Bar: Withhold amendment bill until judicial discretion restored

Source: FMT News

Malaysian Bar vice president George Varughese. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has called on the government to withhold the passing of a bill to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 in its current form, following concerns that it will allow sentencing to be dependent on the public prosecutor.

Its president George Varughese said the bill, tabled for first reading in Parliament on Nov 23, needed to redrafted and retabled with amendments that would genuinely restore judicial discretion in sentencing.

He said the Bar viewed the tabling of the bill to move Malaysia away from the mandatory death sentence as a step in the right direction, with the provision that allowed an alternative sentence to the death penalty.

“The Malaysian Bar is steadfast in our view that life is sacred, and every person has an inherent right to life,” he said.

“However, we are concerned that the bill does not go far enough in restoring judicial discretion.

“The shift from the mandatory death penalty to judicial discretion in sentencing should not be dependent upon the say-so of the public prosecutor,” he said in a statement today. Read more

Academic: Constitution needs preamble on human rights

Source: FMT News

Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom — Pic taken from Penang Monthly

KUALA LUMPUR: Law professor Azmi Sharom has suggested that a preamble be introduced in the Federal Constitution to make judges bear in mind basic principles like rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for liberties when hearing cases.

“The constitution desperately needs a preamble so that when judges fall into a conundrum, they have a guide,” he said.

The Universiti Malaya lecturer claimed that Malaysian judges, particularly at the Federal Court, had failed to uphold these principles when exercising their verdicts.

He said the constitution could lead the country towards moderation and progressiveness if judges were enlightened and able to interpret it well.

He said while there were good and principled judges, most were retired while those who had not, were not serving in the Federal Court.

He said this posed a problem as the Federal Court was the highest court in the country.

Azmi was speaking at a dialogue entitled “Wither Freedom without truths in Malaysia?” at the PAUM club house here today. Read more

Does freedom come with a price? — Khoo Ying Hooi


By Khoo Ying Hooi

Last week, I had the opportunity to be part of the Malaysia Freedom Summit (MFS) that organized by the Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD). This is the third time for the LEAD to organize such forum since 2015. Former treasury secretary-general also the founder of G25, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim delivered a keynote address looking into freedom as a core value of development. Apart from the main session on the state of freedom in Malaysia, the forum also discussed academic freedom, political freedom, religious freedom and economic freedom.

We read about freedom, dream about freedom, and hope for freedom, but what does it really mean? Freedom means different things to different people. My definition of freedom might be different from yours. But what’s important is that it is an inalienable right, which we must respect and defend.

However, putting it in the context of Malaysia, this so-called freedom is fragile. Over the decades, Malaysia’s political system has become a formula for the division of race and religion. Malaysia has a narrow concept of human rights, having signed only three out of the nine binding international human rights treaties. Our Federal Constitution for instance, it protects freedom of belief and freedom of expression. In practice, these freedoms are however restricted. Freedoms of assembly and association are similarly limited on the grounds of maintaining security and public order. Read more

Arbitrary Sedition Act makes ‘promoting atheism’ a crime, lawyers explain

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The Sedition Act could be used by the government against those who promote atheism in limited situations due to the law’s broad definitions and the current state of Malaysia, lawyers have said.

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said there is no specific legislation that makes atheism an offence under civil laws, further arguing that the Sedition Act cannot be used against someone for being an atheist.

“Being an atheist is not seditious, especially if it is done in private.

“Spreading atheism may be deemed as seditious in certain circumstances, such as if it is done by insulting or undermining other faiths, especially Islam. But that is because the Sedition Act is so wide and arbitrary and can be used in many ways,” he said, adding that this was why the Sedition Act should be abolished. Read more

Religious group supports atheists’ rights

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Malaysia has no laws that force people to have a religious affiliation, a minority faith group told a deputy minister who claimed that atheism was illegal.

Jagir Singh, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) — Picture by Choo Choy May

Jagir Singh, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), said that atheists are therefore free to profess their beliefs.

“Article 11(1) [of the Federal Constitution] gives the right to every person to profess and practise his religion. It is noted that a deputy minister has stated that it is not equal to freedom of religion, that is, every person must have a religion. There is nothing in the Federal Constitution, or any law in Malaysia that says every person must have a religion,” Jagir said.

On the Rukun Negara which lists “belief in God” as one of its principles, Jagir said it was included as most Malaysians were already professing their belief in religion.

According to the lawyer, the principle also meant that there was already due recognition that there were also some without any religious beliefs.

“Of course most Malaysians have [a] religion. This fact was recognised in the Rukun Negara. The first point being ‘belief in God’. It ascertains that most Malaysians have a religion,” said Jagir.

“This was the reason they included it as ‘kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’, and thus recognising that there may be some without religion .

“It must be remembered also, that Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. To be atheist is not against any law,” he added. Read more

Lawyers: Being atheist, promoting atheism protected by Constitution

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The Federal Constitution protects the right of Malaysians to be an atheist and to promote atheism, lawyers have said.

Syahredzan Johan — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said being an atheist is protected under the Federal Constitution, also noting that there are no constitutional provisions specifically prohibiting the spreading of atheism.

“The Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion under Article 11, and this includes the freedom not to believe. The statement by the Deputy Minister is completely wrong.

“The Federal Constitution also guarantees the right to life and personal liberty under Article 5. This would include the right not to believe in a religion,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Syahredzan said it is unlawful and unconstitutional for the government to act against atheists as it will violate their constitutional rights.

“Also, the Deputy Minister should be careful as he is overstepping his jurisdictional boundaries. Islam is the purview of the States, and the Malay Rulers are the head of Islam. He is merely a Deputy Minister in the Federation, he could only comment on Islam in the Federal Territories. Even in the FT, there is no specific Shariah legislation that make it an offence to propagate atheism,” he said.

Syahredzan and two other lawyers were commenting on the Thursday remarks by deputy minister Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who had claimed that atheism was unconstitutional as freedom of religion allegedly does not include freedom from religion. Read more