the law. A Federal Constitution that recognises the basic rights of all communities is the glue that holds together this multi-racial nation.

We want Malaysia to remain a constitutional democracy because it is the most effective form of government in defending the rights and freedoms of citizens. It is also most suited for Malaysia, given the multi-racial character of its population; the differences in language, culture and religion among the people; and their desire as citizens for fair and equal treatment under the law. A Federal Constitution that recognises the basic rights of all communities is the glue that holds together this multiracial nation.–Sheriff Kassim

In a constitutional democracy, there is clear separation of powers between the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive, and there are checks and balances to guard against abuse of power by any one branch of government.

The system is designed to provide avenues for the people to act against any branch of government that tramples on their rights and freedoms. Thus, if the Executive, such as the Federal or state government, takes an action infringing on their personal liberties, the people have a right to seek justice from the courts.

Second, when elections come, they can exercise their vote at the ballot box to show their disapproval of the government or their local representative in parliament or the state assembly.

In the G25 letter, the signatories talk about the administration of Islam in the country and our concerns over religious authorities issuing fatwas and making syariah laws on criminal offences, beyond the powers conferred upon them by the Federal Constitution and in violation of our individual rights and freedoms as guaranteed under the constitution.

Our system of constitutional democracy expressly provides that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the country.The civil courts have the power to declare actions of other branches of government to be invalid, including to strike out any laws enacted by the state authorities if they contravene the provisions in the Constitution.

As in other democratic countries, the people are sovereign. Any aggrieved person can challenge the constitutionality and legality of any state law by bringing it up in the civil court for a judicial review, as has been successfully done in a few cases.

Unfortunately, any attempt to question and challenge the religious authorities has often created a tense situation in the country, with extremist groups issuing all kinds of threats to intimidate those who raise issues relating to administration of Islam. They have developed a habit of hiding behind the Sedition Act and the rulers to dignify their actions.

To avoid unnecessary tensions, and since syariah laws do have various implications on society, both Muslims and non-Muslims, we are asking in the open letter for a rational discussion on the place of Islam in society, so that we can arrive at a clear understanding with the religious authorities that under our system of constitutional democracy, the Federal Constitution is the primary source of law for the land, and that the religious authorities must act within the limits prescribed under the Constitution.

It is obvious that these limits are imposed to ensure injustice is not caused to the individual and his rights are not eroded by the overlapping of jurisdiction between the civil and syariah courts in the administration of justice.

We are suggesting that this rational discussion be held through a consultative process in which relevant experts and representatives of stakeholders can review the existing syariah laws to determine where they are unconstitutional and where they can be improved to protect the rights of individuals, in particular women and girls, as they are often the main victims of over zealousness by the religious authorities.

We need the Prime Minister’s leadership to set up the consultative council and to make the public pronouncement that he encourages open discussion on Islam and that such discussions are not seditious or an insult to the sultans.

The Federal Constitution provides that the civil courts shall have higher status and authority over the syariah courts. This is meant to ensure that all Malaysians live under one system of justice based on the universal principles of democracy.

These principles make our constitutional democracy the same as those commonly used around the world. It has served us well to protect our interests and rights, and has encouraged investors and businesses to have confidence in the stability of the political system. It has been the main reason for this country’s growth and prosperity.

Other groups have totally different views from those of the G25. They are proposing the Constitution to be amended to elevate syariah courts to the same level as civil courts. They want the syariah laws not to be narrowly confined to the Muslim faith but to be the primary source of law and to be used in all spheres of life in the country – the legal system, the economy, the financial and banking sectors, the shops and restaurants, the education and health systems, the professional services like accounting.

This is worrisome because besides the implications on the administration of justice, it will put Malaysia on the road to becoming a totally different kind of country.

Malaysia cannot afford to make the same mistake of some Muslim countries whose leaders have suddenly realised that their countries had gone too far in implementing syariah laws and needed to reform and modernise to get the economies moving and to improve the lives of the people.

