Let Federal Court decide status of M’sia
The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong shoud command a full Federal Court bench to determine if Malaysia is a secular or an Islamic state, says Karpal Singh.GEORGE TOWN: Senior parliamentarian Karpal Singh has urged the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to command a full 12-man bench of the federal court to decide and declare on whether Malaysia is a secular or an Islamic nation.
The DAP national chairman urged the king to invoke his power under Article 130 of the Federal Constitution to refer the contentious issue to the highest court for its opinion and “clear the air once for all.”
He believed it was crucial for the king’s intervention for a judicial pronouncement as to the status of the country in view of recent controversy on the secular – Islamic state issue and its impact on the country.
Article 130 permits the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to refer to the Federal Court for its opinion on any question as to the effect of any provision of this constitution which has arisen or appears to him likely to arise, and the Federal Court shall pronounce in open court its opinion on any question so referred to it.
Karpal was responding to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz’s parliamentary reply on Monday, declaring that based on legal provisions in the country, Malaysia has never been declared nor endorsed as a secular nation.
Nazri said that the situation in Malaysia was different than in the United States, India and Turkey, which clearly specify that those countries were secular in their constitutions.
But Karpal countered that the constitution neither had declared Malaysia as “an Islamic state” unlike countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran.
He said notwithstanding specific provisions on Islam and the lack of the word “secular” in the Federal Constitution, Malaysia had been officially declared as a secular state, including in judicial pronouncement.
He said that Mohd Nazri’s parliamentary statement was also in conflict with a 1988 judicial decision.
Judicially pronounced to be secular
In the case of Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor in 1988, then Supreme Court’s five-man judicial bench presided by the then head of the judiciary, Lord President Salleh Abas clearly stated “the law in the country was secular.”
The Supreme Court was equivalent of the current Federal Court which replaced the Privy Council.
Karpal said given the official declaration of the nation’s highest judicial authority, Malaysia has been “judicially pronounced to be a secular state”.
“A country having secular laws could not be an Islamic state,” argued Karpal, also a senior lawyer.
He recalled that two former prime ministers, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussien Onn, had also stated on record that “Malaysia was not an Islamic state”.
He rubbished political declaration by another ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamed in September, 2001 at the Gerakan general assembly that Malaysia was an Islamic state.
“It does not have the stamp of legitimacy,” Karpal told newsmen in Bandar Baru Air Itam during his Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency visit here today.