The writer with the legendary Lord Denning during his law student days in London. Denning quoted Fuller that ‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you’.
The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan
WHEN I was young, I would recite the Rukun Negara every morning during the primary school assembly.
When I was older, I would lead in the taking of this pledge as the head prefect of the secondary school every other week. This pledge-taking commenced in late 1970, a year after the May 13, 1969, incident. So this year is the golden jubilee of the Rukun Negara.
Raising our right hands, we would say these words aloud in Bahasa Malaysia:
“We, the citizens of Malaysia, pledge to concentrate all our energy and efforts on achieving these ambitions based on the following principles: Belief in God; Loyalty to the King and Country; Supremacy of the Constitution; Rule of Law; Courtesy and Morality.
What are these ambitions? They are:
> Achieving and fostering better unity amongst the society;
> Preserving a democratic way of life; > Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
> Ensuring a liberal approach towards the rich and varied cultural traditions; and
> Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
Of course, we would often spend most of our time memorising the five principles, overlooking the importance of the five national ambitions.
Then, we were also too young to know the significance of these principles, particularly supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law.
It was only when I began as a lawyer that I realised the true significance of these third and fourth fundamental principles.
The supremacy of the Constitution means our Parliament is not supreme, unlike the British Parliament, because our Federal Constitution is the supreme law in that even our Parliament cannot make, amend or unmake any law as it pleases. Article 4(1) of the Federal Constitution declares that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law passed which is inconsistent with the Constitution shall be void.
The principle of the rule of law, in simple terms, means no one is above or immune from the law. Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution also declares that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law. As Sultan Azlan Shah once said in a case when sentencing a prince, “This equality of all in the eyes of law minimises tyranny”.
It then behoves the public prosecutor and the judiciary to ensure that this nation is governed by the rule of law and not rule the law. Hence, the Attorney General is often called the independent guardian of public interest and protector of public rights; and the judiciary, the fountain of justice and the bulwark of our liberties.
This is obviously the ideal and a grandiloquent optimism. But in practice, a lot depends on the person who sits at these institutions.