04
Feb
10

 

REASONED ARGUMENTS

Do read this very interesting contribution from GOPAL RAJ KUMAR – lawyer and former lecturer, now practising in Australia:

NEED FOR INTERFAITH DIALOGUE OR COMMISSION OF INQUIRY?

There is no need for a commission of inquiry, for inter faith dialogue or a Royal Commission at this stage of Malaysia’s development as a vibrant and robust democracy.

Faith and goodwill like good manners cannot be imposed on anyone by laws without their own recognition and acceptance of the value of these concepts.

Closed door dialogues are an anachronism in a democracy which requires openness and transparency where necessary.

Commissions and Commissions of inquiry are often a device for people (from various faiths in this instance) seeking to wield power and their influence outside of the constitutional parameters set up to deal with issues for which powers and limitations already exist within the same framework of the constitution.

That lawyers and clergymen from all sides seek to access power or more power within a system that already empowers them as citizens is itself evident in the Allah issue.

I pose the challenge once more to all and sundry who claim that an unfettered right to religion or an unqualified right or guarantee exists within the Federal Constitution of Malaysia to show me that right within the constitution. Then show me how that right or guarantee within the constitution has been trampled or curtailed unlawfully by the government exercising its sovereign and constitutional right in prohibiting or limiting the use of the word Allah.

THE ORIGIN OF COMMISSIONS AND ROYAL COMMISSIONS

This is an 18th Century device used to deal with matters of public importance and noteriety. It is dangerous as it often involves a member of parliament setting terms of reference in which process the protagonists have lobbying power and influence to set out. These terms of reference then are applied and manipulated to gain whatever advanatge it is the protagonist seeks to gain out of the inquiry which they may not be able to under the more watchful and protective stewardship of law courts. The normal civilized rules of evidence do not apply. Innuendo, hearsay (thirdhnd and so forth).

Once begun it can’t be stopped by government. The rules of evidence are discarded and normally indadmissible evidence can be led and admitted to the inquiry resulting in damaging unenforceable findings against individuals and institutions alike which could smear their reputaitons for life. (Kerry Packer late media baron in Australia was accused of being a drug peddlar and murderer by statements made by discredited witnesses in the Costigan Royal commission of inquiry into the Painters and Dockers Union in the 1980’s in Melbourne). Packer was never able to clear his name inspite of being arrguably Australia’s most powerful man and its wealthiest for a while.

In the United Kingdom, royal commissions are committees of inquiry established by royal charter or warrant at the behest of the cabinet to look into issues of considerable public importance.

Their membership and precise terms of interest are set by a member of the cabinet, but it is then intended that their collection of evidence, deliberations, and submission of a report to the cabinet are carried out independently.

Royal commissions have at least an educative impact, and may contribute policy proposals which are taken up by the cabinet. At worst they are used as vehicles for diffusing political problems, or are overtaken by the need to respond to events more rapidly. They fell out of favour after 1979 but are still very much a threat to the rights and freedoms people enjoy under the prootection of the law. It is also a useful weapon against a non compliant and out of control government. Whats required is balance. Balance between the knoweldge required to use it effectively and knowledge to prevent its abuse. It ought not to be used simply because there is a call for it.

DANGERS OF COMMISSIONS AND INQUIRIES DRIVEN BY A POLITICAL AGENDA

A recent case in point of the abuse of aa Royal Commission of inquiry is the one that arose out of the “Lingham tapes Affair”. I will not labour the numerous points raised for and against the lingham but instead invite a wider and more detailed reading of the Lingham Tapes Affair on the following link:

http://takemon.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/lingham-tapes-a-record-of-ignorance/

The issue of the provocative and unnecessary incorporation of the word Allah into the Catholic vernacular was correctly and accurately foreseen by the Attorney General and in his pre emptive action to prohibit it use.

The resultant anger and retaliation blamed on Malays in a torrent of emails doing the rounds and in websites and blogs run by politicians and anti UMNO (read Malay Muslim) groups, played out like a self fulfilling prophesy. It invoked and stoked the anger and ire of a large part of the population who after the Lina Joy affair did see this episode as another assault on their religion and the sanctity of those symbols and words uniquely identified with it.

Having failed to establish their case for use of the word Allah under the constitution, the driver of this issue PKR and its acolytes within the Christian polity have now set out to use a more sinister means though an amorphous system to establish what they and an erroneous High Court decision on the use off the word Allah have failed to do for them. Provoke the Malay Muslims into division and a violent confrontation in the hope of gaining international sympathy for their cause.

ACTION NEEDED

If the Malays want to reinforce all the negatives about them, they can remain silent and silent observers of their own demise.

The government of the day must with a greater deal of conviction take the courts and their bad decisions to task. There is precedent for the government of the day (the executive branch) to intervene where the courts fail. It is after all one of the three arms of government and the more powerful and active in day to day matters than the courts.

