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14 theSun | THURSDAY JANUARY 22 2009

INTERVIEWS VIEWS

The Federal Constitution:


years. It has been abused and We should take the time to
misinterpreted. However, the evaluate our role and our future
worst treatment it receives is as citizens of this country. Our
when it is ignored and hidden collective destiny as Malaysians
as if it were a grotesquely disfig- is in our hands and we need to
ured family member. equip ourselves with the right
All too often, we hear of fel- tools if we are to become a free

Use it or lose it
low citizens whose rights are and strong society instead of re-
ignored or denied and often, this maining ignorant victims. A good
is due to the ignorance of both first step would be to pick up a
the perpetrator and the victim. copy of the Federal Constitution
This is not to say that those who and have a good long read. If you
have a working knowledge of can’t afford to spare RM15 for a
the FC are safeguarded from copy, don’t despair. Go to www.
being denied their rights or are pogar.org/publications/other/
THE birth of our na- a compromised and and unconstitutional interpreta- able to confidently speak up constitutions/malaysia-e.pdf
tion was accompanied Human Rights politically subservient tions or decisions. In India, their for the rights of others. These
by a document called judiciary. Much like constitution can similarly be constitutionally savvy few are
the Federal Constitu- and the Law the divine battles of amended by their Parliament too small in number to make Sunil Lopez is a member of the
tion (FC). I would like by Sunil Lopez the Greek Gods, Zeus and many constitutional amend- any significant difference. When Human Rights Committee, Bar
to think that in one and Kronos, we had ments have indeed been passed. these people cry foul over an in- Council Malaysia. For more infor-
sense, that document before us, circa 1988, However, the stoic judges of the fringement of rights, their voices mation, see www.malaysianbar.
is the birth certificate of this the national spectacle of the ex- Indian subcontinent are good are often equivalent to a mouse org.my/human_rights/. The views
country. Among others, it states ecutive and Parliament versus examples of independent judges squeaking underfoot. The fact is, expressed in this article are per-
the name and official religion the judiciary, with the FC as one who fearlessly defend the Indian if a majority of citizens remain sonal to the writer and may not
of this country. However, it is of the weapons of choice. Constitution. There have been ignorant of their guaranteed necessarily represent the position
no ordinary birth certificate. It The FC is the highest law instances where when faced rights, these rights will remain of the Bar. Complaints of rights
is so much more and has to be of the land. The fundamental with attempts to amend the basic merely words on a piece of pa- violations may be forwarded to
accorded the attendant rever- rights of citizens and its limits; structure of the constitution, the The FC per, lifeless and wasted. oysim@malaysianbar.org.my.
ence and awe usually reserved the establishment, organisation, Indian judiciary has resisted and (Federal
for documents of such great functions and powers of the in no uncertain terms informed
importance. Some have referred three branches of the govern- the Parliament to leave their con-
Constitution)
to the FC as a “living document”. ment – the executive, Parliament stitution alone and instead head is what
Whenever that term is used, my and judiciary; the limits and the for the nearest kite maker, pick a protects the
mind fixates on scenes from responsibilities of the govern-
films like The Night of the Living ment and even the definition of
Dead where corpses, spring to a citizen are among the things
kite and fly it. Our judges, how-
ever, do not follow the example
set by their Indian counterparts
citizens of
this country Midnight bus ban not
life and hunt down humans to contained within it. Without the and so our FC remains at the from abuse I REFER to Transport Minister Datuk road journey must be given. If the
satiate their hunger. But thank- FC, the machinery that is Ma- mercy of the two-thirds majority of power by Ong Tee Keat’s announcement of ban is to be in force between mid-
fully, that’s just my twisted laysia would come to a grinding of Parliament. those who the proposal to ban express buses night and say 6am, assuming an
imagination. halt and chaos would ensue. The FC is what protects the govern and from roads after midnight because average time of four to five hours
The term “living document” Our country supposedly citizens of this country from there are too many accidents, is taken to complete a journey from
in reference to the FC, refers to subscribes to the doctrine of abuse of power by those who
it guarantees especially after 2am. Kuala Lumpur to either Johor Baru
the malleability of the FC; its constitutional supremacy. This, govern and it guarantees us cer- us certain If citing bus drivers’ mental and or Penang, then the journey must
ability to evolve according to among other things, means that tain immutable rights. The fact immutable physical fatigue is the rationale, start before 7pm or 8pm. Other-
the changing requirements of our government is supposed that every law-abiding citizen rights. then what about lorry, trailer and wise the driver will not be able to
society. These changes can be to be subservient to the FC; it is free to walk down any street commercial van drivers. They too complete the journey by midnight
good or bad depending on who cannot act as it pleases because in Malaysia is a right that stems fall under the same category. Are and thus will be in violation of the
is in charge of upholding and its powers are limited by the from the FC. The fact that we we also going to later ban cars, ban.
safeguarding the FC. Our FC has FC. However, as we have seen, can reasonably expect that when since accidents involving cars also Looking at this scenario, vehi-
undergone countless surgeries, this is not always the case. The we are merrily on our way to the occur past midnight? cles that are subjected to such a
cosmetic and otherwise; some- loophole as some may call it, is nearest kedai kopi for a much I think it is an unwise idea ban can only be on the roads for
times justifiably so but at other that Parliament has the power to deserved kopi ‘O’ and roti bakar, for the simple reason that traffic 13 hours a day after deducting 11
times, it has been to suit political amend the FC with a two-thirds we are not suddenly swept off accidents on highways and trunk hours (7pm to 6am).
expediency. One such example majority. This means that Parlia- our feet and held captive by some roads will increase if the proposal Can one imagine the kind of
of this was when the powers ment or the party that controls law enforcement officer because is enforced. traffic congestion that will take
of the judiciary, the traditional Parliament is in effect supreme, of the colour of our skin or our To ban a vehicle from using the place on the highways and trunk
guardian of the FC and the not the FC. This stranglehold on religious beliefs (although, some roads a reasonable time for the roads once such a ban is enforced?
rights therein, were diminished the FC is further strengthened of us are for that very reason
by constitutional amendments if the power to interpret the FC, occasionally rounded up at pubs
passed by Parliament. This was which resides in the judiciary, is and clubs and carted off to a
a precursor to the disastrous compromised. So, if we have a lock-up), stems from the FC.

