The following conference paper was presented at the Commonwealth Law Conference 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.
As a former colony, Malaysia was at the time of its independence in 1957 the beneficiary of Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. Predicated on a written document, the Federal Constitution, which declared itself the supreme law of the land, the arrangement accommodated the establishment of Islamic, or Shariah, courts and the native courts. The concept of law, as it was to be understood moving forward, was reflected in the definition of “law” under the constitution: “law” includes written law, the common law in so far as it is in operation in the Federation or any part thereof, and any custom or usage having the force of law in the Federation or any part thereof.
After years of evidence to the contrary, I am frankly stunned that the Prime Minister still has his apologists who believe that he is a reformer being straitjacketed by a party and a Cabinet team that is not as excited about change as he is. Can we stop this nauseating pile of nonsense and be truthful for a change? Too much is at stake for us to continue being blind to what is obvious.
I have never seen as many vile and seditious statements invading the public sphere as I have in this past week. We’ve had Utusan Malaysia provoking the Chinese for rejecting the Barisan Nasional and UMNO leaders labeling non-UMNO Malays as greedy and easily misled. An academic suggested the abolishment of vernacular schools to encourage unity among the races and an old “historian” said that the Chinese are not actually keen on unity. To cap it off, a retired Court of Appeal judge practically made a call for “restoring” Malay rights and dignity by whatever means.
Although I was somewhat dazed by the events following GE13, I now feel better. Dazed because I could not believe that the strong ground support we had during the campaign was not enough for the Pakatan Rakyat to win. I now realise that the Opposition could never ever win an election in Malaysia until and unless we have an impartial and credible Election Commission. This must be understood by everyone. All the strategies, ceramah, manifestos, house-to-house visits and the best candidates will come to nought if we cannot ensure the integrity of the voter lists and overcome other election irregularities.
This speech was delivered at Amnesty International, London, in conjuction with the 50th anniversary of Malaysia's Internal Security Act - organized by The Solicitors International Human Rights Group and the Abolish ISA Movement UK - on April 2nd 2011.
The Internal Security Act, the ISA, is a source of constant consternation for Malaysian society. It is a piece of legislation that has succeeded in instilling fear into the hearts of every one of our citizens. So much so that parents no longer use the threat of the boogeyman to get their children to behave but rather the home minister and the ISA enforcer that will come and get them in the middle of the night.