The problem with this proposition though is that many of the judges are weak and the government has allowed itself to be fooled into believing that the closed shop of the Malaysian bar is all that it is entitled to as consumers of legal services.

The present government by inviting as a first step, foreign practitioners with a specialty in Islamic law has taken a small but bold step in the right direction. It must now hastily open the door wider for quality legal services from abroad in cooperation with local firms in keeping with the NEP.

A nation cannot develop in a stable and lawful direction where the quality of its legal profession and its legal services are woefully inadequate and clearly out of step with its industrial and economic development.

The ISA has a purpose and it ought not to be used sparingly if it is a tool to achieve peace, stability and tranquility when it is most needed.

There is a price to pay for our democratic freedoms. There are no absolute democracies anywhere in the world. That price for our freedoms ought to be extracted from those who threaten it and act generously with the lives of others in trying to achieve their own narrow political objectives in the process.

 Gopal Raj Kumar

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6 Responses to “”


  1. February 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Asalamualaikum kak Nini

    Most of the muslim Melayu in Malaysia are reserved and politely
    uncommunicative.Orang Melayu Malaysia ask few questions and seldom give direct answers
    Most of the time Malaysian Malays communicates in idioms, parables and riddles.Malays
    are polite,peace loving people.Malaysian Malays are guided more by their hearts than
    their “heads”!! Allah issue is very very sensitive to Melayu kita. Sayonara!

  2. 2 ninitalk
    February 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Salams wawa!
    Malays have to be more direct and learn to use logic and reason more than their emotions in order to withstand modern onslaughts on all fronts. We have to communicate effectively and strategically if we want to make inroads and influence global thinking about Islam and other matters. And let’s face it – we have to communicate in English besides Malay and Arabic!

    Apparently, one of the reasons why an InterFaith Commission is not being considered is that the Christian lobby (and by extension their political affiliations)is too strong and the Muslim religious leaders might not be able to stand up to them. Seeing that many of our ulama are Malay and Arabic educated I can see how they will be overwhelmed by people who are English-speaking and are exposed to a wider body of religious knowledge in English.

    If this is indeed the reason behind the reluctance to meet openly with people of other denominations, it is really sad and to me, unacceptable. Muslims should not cower under the threat of forces whom they perceive as being more powerful and manipulative. We must face them squarely and learn the skills of conflict resolution and effective bargaining/ negotiation. Don’t avert our gaze but look at them directly in the eyes!

    Yes -we are basically a polite, peaceable people and readily invite people into our homes/ our lands to share our food and other amenities of life. That’s what Islam and Malay culture teaches us in a country which is free from major natural disasters and where resources are aplenty. Because of this we are open to all sorts of exploitation and abuse. We are perceived as weak and corruptible! Notice how different the Arab Muslims are!

    But because we stifle our emotions they can erupt and we can run amok as the church-burning vandals did. Then the whole world will call us Muslim freaks and terrorists!

  3. 3 ninitalk
    February 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    GRK – not having a legal background or much legal knowledge I’m not in a position to take you up on some of the matters you’ve raised re the court cases, including the recent judgement on the Allah issue. However, laymanish as I am in my knowledge of the law, I can still see the gaping holes in the judge’s s implistic interpretation of the Federal Constitution with regard to religious freedom and freedom of speech. Your lengthy argumentation copied in my earlier posting says it all and should be referred to by the authorities in the appeal.

    More disturbing is the refusal of the Catholic/Christian lobby to recognise the sensitivities of the Malay Muslims in defending their right to protect the name of the Muslim God Allah in the Holy Books. The stubborness of the Herald protagonists in pursuing their claim to Allah is beguiling to say the least. It smacks of something larger and more sinister in their sosio-political agenda. Religion has become a mere facade!

    Your suggestion that all this is done with the purpose of tearing the Malay Muslim community apart is not without basis. We are split into the liberals/ modernists and the conservatives/ traditionalists as the Al Jazeera moderated panel showed. More pitiful is the fact that the former are mainly English-speaking and western-influenced whilst the latter are Malay and Arabic educated in the Arab region. Thus their reluctance to meet face to face with the English speaking Christian lobby exposed to a larger body or religious knowledge in English.

    But I believe it’s time the Malay Muslims shed their blinkers and open their eyes wide to other wisdoms. By equipping themselves with education, exposure and experience in Malay, Arabic and English they can speak and argue confidently and convincingly on the local and global forums.

    This is the way forward – a bilingual/ trilingual mastery over their faith and beliefs.

    I’m all for an InterFaith Commission with a strictly defined membership, organisation and mechanism to bring about genuine, sincere and honest engagement/ dialogue/ consultation between and among religious leaders and groups!