These countries’ experience should be a lesson to us that once religious laws like the hudud have taken roots and after the Islamists have changed the constitution to put themselves and the ulamas at the top of the government and above all other institutions of power, it’s extremely difficult to reverse the changes.

Admittedly, Malaysia is nowhere close to being a failed democracy or a theocracy. We have a relatively well-educated population that can see what is happening elsewhere and can understand why our present system is more suitable for this multi-racial country.

An open economy like ours, with strong trade and investment links with the rest of the world, needs to maintain the existing liberal and open policies in politics, economics and in the social and personal life of the people.

Otherwise, all the progress and prosperity that have been achieved over the past several decades will be lost, resulting in poverty, high unemployment and internal instability.

We don’t want our youths to be like the 40% unemployed university graduates in the other Muslim countries. They are so bored with life and have lost all hope that they become easy prey to extremists looking to recruit volunteers to join the militants and jihadists.

We want the present Constitution to stay and our future generation to inherit a better and an even more prosperous country.

A functioning democracy, a vibrant economy and good governance – these are the best defences against extremism. At the same time, we must not take the extremists for granted.

Although they are small in number, they can create a lot of tension in the country. They have lately become more aggressive in their racial and religious agenda, using political leverage to bully and intimidate, not taking any public criticisms on issues relating to the administration of Islam and Malay rights.

They insult non-Malays by calling them ungrateful pendatang for talking about the rights of the minorities or questioning race-based policies. Civil society movements fighting for democracy, free and fair elections, and human rights have been labelled as traitors for drawing world attention to their causes. Muslim women activists have been accused of liberalism and pluralism, which have now become chargeable offences under the religious laws.

All these are bad news, raising concerns at home and abroad about the spread of extremism, racial politics, the rule of law and the country’s future direction.

Amidst all these concerns, the G25 has emerged as the voice of moderation, giving hope to the silent majority that constitutional democracy is here to stay, in defence of our rights and freedoms.

As a country with aspirations to achieve high-income status by 2020, Malaysia must not indulge in racial and religious supremacy ideologies as these will lead to our downfall, as seen from the experience of other countries in the last century. Instead, we must build on our successes to align our priorities to be with the modern world, index ourselves against the progressive countries and adopt their best practices.

In this region, countries that were once poorer than us have now overtaken us and have gone far ahead. Despite lacking in natural resources, they have used their human skills and entrepreneurial culture so well to become highly developed socially and economically.

We should emulate them by using policies that cultivate our people’s confidence in the rule of law, based on the democratic principles of integrity, transparency and accountability, the hallmarks of good governance.

Further, we must reform our economic, education, social and religious policies to eliminate bigotry and create a conducive climate for healthy competition, creativity, economic justice and personal freedom. This is most essential if we want to be recognised as a developed country in every sense of the word.

ASTRO: Customer Unfriendly Cable TV Network

February 27, 2015

ASTRO: Customer Unfriendly Cable TV Network

by Marion Tharsis (02-26-15)


Today, ASTRO enjoys an unwavering dominance of the cable television network  in Malaysia. Consequently, we have to follow, and accept, any implementation changes to their existing packages whenever they feel like doing it.

They no longer have the courtesy to call you to seek your acceptance or offer any explanation as why these changes need to be implemented.Their current trend of operation is, just splash the news about imminent changes on television and expect us to ‘swallow’ it.Call their customer service and you will get a ‘dumb’ reply.

I just want to highlight two recent encounters that I have been subjected to. Firstly,Ananda Krishnan ASTRO increased its high-definition channels that are included in the package I subscribe to. By doing so, I have to pay more without any consent of mine or prior formal advisory. Secondly, out of the blue, ASTRO splashed a news banner on television to advise all Sports Package subscribers that the Golf Channel will no longer be included in this package, effective February 26, 2015. Pay more – if you want channel back!

And if we wish to view this popular sport, we have to pay for it as and when we want it. Here again it, this was done without any formal advice or consultation with the subscriber.One if the main reasons why I subscribe to the Sports Package is because of this Golf Channel and now I am deprived of it.

