The Federal Constitution of Malaysia is a fundamental document, certain to be heard of by all Malaysians, at least once, in the course of their lifetime in this fertile land. A document of manifest importance and value. Or at least, should a great many think it such. The question however, that many fail to pose subsequently is why?
Why the exceptional importance and value of this document? The answer is elementary - due to the basic fundamental nature of a constitution itself - a concept however, not thoroughly appreciated nor fathomed, by many.
Very plain and aptly put, a constitution is the supreme law of the land. However, what is truly understood of this - ‘the supreme law of the land’? Wherefore need there be a law supreme or even for that matter, a law above all other laws in this land?
Supreme it is defined as it furnishes the basic fabric of a nation. It is the foundational law of a country. It is from the constitution, the three pivotal organs of our state - the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, derive their existence and legal powers to exercise governance over the nation’s populace.
The very fundamental values and nature of a nation are entailed thereby in its constitution - an example - is a state, a constitutional monarchy or a republic? The constitution bestows an answer. It establishes a framework for governance. It speaks volumes of a nation.
Further, it is from the constitution, political rights are derived. Inter alia, political rights including the right to freedom of speech, assembly, association and religion. By virtue of a constitution, these rights are entrenched. Limitations may fall imposed on these rights but deprived entirely they shall not be. A constitution assures this.
Its supremacy reigns logical. Being the basic framework of a nation, all other laws owe their cause of existence to the constitution. Appositely, it can be said to be the mother to all laws. Therefore, no law shall stand ultra vires or in other words; stand in contradiction, with the constitution. The supremacy of the constitution prevails over all other laws.
Henceforth, the substantial importance, worth and value of a constitution gleams lucid. It is more than a mere document. As Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi had felicitously phrased it - it is a Document of Destiny.
Focal point for contentious debate
In modern days, the proposition for the enactment of Islamic criminal law or rather known as hudud law has been the focal point for contentious debate. Sufficiently contentious, for those on the opposing spectacle to be labelled with the epithet: “an enemy of Islam”.
The issue on the enactment of hudud law has its roots grounded in the constitutional scheme of our nation. As elucidated earlier, no law shall stand in contradiction with the constitution. If enacted, the newly-imposed Islamic criminal law sanctions stand in clear contradiction with our constitution.
An example of a form of contradiction, inter alia: is that of pertaining to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. Article 8 ensures equality before the law. With varying punishments for non-Muslims and Muslims, for similar offences committed, a clear breach of Article 8 would result.
I wish not dwell into the contradictions between hudud and our constitution as much has been said. The contradictions are as lucid as they are real. However, what truly stands dreadfully worrying is the seemingly escalating trend of undermining the importance and worth of the fundamental law of the land - our constitution. Despite clear contradictions with our basic law, the proposing spectacle insists on an enactment. They exhort. At all costs.
A few have taken to the extent of proposing amendments to the constitution, to allow the enactment of a legislation that vehemently exhibits profound contradictions with the constitution of our land.
It is indeed staggering. Staggering how the constitution has been made to serve an appearance of a mere document that can be disregarded and amended if in disconformity with opinion and religion. Ought we be reminded, this is the constitution of our land we converse of.
It seems appear be that the proposing spectacle hold no regard to the constitution and its defining fundamentals. In a bid to ardently advance their interests further, they exhibit no reverence for the very fabric of our constitution.
With dubious misinterpretations of the constitution, they engage in what reflects seemingly to be a silent attempt at rewriting our constitution as it stands. We must not be misled. We must strive to uphold the purest nature of our constitution: one exhibiting distinct elements of secularism. Strive to defend the very constitution that our forefathers had destined for us to live by.
I say our constitution - for it is as much yours as it is mine. It provides for one and for all just as it protects for one and all, equal. It forms the very bedrock of this nation, its principles and the fabric, of its culturally diverse society.
Let us stand together. United as one: to defend, to protect and to uphold the fundamental law of our land - the Malaysian Constitution - as it is and as it ought, justly stand.