Finding solace in our public institutions


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Finding solace in our public institutions
By Zan Azlee

As a people living in a democratic system, we should be able to find solace in our institutions, of which its responsibility is to uphold the system and ensure that all is good.

These institutions need to uphold democracy and us, as a people, need to uphold these institutions. But the recent events that have happened are a little worrying to me personally.

First up the judiciary, which should be independent from the legislative and the executive. It has had several indecisions that put its consistency in doubt.

Certain cases that had landmark decisions have had these decisions overturned post-appeals and challenges. This would not be a problem since this system ensures protection.

But if you take a closer look at the cases, it would cause you to wonder why the overturning of these decisions happened and its motives.

First case: law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom challenged the Sedition Act 1948 claiming that it is an unconstitutional act. He, of course, has been charged under the act and will now face trial.

His argument of why it is unconstitutional is because the act was never enacted by Parliament since the Malaysian parliament had not been established yet at that time.

The court had decided that under Article 162, it was enforceable. So that means that freedom of speech can be put aside on matters deemed threatening to national security.

And now the argument here is what is deemed as a threat to national security. The terms are vague and subjective.

Second case: the Federal Court overturned the Court of Appeals decision against the Seremban High Court saying that an anti-crossdressing shariah law is unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeal had ruled that it was unconstitutional and void because it contravened rights such as personal liberty, equality and freedom of expression.

The precedence that this case would set is that the fundamental constitutional rights of all Malaysians cannot be applied when it comes to shariah law.

Third case: the Federal Court dismissed a challenge made by a publisher of a book (Irshad Manji’s translated “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”) deemed to be un-Islamic.

In this case, the court said Article 10 did not guarantee absolute freedom of speech since it had to be read together with other provisions, including that Islam is the federation’s religion.

Yes, the judiciary has in place a review and appeals system that allows for decisions to be relooked at. But all these cases have already gone through that process.

What happens if after it has exhausted the entire process and the rulings are still worrying? What happens then? What can be done?

Each case stated above actually went through the judiciary in the appropriate way and followed all the necessary procedures and process. Technically, no wrong has been done.

So the question now is, although the due legal process was followed to the letter, has justice really been served by the institution?

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]

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