Want it back, I have to pay more – which I think is absurd and ridiculous. Logically speaking, the cost of this package should be reduced, but this is not the case. You still pay the same amount. But then again, if monopoly exists, then we are ‘slaves’ to it, without any other choice.

I am sure there are other cable television operators who want to establish their networks in Malaysia and I think they should be given an opportunity to do so, just to allow some competition and break this monopoly.

Otherwise, ASTRO will get bolder, and change and implement according to its whims and fancies, without due respect or concern for the subscribers. As it is, we are given channels that are of no use to us, but ASTRO says it is “under the package” and you have to accept it. What a rip-off!

Relax to the Sounds of Glenn Miller

February 26, 2015

Relax with the Music of Glenn Miller

February 2014 is nearing its end. What better way to relax than to listen to the music ofJames Stewart Glenn Miller. May it bring back memories to men and women of my generation with the sounds of Glenn Miller. I remember watching James Stewart play the role of Glenn Miller in the movie in tribute of this wonderful bandleader. June Allyson played Mrs. Glenn Miller.  Dr. Kamsiah was  too young to remember.–Din Merican

Nik Raina: Free At Last

February 26, 2015

Nik Raina: Free At Last

by Jennifer

Nik Raina Nik Abdul AzizNik Raina of Borders

Borders Bookstore Manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said that legal battle with Islamic authorities over a charge of selling and distributing a book deemed to be against Islam had changed her and made her realise her larger role to ensure other Muslims are not harassed for doing their jobs.

Given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the Shariah High Court today, Nik Raina said she had been a shy and reserved person before the raid on May 23, 2012 on the bookstore where she worked, but her ordeal had turned her into a more outspoken person.

Along the way, she realised that she had a role to play in facing up to the charges against her.Nik Raina said most of the management staff at Borders are Muslims, and she feared they could be subject to the same intimidation if she did not stand up for her rights in facing the charges.

“I stand here today not only for myself, but for all my colleagues, especially the Muslims Irshad Manjiwho could face the same action by the religious authorities for merely doing our jobs,” she said outside the court today.

Nik Raina had been charged with selling and distributing the book “Allah, Liberty and Love” by controversial Muslim writer Irshad Manji (right).

The Borders employee said she drew comfort from the company’s top management, adding that Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan would always tell her when they met at company events, “Do not be afraid”.

Nik Raina said she would never forget these words, which were also repeated to her by Tan’s son, Datuk Robin Tan, after he took over his father’s portfolio in the group.

“He would tell me what his father used to say to me, to not be afraid, that I have done nothing wrong,” she said.Still, Nik Raina never imagined when she took this job over seven years ago that she would get into this much of trouble.

Yet, even after the ordeal, there was nowhere else she would rather work because she felt it was “right” to be working with Borders, she said as she fought back tears.

“From the first day I had my interview with them, it felt like the right place to be, because the interviewers were so welcoming.I would not want to be anywhere else,” she said.

Nik Raina said she felt that the Shariah prosecutor’s submission in court today, where he had told the Judge that the pressure she faced was not his problem, was as though his main intention was to punish her.

Rosli Dahlan (new)Nik Raina’s “Best Lawyer Ever”

This was after her lawyer, Rosli Dahlan, submitted that Nik Raina faced anguish and pressure in having this case hanging over her head for the past three years. “He could so easily say that I went the wrong way and so it was my problem.But he did not put himself in my shoes. And what about the anguish faced by my family, especially my father, who has been so worried about this case?” she said.

Nik Raina was equally emotional when she spoke about the support from Rosli.”He is the best lawyer ever”.

Open letter to the Attorney-General of Malaysia

February 26, 2015

Open letter to the Attorney-General, Tan Sri  Abdul Gani Patail

 Gani PatailHe has plenty of explaining to do

I strongly believe that had an inquiry into the cause of death of Altantuya Shaariibuu was promptly done, we would have found the answers to most of the questions that are, at the moment, bothering us.


