Street demonstrations and the Constitution — Gurdial Singh Nijar

Source: The SunDaily

BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
(Deputy President, HAKAM)

LATELY we have seen further serious inroads into the rights of citizens to assemble peacefully, travel abroad and speak. I look at one particular right – the right to assemble peacefully. This includes, in common parlance “street demonstrations”.

Bersih has announced its intention to organise one such demonstration. Bersih comprises some 83 non-governmental organisations within its fold – a truly sizeable chunk of our population.

Such assemblies or demonstrations are not prohibited by the Federal Constitution. The Peaceful Assembly Act enhances such a right; it establishes a process as to how this right may be exercised.

But the authorities appear to thwart this right by various contrivances. At least that is the perception of many. Read more

Minister: Government to set up index to measure unity among races by 2017

Source: The Malay Mail Online

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 4 — The government is in the midst of setting up a unity index to measure the level of unity among the various races in the country, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

He said the index, which was being developed by the National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN) was expected to be completed next year.

“Currently, JPNIN is looking into criteria that will be taken into account for the unity index. This includes inclusiveness, cross-cultural understanding and employment rates to measure the level of unity among the various races in the country.

“A pilot study will be carried out before it (the unity index) is implemented to determine the level of unity in this country,” he told reporters after launching the Putrajaya-level ‘Gemilang Perpaduan’ programme 2016 at Precint 9 here today.

Present was JPNIN director-general Datuk L Gandesan.

Kurup said the level of unity and patriotism among the people of the country was still good based on the strong support showed by Malaysians regardless race for the National athletes who competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games recently. — Bernama

Accountability of the attorney-general — Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY JAHABERDEEN MOHAMED YUNOOS

SEPT 5 — The Attorney-General’s (AG) Office is understandably of concern to the citizens. In our country, the attorney-general heads the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) which is responsible for a host of duties and responsibilities including drafting of statutes, regulations, and by laws, advising the government on legal matters and instituting and conducting criminal prosecutions.

The AGC, therefore, in its role of prosecuting for offences or deciding not to prosecute becomes a vital part of the country’s justice system.

The public in general is affected by the AG’s use of discretion as provided for under Article 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution.  It provides that  the AG “shall have power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Muslim court, a native court or a court-martial”.

It means the AG can decide to charge someone for an offence or not and also whether a criminal proceeding against someone should be discontinued. In cases where a criminal act may be the subject of several offences or statutes, the AG may exercise his discretion as to which charges and how many he wants to proffer.

I believe the discretionary powers given to the AG must not only be exercised in accordance with the law, as it is his duty to uphold the rule of law, it must also be exercised compassionately. The power, for example, to discontinue proceedings in certain cases, requires the consideration of facts and circumstances that are peculiar to a particular case. Read more