The new government must prioritise law reform — Malaysian Bar

MAY 7 — The 14th General Election provides all eligible citizens of Malaysia the opportunity to shape the future of our country. Every general election presents the possibility of a change in government and, with that, an opportunity for a reassessment and shift in government policy for the betterment of the nation and its people. The new government must give due recognition to the voice and the will of its people, and must respect the sentiment that they expressed through the popular vote.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the leaders of the incoming government, which will be formed based on the results of the upcoming 14th General Election, to make law reform a matter of priority.

The use of oppressive and unjust laws — such as the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, National Security Council Act 2016, and Anti-Fake News Act 2018, to name but a few — should cease. All such laws must be repealed immediately. Laws that are an affront to the rule of law or that violate the Federal Constitution must not be allowed to remain on the statute book.

Outdated laws ought to be amended or replaced. New progressive laws that are essential and long overdue — such as a Freedom of Information Act and a Gender Equality Act — should be enacted. All legislation should be brought in line with Malaysia’s international commitments, and must respect the rule of law and the principle of natural justice. The next government must also accede to all nine core international human rights instruments and their optional protocols, where it has not yet done so.

Actual and effective law reform must necessarily entail the establishment of a truly independent Law Reform Commission that would undertake research, public consultations with all relevant stakeholders, and legal policy development, and make recommendations, without fear or favour. Several years have passed since the then-government announced, in 2011, that it was time Malaysia established an independent law reform commission responsible for reviewing, drafting and making laws and the related processes equitable, modern, fair and efficient, but no concrete action appears to have been taken since then.

The new government must respect the doctrine of separation of powers, and must uphold the independence of the Judiciary. Executive dominance and the concentration of power in the hands of any individual should no longer be the norm, and must become a thing of the past.

Further, the Malaysian Bar urges the incoming government to respect the independence of the Bar, and to cease any and all attempts to curtail our independence through legislative amendments.

The Malaysian Bar pledges to continue working with the government to uphold the rule of law, defend the fundamental freedoms and rights of every Malaysian, and realise our collective aspirations for a more equitable and just nation.

* This statement is submitted on behalf of George Varughese, president, Malaysian Bar.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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