Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Malaysian Insider: Bar Council’s resolve strengthened by accusations over MyConstitution campaign


MyConsti_logo KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — The Bar Council said today it was determined to continue its MyConstitution campaign despite accusations by a Malay group that it was seditious.

The Bar Council said that instead of halting their efforts, the police report lodged by the 1 Malaysia Youth Graduands Club in Serdang two days ago has strengthened their resolve to reach all six million housing units in Malaysia through their MyConsitution campaign.

“It has strengthened the (Constitutional Law) Committee. They want to move forward,” Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan told reporters today.

The 1 Malaysia Youth Graduands Club has called on the authorities to take immediate action against the campaigners for allegedly advocating the changing of provisions in the Federal Constitution, especially those touching on the special position of Malays and Islam.

Ragunath denied that the campaign was aimed at changing the Constitution, stressing instead that their objective was to increase public awareness and understanding of the Constitution.

“There are no seditious elements or any objective to amend the Constitution,” said Ragunath.

“We are disappointed that a campaign that was well-received by the Malaysian public and politicians across the political divide to enhance understanding of the Constitution was perceived as seditious,” he added.

Ragunath noted that some 90,000 booklets have been distributed nationwide to date since its launch on November 13 last year with the support of the federal government and in partnership with several state governments — including Sarawak, Selangor and Kedah.

He pointed out that senior members of each arm of government have graced the campaign, notably Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia; Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum; Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of integration and national unity; and deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

Ragunath also denied claims that their campaign, which has cost the Bar Council RM500,000 to date, was funded by foreign non-governmental organisations.

“This was financed wholly by the Bar Council. We have also received donations from the public, federal government and state governments (Kedah, Sarawak and Selangor) for this campaign,” said Ragunath.

Yesterday lawyer Edmund Bon, who heads the campaign, defended the contents of the booklets, explaining that they were written in a simplified form but were an accurate guide to the provisions of the highest law of the land.

Co-deputy chairman of the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee Syahredzan Johan said the youth group’s police report showed that they were the “best target group” to reach out through the campaign as they seemed to lack understanding of the Constitution.

“Parliament can only amend the Constitution with a two-thirds majority,” said Syahredzan.

He also slammed the youth group for claiming that the campaign booklets on the Constitution were seditious.

“If it is seditious, then each textbook on the Constitution is seditious,” said the lawyer.

1 Malaysia Youth Graduands Club secretary-general Ezaruddin Abdul Rahman reportedly alleged that the booklets said people had the right to amend the Federal Constitution if they voted for members of parliament capable of doing so.

The other co-deputy chairman of the Constitutional Law Committee  Mahaletchumi Balakrishnan pointed out that Article 153 of the Constitution, which guarantees the special position of the Malays, cannot be amended even with a two-thirds majority in Parliament without consent from the Conference of Rulers.

She also highlighted the fact that more than 40 bills had been presented to the Parliament to amend the Constitution in the past 53 years containing a total of 650 individual amendments.

“The campaign is non-partisan,” said Mahaletchumi, adding that the committee’s focus was to educate the public on the basics of the Constitution without adding their own opinions on certain provisions of the Constitution.

She also said that the committee would launch their next booklet on the judiciary on September 16, besides launching Mandarin and Tamil editions of the booklets in October.

Ragunath noted that although the campaign began in Kuala Lumpur, they have since spread their message to small towns like Alor Star in Kedah, as well as rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak, including an Orang Asli settlement in Tapah, Perak.

No comments:

Post a Comment