From Shamsher Singh Thind

I write this open letter in response to an online article published by Malaysiakini entitled “I never admitted to killing her, says Sirul”.  Among others, it was reported therein that Sirul Azhar ‘… maintained that he had acted under orders and was being made a scapegoat.’

This news has certainly created another round of global shock waves, since from the beginning, for one reason or another, this trial has been linked to our Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak.

I have read another online article published by Asia Sentinel entitled “Sirul Azhar Statement”. This article supposedly contains the cautioned statement made by Sirul Azhar on November 9, 2006 after his arrest.

Sirul purportedly confessed that ‘… I met Azilah at Central Market …[and] [h]e instructed me to observe Malaya Hotel[,] where the woman who was disturbing the businessman stayed [and] [o]n the way there, Azilah talked about a reward of between RM 50,000 and RM 100,000 if the case was settled.’

Of course, I am not in any position to confirm whether or not both of these online articles are true. However, the contents therein are highly believable. On January 13, 2015, the Federal Court has reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the conviction and punishment set by the High Court but the motive of killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu was never established.


No one seems to know until today why the two elite Police Officers from the Special Task Force (Unit Tindakan Khas–UTK) abducted and murdered a foreigner. For the public, it is a natural thing to blame the Police for not doing a thorough investigation professionally. However, my humble opinion is that it is your office that has to be blamed for this blunder.

Let me explain. Firstly, Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code clearly provides that ‘[w]hen any person dies while in the custody of the Police …, the officer who had the custody of that person … shall immediately give intimation of such death to the nearest Magistrate, and the Magistrate or some other Magistrate shall … hold an inquiry into the cause of death.’

Put it simply, the duty of a Magistrate to hold an inquiry, where a person has died in Police custody (and not necessarily in a Police station), is mandatory and not discretionary. This mandatory requirement is reiterated in the Practice Direction No 1 of 2007 (Guidelines on Inquest). Para 3(A)(1)(a) thereof provides that ‘[t]he Magistrate must hold an inquest if any person dies while in the custody of the Police …’

“Cause of death” is defined by Section 328 of the Criminal Procedure Code to include not only the apparent cause of death as ascertainable by inspection or post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased, but also all matters necessary to enable an opinion to be formed as to the manner in which the deceased came by his death and as to whether his death resulted in any way from, or was accelerated by, any unlawful act or omission on the part of any other person.’

Furthermore, Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that ‘[a] Magistrate holding an inquiry shall inquire when, where, how and after what manner the deceased came by his death and also whether any person is criminally concerned in the cause of the death.’

There is no doubt whatsoever that Altantuya died while she was in Police custody, regardless of whether the arrest itself was sanctioned by the Police. Section 15(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that a lawful arrest is made when a Police officer touches or confines the body of the person to be arrested.

I strongly believe that had an inquiry into the cause of death of Altantuya Shaariibuu was promptly done, we would have found the answers to most of the questions that are, at the moment, bothering us.

I agree with the Courts that motive of killing is irrelevant in securing a conviction under section 302 of the Penal Code. However, without knowing the motive, how was it possible for the Police to conclude that only Sirul Azhar, Azilah Hadri and Abdul Razak Baginda (to a certain extent), with the exclusion of all others, were responsible for the brutal killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu?

There is a legal maxim in Latin that says nemo judex in causa sua, which literally means no one should be a judge in his own cause. This is one of the fundamental principles of natural justice.

The Police cannot be given the task to investigate its own wrongdoings. I can vividly remember that Police investigation had failed to reveal the identity of the person who caused bodily injuries to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on September 20, 1998 at the Bukit Aman Police lock-up.

In fact, the former Attorney General of Malaysia, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Mohtar Abdullah in the concluding part of his press statement dated  January 5, 1999 stated that ‘… I am also of the opinion that the Royal Malaysian Police is fully responsible for the injuries to the Complainant whilst he was in the legal custody of the Police [but] … the investigation which have been carried out so far have not identified the person or persons responsible for such injuries.’ (emphasis added)

However, today everyone knows that the former Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor, was the person who had caused the said injuries to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Interestingly, we were able to know this truth only after a Royal Commission of Enquiry was established under the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950. Since the inquiry into the cause of death of Altantuya Shaariibuu was not done in accordance with the law, it was your duty to direct for such inquiry to be carried out. Unfortunately, you did not do that as well.