Is Obama ready
events of the 1988 judicial politically compromised judici- It can be said that our FC
crisis, which shamefully led to ary, we are assured of erroneous has been treated badly over the

Handle cost cutting with care comment by Lim Kok Wing

ANYONE who harbours hopes of US


tering the White House with a great
deal of international goodwill.
Much is made of his personal
workers. The law applies to ALL high-handed manner. Remember President Barack Hussein Obama story, which has captivated people
breaking with America’s pro-Israeli around the world, in particular the
letters
letters@thesundaily.com
employees.
» The law is that companies cannot
that since the law does not allow
an employer to cut salaries or force policies doesn’t need to hold his Muslims.
cut salaries without the consent of employees to take unpaid leave the breath. Like all his predecessors in Although a Christian, Obama is
the employees and where there is company would be in breach of the White House since the creation the son of a white American woman
I REFER to the picketing at a fac- a union, without the agreement of labour laws. So employers should of the Jewish state in 1948, Obama and a Kenyan man who was born
tory in Penang on Monday. the union. Otherwise the employ- “sell” or “market” these moves will give Israel nothing less than a Muslim. He also spent part of his
The reasons for the picketing ees have the right to leave and sue through persuasion, so that they unconditional support. childhood living in Indonesia after
have been reported to be as be- for constructive dismissal. can have a “win-win” situation by Some analysts already fear that his mother’s divorce and second
ing: » When dealing with unionised obtaining their workers’ consent. the Obama administration may tilt marriage to an Indonesian Muslim
» Local employees forced to go on employees companies must deal The top management must also even more towards the Israelis man.
unpaid leave from Jan 23 to Feb 9; with national unions for official show a good example by taking a than previous administrations. For These are experiences that
» Foreign workers allowed to work purposes. They can discuss issues pay cut themselves and reduc- proof, they point to Obama’s deci- might have shaped a more open-
during the period; with branch officials but the law ing their perks. This will be more sion to pick Rahm Israel Emanuel minded worldview in the new
» Employees salary cut by 15%. only recognises the national union, convincing, rather than insisting as his White House chief of staff, president, but the early indications
It is important that companies ie the union that is a party/signa- on the management’s rights and a post often labelled the second of the likely course of his foreign
comply with the provisions of the tory to the collective agreement. prerogatives. Bad times are not go- most powerful office in the execu- priorities are not promising.
Code of Conduct for Industrial » Stop overtime, stop working ing to last forever, so let us try and tive branch after the president. Apart from his appointments
Harmony and take the following on rest days and public holidays, overcome the bad times together, Emanuel, who was Obama’s to his inner circle, Obama has
steps: reduce hours of work, have shut with our employees. first high-level appointment after remained silent on Israel’s inva-
» Get employees to take annual downs and only if the situation The law is clear. The final the November 2008 election, sion of Gaza on the excuse that he
leave, as a first step, and not force still does not improve, carry out decision to reduce the number once worked for the American was deferring to President Bush as
them to take unpaid leave. Unpaid voluntary separation schemes and of employees or shut down lies Israel Public Affairs Committee, the sitting head of the US govern-
leave is only to be taken if the as a last resort retrenchment. with the employer. However, as a has served in the Israeli army, and ment.
annual leave has been exhausted. The above steps will ensure that good citizen and caring employer, allegedly holds dual US and Israeli He chose not to comment on
Since this is just the beginning of the company has been fair and the management must take steps citizenship. The Israeli newspaper the 1,100 deaths in Gaza, nearly
the year, the employees could not reasonable in dealing with its em- to mitigate the impact on the Ma’ariv hailed his appointment by half of them women and children,
have exhausted their annual leave. ployees. Please do not forget, while employees, their families and the calling him “our man in the White and the massive destruction of
I have received calls saying that the companies and management economy. In the event the matter is House”. Assisting Emanuel as Palestinian homes and properties.
companies prefer employees to are faced with problems, so too are referred to the Industrial Court, the senior adviser to the president will Instead, he thought it urgent
take unpaid leave, as it is another your employees. They have fami- court will see if the employer had be his close friend David Axelrod, enough to say he believed al-Qaeda
form of cost cutting. This is wrong, lies to support and commitments acted fairly and reasonably. Obama’s presidential campaign and its leader Osama bin Laden
unacceptable and bad in law. So to meet. They were your main chief strategist and a Jew. remained the biggest threat to the
let employees exhaust their annual asset during good times, so let us Ajit Singh Jessy Elected on a platform of security of the US.
leave. treat them with concern and due Chairman “Change” to replace the unpopular Surely, Obama and his advisers
» There must not be any discrimi- respect. Explain to them the issues Penang State Human Bush administration, Obama is en- must be aware that the Middle East
nation between local and foreign and avoid acting arbitrarily and in a Resources Liaison Committee