Saturday, October 9, 2010

On the Malaysian Constitution

7 October 2010

Lim started our conversation on Malaysian law by noting that the Constitution is an important component of American political life. In Malaysia the constitution exists, but it seems to be a historical artifact. Lim noted that Malaysian lawyers do not study constitutional law and do not cite the constitution in court cases. The practice of law largely consists of laws covering intellectual property, property, and contracts.

He me the constitution which consists of a long list of rights. Proir to independence the draft constitution was reviewed by a Working Party. The Working Party was charged with addressing Malays' dissatisfaction with the draft constitution. The Working Party’s recommendations included wording that essentially undermined the guarantee of rights. For the various rights, such as freedom of speech, Parliament may enact laws limiting that right. Parliament may impose restrictions as it deems necessary in the interest of security, relations with other countries, public order or morality, and restrictions to protect the privileges of Parliament.

Given the awesome potential power of the state, and Malaysia does have statutes that allow it to restrict basic freedoms, Lim noted that the saving grace is government’s limited capacity to act. In an earlier discussion on laws that restricted political speech on campus he said that the government only bothers those it wants to bother, but most people can live their lives unencumbered. In his point of view the various races are neglected and denied opportunities to obtain power, but not prosecuted.

A conversation with Lim is like going to class!

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