To make the things worse, you also did not appeal against the decision of the High Court to acquit and discharge Abdul Razak Baginda on  October 31, 2008.

Therefore, in the interest of justice, I call upon you, the Attorney General of Malaysia, to direct a Magistrate to hold an inquiry into the cause of, and the circumstances connected with, the death of Altantuya Shariibuu, in accordance with Section 339(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The restriction under Section 339(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, that a Magistrate cannot make further investigation where a finding of murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder has been returned against any person, does not apply in this case because that restriction only applies when an inquiry into the cause of death has been carried out and closed.

I will end my open letter with a quote from an Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke. He said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Shamsher Singh Thind is a law lecturer in Penang

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

Rift between Prime Minister Najib and Brothers

February 25, 2015

Rift between Prime Minister Najib and Brothers

by Malaysiakini

Razak Boys and Tun RahahThe Razak Boys with Tun Rahah

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is not only facing pressure from his political opponents both within and outside of UMNO. Things may not be so rosy on the family front as well.

Adding fuel into this cauldron of speculation was the rare statement issued by his four younger brothers, who expressed concern that their late father’s reputation is being soiled.

Hong Kong-based portal Asia Sentinel has earlier this month reported strained ties between Najib’s siblings and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, who since her husband came to power in 2009 has been the centre of a string of controversies surrounding her extravagant lifestyle.

Quoting a source, the report claimed that Najib’s brothers had openly criticised their flamboyant sister-in-law at dinner functions.

However, UMNO bloggers later circulated a response purportedly from Rosmah, in which she denied the report and claimed that she would never cause a rift in her husband’s family.

Perhaps for Najib’s brothers, the February 9 front-page New York Times report was the final straw. The report quoted the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) attributing Najib’s expenditure, including the multi-million dollar purchases of his wife’s jewellery, to his inheritance.

Picking up on the issue, veteran newsman A Kadir Jasin said the PMO’s propagandaPak Kadiaq machine was scrapping the bottom of the barrel to protect Najib and Rosmah. However, he added that it should not dishonour and disrespect the memory of Abdul Razak Hussein, the nation’s second Prime Minister and Najib’s father.

To do so, he argued, would be an “unpardonable sin”. “Unless PMO makes an about turn and denies making a statement to the NYT about Najib’s so-called inheritance, it stands accused of tainting the memory of that great man,” he said.

Previously, Kadir noted that the PMO’s statement could cast doubt on Abdul Razak’s integrity as it gave the impression that he was a wealthy man.The veteran newsman also quoted a former political aide to the late Prime Minister about the latter only having left behind two houses, one in Pekan and another in Kuala Lumpur.

Tun Abdul Razak is well-known for his frugality

In their statement issued late yesterday, Najib’s brothers wrote: “We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation. We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue.”

The statement, signed by all four Najib’s brothers – Johari, Nizam, Nazim and Nazir – came hot on the heels of Rosmah drawing flak with her revelation that it cost RM1,200 to dye her hair.

Malaysiakini is still awaiting a response from the PMO and Najib’s youngest brother, CIMB chairperson Nazir (above), who sent the “private” statement on behalf of his brothers to media organisations.

Meanwhile, Kadir also delved into the hairdo issue by citing several statistics:

1. Median monthly income of people in Sarawak, Perak and Kedah, RM1,200; Terengganu, RM1,100; and Kelantan, RM1,000.

2. The majority of Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) unit holders have an average investment of RM550.

3. Out of nearly eight million working Malaysians, the median salary for 2012 and 2011 had stagnated at RM1,500.

The median monthly household income was RM3,626, while the median monthly household income for the top 20 percent was RM9,796, the middle 40 percent (RM4,372) and the bottom 40 percent (RM1,852).

Band of Brothers vs Najib?