My previous column questioned if we were ruled by religious diktats? If we are not driven and governed by the rule of law principle, i.e. rules agreed to by the federal constitution, and approved as laws by Parliament; we will soon slip down the slippery slope of morality and find ourselves killing each other; all in the name of religion, too. History is replete with such experiences well-recorded.
In our specific Malaysian case we are ruled by a secular constitutional democracy and our system of jurisprudence is therefore civil in nature, and never intended to be religious. The root word ‘civil’ is also the same root for ‘civilised’ and ‘civilisation’. Is this so difficult to comprehend?
Rule of law simply means that there is a common set of rules which applies to all Malaysians; and that we are all under this same common law, and that law is civil in nature. That common set of laws at the very highest level is called the federal constitution. That is the exact same document which constitutes this nation-state of three partners; namely the Malay peninsula, and the two Borneo States of Sabah and Sarawak.
The same rule of law also defines what Malaya or West Malaysia can and cannot do, and what the federal government can and cannot do in terms of religion and private versus public spaces. Even the Conference of Rulers, for example, comes under this same rule of law.
New enactments even created a legal jurisprudence to deal with the same set of rulers; before which they were outside that same law. One of them even signed the Royal Assent without conditions for the very last time. In Brunei’s Islamic Jurisprudence, which has now deployed as Syariah Laws, however, their King is above these so-called God’s laws!
Role of IGP
The inspector-general of police (IGP) is the singular chief criminal law enforcement officer for the government of Malaysia under the federal constitution. He or his men undertake investigations and then submit the same to the attorney-general for follow-up and follow-through prosecutions.
Section 3 (3) of the Police Act 1967 stipulates that the duties of the Royal Malaysia Police personnel are:
Apprehending all persons whom he is by law authorised to apprehend;
Processing security intelligence;
Giving assistance in the carrying out of any law relating to revenue, excise, sanitation, quarantine, immigration and registration;
Giving assistance in the preservation of order in the ports, harbours and airports of Malaysia, and in enforcing maritime and port regulations;
Executing summonses, subpoenas, warrants, commitments and other process lawfully issued by any competent authority;
Protecting unclaimed and lost property and finding the owners thereof;
Seizing stray animals and placing them in a public pound;
Giving assistance in the protection of life and property;
Protecting public property from loss or injury;
Attending the criminal courts and, if specially ordered, the civil courts, and keeping order therein; and
Escorting and guarding prisoners and other persons in the custody of the police.
Pardon me, but nowhere does it state that the police or the IGP are responsible to ‘protect and preserve the faith of all Muslims in Malaysia’. Therefore, recently at the G25 Forum organised by PCORE at the Royal Selangor Club, I asked this question of the G25 keynote speaker:
“Our system of jurisprudence is a civil system with specific powers of criminal prosecution reserved for the IGP, as the chief criminal prosecution officer. If the above is true; how is it possible for the IGP, who is a federal appointment, to refuse to administer a High Court decision, and instead he was allowed to claim ‘ignorance of the law and confusion over our jurisprudence in a civil system of governance?
“As an ex-Diplomatic and Administrative Services (PTD) officer, I think he should be asked to resign for ignorance of the law and for the dereliction of duties!”
Although the speaker did not answer my specific question; he did say all of us in the room would agree with your view. And those in the room clapped in agreement.
Confusion of categories?
The word ‘category’ comes from the Greek kategoria, meaning ‘that which can be said, predicated, or publicly declared and asserted, about something’. A category is an attribute, property, quality, or characteristic that can be predicated of a thing. It is a proxy for ‘thingy-ness.’
The IGP was quoted by the Malaysian newspaper and media as being confused by the directive of the High Court of Malaysia. In fact, Malaysiakini quoted:
“M Indira Gandhi’s lawyer, M Kulasegaran (left in photo), said when the Ipoh High Court agreed to issue the recovery order last year he tried to serve it on the IGP.
“I waited for hours at Bukit Aman to meet the IGP last year but he refused to see me. I tried to serve a similar order on the Ipoh OCPD, but again, as with the IGP, he refused to see me.
“We are the only country in the Commonwealth where the IGP and the police do not want to receive a court order,” he said.”
The last sentence is very telling: We are the only Commonwealth country where the IGP does not receive or accept a High Court order. Is that not an insult to the High Court? Should he not be charged with contempt of court? Was the IGP really confused, as he claims, or has our artificially confused system of dual jurisprudence created an unnecessary confusion of categories?
I believe the latter is the case. The IGP is confused because, maybe he is not educated enough to know the history and heritage of our secular legal system and order. Therefore, he feels obliged to adhere to the diktats of his personal views from his ‘religious interpretations and faith’.
But, what if the IGP, which is a federal appointment, is a non-Muslim? Would he then suddenly have eyes, ears, and brains that comprehend without any apparent confusion?
May God bless Malaysia to recover our constitutional sanity.
KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or views.