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The Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which came into force in 1957, is the supreme law of Malaysia.

The Federation was initially called the Federation of Malaya and it adopted its present name, Malaysia, when the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined the Federation. The Constitution establishes the Federation as a constitutional monarchy having the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of State whose roles are largely ceremonial. It provides for the establishment and the organisation of three main branches of the government, the bicameral legislative branch called the Parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) and the Senate (Dewan Negara), the executive branch led by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers.

The Constitution is divided into 15 Parts and 13 Schedules. There are 230 articles in the 15 parts, including those that have been repealed.

Fundamental Liberties
Fundamental liberties in Malaysia are set out in Articles 5 to 13 of the Constitution, under the following headings:

Article 5 Right to Life and Liberty Every person has a right to life and liberty. A persons life or personal liberty cannot be taken away unless it is in accordance with law. The courts have said that the right to life includes a right to livelihood and quality of life, while the right to liberty includes the right to privacy.

A person who is arrested or detained: must be informed as soon as possible of the grounds of the arrest. has the right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his/her choice. must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours and cannot be detained further unless it is with the authority of the magistrate, known as a remand order.

If a person has not been detained according to law, the courts will order that the person is brought before the court to be released. This is known as habeas corpus. You will find information on your rights when you are arrested by the police in the Police and Your Basic Rights leaflet published by the Bar Council.

Article 6 No Slavery No one can be made a slave or forced to work. However, Parliament may make laws to require Malaysians to provide compulsory national service. Work or service required from a person who is convicted of a crime is not considered forced labour.

Article 7 Protection against retrospective criminal laws and repeated trials

A person cannot be punished for something which at the time when it was done was not an offence. For example, if a law is passed to make it illegal to drive past a speed limit of 80km/h, a person driving past that speed limit before the law is passed cannot be punished. This is known as the prohibition against retrospective criminal laws. If the punishment for a crime is increased, a person who committed the crime before the punishment was increased cannot be given that increased punishment.

Article 8 Equality All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law. Unless the Constitution says so, citizens cannot be discriminated only because of their religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender.

Article 9 Prohibition of Banishment and Freedom of Movement This Article protects Malaysian citizens against being banished from the country. It further provides that every citizen has the right to move freely throughout the Federation but Parliament is allowed to impose restrictions on the movement of citizens from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak.

Article 10 Freedom of speech, assembly and association Citizens have freedom of speech, assembly and association but these freedoms may be restricted by Parliament for reasons permitted by the Constitution. The Courts have said Parliament mayonly impose restrictions where they are reasonably necessary. 1. Freedom of speech and expression Every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, Parliament may make laws to restrict this right if they are necessary or expedient in the interest of the security, relations with other countries and the protection of the privilegas of Parliament. 2. Right to assemble peaceably and to form associations All citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms and to form associations. However, Parliament may make laws to restrict these rights if they are necessary or expedient in the interest of the security, public order or morality.

Article 11 Freedom of religion Every person has the right to propagate his religion, but state law and, in respect of the Federal Territories, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among Muslims. There is, however, freedom to carry on missionary work among non-Muslims.

Article 12 Rights in respect of education There shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth. Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for the education of children in its own religion, and no person shall be required to receive instruction in or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own and that for this purpose the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

Article 13 Rights to property No person may be deprived of property save in accordance with law. No law may provide for the compulsory acquisition or use of property without adequate compensation.