  4. 4 harum manis
    February 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    ninitalk,

    I’m afraid even the Arab Muslims now are in tatters, so to speak. The Muslim Arabs excelled the world over in science, law and literature for 500 years before the appearance of the marauding Mongols on their doorsteps in the 13th Century. The Mongols ransacked, burnt, murdered and destroyed entire villages and towns should just one hand be raised in defence or defiance. Prof C.P Fitzgerald described them in his book on China (the Mongols also conquered and ruled China for about 80 years) as “the most cruel race on earth”. The Golden Era of Arabic excellence had long gone after the sack of Baghdad, the then centre of learning. Yet the Islamic leaders in Malaysia received a lot of religious training and guidance from the Arabs.

    Saudi Arabia, the cutodian of Islamic heritage, is said to be promoting the Wahabbi (going back to original) brand of Islam. Many of our ulamaks get their education from there, either formally at established educational institutions or under tutelage of religious personalities at Masjidil Haram, etc. Egypt has had a tradition of liberalism and the Al Azhar University trains many of our religious leaders and Syari’ah lawyers in the country. Yet the Jordanian University is said to be more liberal and produces such personalities as the controversial ex-Mufti of Perlis. I wonder to what extent the recent spat betwen the ex-Mufti and the Jabatan Agama over his public lectures reflects the unity, or lack thereof, among our religious leaders. Politics, of course, weigh in, too.

    No doubt the Christians are themselves beset by differing views and a multitude of sects (the Protestants alone has 180, according to one Professor), but Muslim leaders in Malaysia perhaps lack the kind of unity that the Catholics in this country have. You see, as pointed out by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the well known translator and commentator of the Qur’an, the Christians have a titular head – the Pope in the Vatican, whereas the Muslims do not have that kind of system where issues are resolved by a central, but world-wide authority vested in the Pope. Hence, even determining Hari Raya Puasa still has the element of “tengok bulan”. The Rulers act under advice but I applaud the YDP Agong and HRH Sultan Selangor for taking some action on the issue over the use of the word Allah. Let’s call for a more united and steady approach on resolving religious issues – and for early action, before the situation worsens.

    For now, I have only this comment to make of Gopal Raj Kumar’s interesting views: I’m heartened to note his statement implying that in this country “the quality of its legal profession and its legal services are woefully inadequate.” Coming from a lawyer, it comforts me to know that the statements from members of the Bar Council of Malaysia that appear unfavourable to the Establishment, including suggestions on amending the Constitution on sensitive matters, need not be seriously listened to. I know of grouses on unsatisfactory services even of the large, including the formerly foreign-owned, law firms these days.

  5. February 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I think Gopal Raj Kumar has some good arguments against a commission.

    But I doubt his judgment when he states that Malaysia has a vibrant and robust democracy. Quote: “There is no need for a commission … at this stage of Malaysia’s development as a vibrant and robust democracy.” Malaysia has many things going for it, but not a vibrant and robust democracy (unless he’s comparing North Korea).

    He has to be blind or an UMNO plant to make such an asinine statement. I am not even going to try and rebut such blatant fawning to curry favour with UMNO.

    Quote: “Then show me how that right or guarantee within the constitution has been trampled or curtailed unlawfully by the government exercising its sovereign and constitutional right in prohibiting or limiting the use of the word Allah.”

    GRK’s refusal to at least acknowledge that the religious rights of some Malaysians, especially in East Malaysia, will be infringed leads me to question his capability / honesty as a lawyer. I don’t believe the issue is helped in any way by blatant illogic, intellectual dishonesty and refusal to recognize the reality that at least some people’s rights will be infringed. The Allah issue is not cut and dry.

    One final quote before I am done with this imposter: “The ISA has a purpose and it ought not to be used sparingly if it is a tool to achieve peace, stability and tranquility when it is most needed.”

    To blatantly declare that something so draconian as the ISA “ought not to be used sparingly” is unbelievable!!! This fellow is an imposter. There is no way he can be a lawyer practicing in Australia.

    Frankly Halimah Mohd Said, I am disappointed that you did not vet his “interesting contribution” more thoroughly before giving the imposter any air time. Someone was out to show how shallow you are, and someone did.

    I believe it’s OK to express contrary views. But not as an imposter – a lawyer practicing in Australia indeed!! I am the Queen of England!!

    Take care

  6. 6 ninitalk
    February 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Hi adiryakiratas a.k.a. the imposter “Queen of England”!

    You must be very “deep” to be insultingly personal instead of giving your views on the InterFaith Commission or any of the other issues brought up in the posting or in the comments it has invited.

    I’m surprised that as a self-professed writer you are so intolerant of other people’s views and so hasty in condemning them. One would expect a writer of some standing to take up a point of agreement or disagreement and develop it convincingly rather than attack the person’s background and credentials.

    If this blog is not “deep” enough for you, GRK or anybody else please feel free to leave. However after a year of floundering in the “shallow” waters of blogosphere I think I may have arrived. Like many of the more popular blogs I have at last invited a venomous response! YAY!


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