Time for people to reclaim the Constitution, says Negri prince


Competing groups are interpreting the Constitution differently and if this continues the country will see greater polarisation, says Tunku Zain.

(FMT) – The Federal Constitution is interpreted differently by various groups because there is no preamble that clearly defines the nation’s charter, a Negri Sembilan prince said.

Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin Tuanku Muhriz said this might have exacerbated the present situation of having to reclaim the supreme law of the land.

“Of course, countries which have a preamble still have problems, but there are limits as to how the Constitution should be understood,” he said.

The founding president of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) Malaysia said this at the inaugural lecture “Reclaiming our Federal Constitution – Preserve, Protect & Defend” at University of Malaya yesterday.

He cited India, the United States of America and Spain which had a preamble in their written Constitution for guidance of their citizens.

Tunku Zain said whether there was a preamble or not, the articles of the Constitution defined the institutions that “compels our life”.

“We need a Constitution unless we want to live in a state of anarchy,” he added.

He said the Malaysian Constitution needed to be reclaimed because there were citizens who interpreted it in ways that were vastly different from others.

“Competing groups approach the Constitution from their own world views and experiences and each proclaim legitimacy for themselves,” he added.

These occurrences, he said, were more pronounced and visible in recent years.

“If the trend continues, our country will see greater polarisation, making living together increasingly difficult,” he added.

He said this was due to, among others, the rise of race and religious politics, and concentration of power with the Executive.

He said Malaysians must learn and understand the Constitution as in the United Kingdom, where its citizens studied the Magna Carta – which is about upholding the rule of law.

“Unfortunately, our education system is not designed to nurture its people to take a historical narrative view of what it means to be a citizen today.”