Every legal power must have legal limits, otherwise there is dictatorship.

– Raja Azlan Shah, Lord President and ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong

It is a blessing to be home — more often now — to spend quality time marshalling one’s thoughts about family and profession; to understand the prevailing germ warfare that has temporarily snatched the freedom of movement from us, and the state of our political affairs; to wonder whether we are really obedient to the rule of law as we go about our lives. 

I believe that that the law frequently takes a cruise into uncharted waters to dock at the harbour of constitutional disorder to trigger some zealous legislature or a courageous judge to set the course straight.

It is common in Malaysia where some practitioners of judicial sloth allow the executive branch of government to run roughshod over the rights of the rakyat which begat Loh Kooi Choon V Govt. of Malaysia [1977] 2 MLJ 187, wherein the court said: “The constitution is not a mere collection of pious platitudes. It is the supreme law of the land embodying three basic concepts: One of them is that … no single man or body shall exercise complete sovereign power, but it shall be distributed among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.”

We will surely develop and attain the leading edge of obeying the supreme law of the land since it embodies the very essence of the country’s ideals despite getting side-tracked now and then. Parliament may not be supreme in Malaysia as it is in the United Kingdom. The Federal Constitution in Malaysia subsumes parliamentary supremacy which is a boon and a blessing to all aspiring lawyers and judges intending to pursue the path of the law. Great strides await.

This temporary lockdown is a great time to research the law, clear our heads, interact, and rethink our written constitutions and laws ostensibly made for the people. If you look at our Federal Constitution, there are only nine fundamental liberties enumerated for us the rakyat – Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 – out of 183 Articles including the 13 Schedules.

That evidences 175 Articles dedicated to the advancement, advantage, well-being, profit, betterment and benefit of the government. I am instantly reminded of this statement that reverberates in my brain camp whenever the Federal Constitution is mentioned verbally or in writing: “ . . .The guarantee afforded by the Constitution is the supremacy of the law and the power and duty of the courts to enforce these rights and to annul any attempt to subvert any of them whether by legislative or administrative action or otherwise.

This is a telling portion of the Reid Commission’s Report written by non-Malayans wholly unaware of the traditional homage and patronage to royalty, autocrats and the elitists at the expense of the rule of law.

Malaysians are entitled to an Article 10(1)(c) Federal Constitution right of association to genuine news, information, particulars, details and data during a national emergency for proven cures. Is this “government” holding back crucial information from the rakyat?

The news channels are full of boring talk and unnecessary opinions of what is happening to those vulnerable to this virus. Nobody is breathing a word of any known tests for a cure. The Malaysian Health Promotion Board Act (Act 651) of 2006 defines “health promotion” as “any action or activity which strengthens the health skills and capabilities of individuals, groups and communities as well as enhances social and environmental conditions so as to improve their health status.”

I would rewrite the law thus: “Health promotion” shall refer to the sparing of no resources under any and all conditions to finding lasting cures for known and unknown diseases that can affect our citizens and neighbours.

We ought to be a nation of just laws, not just of men and women tasked with finding a quick fix, or profit, or a quick exit, to solve a political problem while feigning adherence to the rule of law. Our leaders must quit pretending to do a double-take on the supreme law of the land and become intellectually honest. There are no second chances.

Some of our leaders need a month-long sojourn in Brain Camp. As Imre Lakotas wisely observed: “Intellectual honesty consists in stating the precise conditions under which one will give up one’s belief.”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.