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Promoting the constitution = seditious?

The complaint against MyConstitution’s Rakyat Guide

“Kami difahamkan risalah itu diedarkan di beberapa institusi pengajian di sekitar Lembah Klang dan beberapa kolej di Kedah melalui kempen mereka.

“Kita percaya ia dibiayai NGO (badan bukan kerajaan) asing bersifat antikerajaan.”

Kelab Belia Graduan 1Malaysia secretary-general Ezaruddin Abdul Rahman, on his society’s police report against the Bar Council’s MyConstitution campaign. The society took issue with the campaign’s Rakyat Guide booklets. Ezaruddin said the booklets declared that the Federal Constitution could be amended if the public voted for Members of Parliament (MPs) capable of doing so.

Kelab Belia Graduan 1Malaysia’s website cites Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as its patron and Najib’s political secretary Datuk Shahlan Ismail as its chief adviser. It was set up by a “group of young Malaysian graduates who were attracted to the Gagasan 1Malaysia idea” introduced by Najib. (Source: Laporan Polis Dibuat Terhadap Risalah, Buku Perlembagaan Berbaur Hasutan, Bernama, 5 Sept 2010)

What the Rakyat Guide says

“4. Can the Constitution be amended?

“Yes it can. In fact our Constitution has been amended several times. Article 159 of the Constitution says that in general, the Constitution may be amended if the Bill (i.e. the proposal for the amendment) is passed by not less than two thirds of the members of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

“5. Parliament seems to have so much power to amend the Constitution. How can we ensure that the power is not abused?

“Firstly, Members of Parliament are elected by Malaysian citizens like you and me. If a proposed amendment to the Constitution is not popular among Malaysians, then the Members of Parliament are unlikely to vote for it, otherwise they may not be elected again into Parliament at the next general elections. If you are unhappy with any proposed amendment to the Constitution, you can go to your Member of Parliament or to any Member of Parliament and voice your concerns.”

Extract from MyConstitution’s Rakyat Guide 1. The campaign has been distributing booklets explaining the constitution in layperson’s terms in an attempt to “demystify” its provisions. It has also been holding forums and events throughout Malaysia to educate the public on how the constitution applies to them. (Source: Rakyat Guide 1: What is the Federal Constitution?, www.perlembagaanku.com, 12 Nov 2009)

What the constitution says

“Article 159

    (1) Subject to the following provisions of this Article and to Article 161E, the provisions of this Constitution may be amended by federal law.
    […]
    (3) A Bill for making any amendment to the Constitution (other than an amendment excepted from the provisions of this Clause) and a Bill for making any amendment to a law passed under Clause (4) of Article 10 shall not be passed in either House of Parliament unless it has been supported on Second and Third Readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of that House.”

Extract from the Federal Constitution. The constitution has been amended more than 40 times, with over 600 individual amendments under the Barisan Nasional federal government. (Source: Federal Constitution)

Bar Council and MyConstitution’s response

“The campaign does not seek to amend the constitution, only to educate the public on what is in the constitution.”

MyConstitution chairperson, lawyer Edmund Bon, saying the campaign was meant to raise awareness on the contents of the constitution, not seek its amendment. (Source: ‘My Constitution’ head laughs off sedition claim, The Malaysian Insider, 6 Sept 2010)

“The main objective of the campaign is for the people to understand the constitution and our flyers are only to make understanding it easier for the people.”

Bar Council chairperson Ragunath Kesavan, defending the MyConstitution campaign and booklets. (Source: Bar Council refutes club’s charges over Rakyat Guides, theSun, 7 Sept 2010)

Gerakan comes to MyConstitution’s defence

“Not many people fully understand the meaning, wording and interpretation of the Federal Constitution, the foundation of nationhood of this country. So it is only right on the Bar Council’s part to try to summarise and provide simpler and clearer explanations.”

Gerakan deputy president and human rights and law central bureau head Datuk Chang Ko Youn, in defending the campaign. He said having an informed and educated people was paramount for national progress.

Chang also noted that since the MyConstitution campaign was launched on 13 Nov 2009, senior members of each arm of government had graced the campaign. These included Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, and Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national unity and performance management. (Source: It’s a noble effort by Bar Council, Gerakan, gerakan.org.my, 8 Sept 2010)

… And the funding?

“Although the campaign is largely funded by the Bar Council, we have received funding from the Malaysian public, the Prime Minister’s Department, and the Sarawak, Kedah and Selangor state governments.”

MyConstitution co-deputy chairperson Mahaletchumi Balakrishnan, explaining that the campaign in fact receives funding from the federal and some state governments. (Source: Bar defends “seditious” MyConstitution campaign, Malaysiakini, 7 Sept 2010)

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2 Responses to “Promoting the constitution = seditious?”

  1. PH Chin says:

    How can the ‘rakyat’ contribute positively to nation building if they don’t understand fully the Federal Constitution ?

    If Kelab Graduan 1Malaysia does not know how to distinguish between understanding and challenging the Federal Constitution, please seek the advice of the Bar Council. It is free!

  2. azmo says:

    Interesting. But what makes me puzzled is the fact that when the mufti of Perak [...] announced that there is a new constitution being drawn up to make clear the one article that seems to be the only thing in the highest rule of law in the land, Article 153. How was it that he wasn’t charged with treason? He went against the “Rukunegara”. Isn’t that worthy to be charged for treason, adding to fact that he is a civil servant? Could someone explain that?


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