New government must commit to uphold rule of law – Bar

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The Malaysian Bar extends its felicitations to Ismail Sabri Yaakob on being sworn in as the ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

He now helms a country that is sorely in need of wise leadership, sound administration and good governance, and evidence-based expertise to manage the Covid pandemic and its devastating effects on the people and the economy.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the newly appointed prime minister and parliamentarians to prioritise the health and welfare of the rakyat, to work towards political stability, and to form a strong and stable government in order to effectively tackle the crises that confront us.

Economic recovery and the stabilisation of our healthcare system are crucial to prevent more lives from being lost and more people from being pushed into poverty. Political strife must be put aside for the nation to recover – unity, solidarity, and compassion are what is needed during these times.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the new administration to commit to uphold the rule of law and the Federal Constitution. It is critical for there to be public confidence in, and legitimacy of, the new administration in order that public health measures can be carried out fairly and effectively.

The principles of the rule of law – such as legality, equality, accountability and transparency, and access to justice – operate just as much during a crisis as they do in ordinary times. It provides a threshold of legitimacy and validity for the actions taken by the administration in response to the pandemic, requiring that such powers are exercised in good faith and equitably.

Constitutional rights – such as freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly – must be upheld and not sacrificed wantonly by reason of the Covid pandemic. We urge the authorities to work together with civil society and the rakyat to facilitate the exercise of these rights, in a manner that complies with the requisite health and safety directions. The rule of law and protection of the exercise of human rights are inextricably linked – a commitment to respect the rule of law, is a commitment to respect and protect human rights.

The rule of law also includes democratic reforms. Principles of legality, equality, accountability, and transparency similarly apply to parliamentary procedures and practices. Respect for the rakyat requires respect for the rakyat’s representatives in Parliament. Voices of the minority and views of the Opposition must be accorded their rightful place in the halls of democracy and corridors of power. The perpetuation and misuse of one-sided parliamentary practices and procedures will contribute to the failure of Parliament and a loss of trust and confidence in our democracy.

Reforms are also required in our constituency delineation procedures to protect the principle of “one person, one vote, one value”. Promised and approved improvements in our voter registration processes need to be immediately implemented.

The hopes of the Malaysian Bar are the same as those of the rakyat — for the nation to heal from the Covid crisis, rebuild confidence in our political system and recover economic growth, and for shared and inclusive prosperity for all.

The Malaysian Bar will continue to work with the government of the day, regardless of political party or persuasion, to uphold democracy and the rule of law, and to strenuously protect and defend the fundamental freedoms and rights of the people. We will continue to play our statutorily mandated role to ‘build back better’ in all spheres of Malaysian life and society.

AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar.

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only

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