Sunday, 22 June 2014

Good Referees Good Judges

Sin Chew Jit Poh
23 June 2014
Have you been watching the World Cup? I have. So far I have caught most of the games. But now that the working week has started, I think the need to earn a living and age will mean that I won’t be able to watch many games. My stamina is not what it used to be.
Still, I am enjoying the whole thing. There have been some great surprises, particularly Holland’s demolition of Spain. A few magic moments, like Lionel Messi’s wonderful goal against Bosnia Herzegovina. And disappointments too like England’s loss to Italy despite playing a much more exciting and adventurous brand of football than what I was expecting from them.
The goal line technology has proven its worth as well, so that is a good development (despite Sepp Blater’s pathetic attempts to prevent the use of such equipment). But at the end of the day, the referees are still important and they still play a vital role to the competition.
Unfortunately, already we can see how the quality of referees may not be up to the task. The opening game between Brazil and Croatia is one such example. The opening Brazil goal from a penalty came from a very poor decision indeed. There is no way a foul was committed and the Brazilian player made a real meal out of the barest minimum of contact.
It is not very surprising that many cultures celebrate and revere good judges. In China Justice Bao is seen as a symbol of fair play and honesty. In Biblical tales, King Solomon is admired not just for his ability to chat with animals but also his great wisdom when called upon to settle disputes.
In a civilised society, there is a need that the final arbiter of a conflict has to be wise and fair. This can be seen very clearly when watching football matches where a poor decision can completely spoil a game. It is of course also important that in the “real world” our judges be seen to be just and fair.
This leads me to the request of Gobind Singh Deo that the Agong use the power vested in him by Article 130 of the Federal Constitution to get the Federal Court to make a decision once and for all on the status of this country; namely, is it a secular or an Islamic state. This request was made in the light of the statement by Jamil Khir Baharom that this country is not secular.
In a way this request makes me a little uncomfortable. The issue has actually already been decided by the Supreme Court (then the highest court in the land) in 1988 in a case called Che Omar Che Soh v Public Prosecutor. In that case the then Lord President Salleh Abbas said that no matter what one’s personal beliefs are the fact is that the country is a secular one.
Furthermore in the Reid Commission report, the Alliance in their feedback stated very clearly that just because Article 3 says that Islam is the religion of the federation, this does not mean that the Constitution is not secular.
Therefore to me, it is quite clear that the country is secular. Now Jamil Khir Baharom may want Malaysia to be an Islamic state that is his right. But what he cannot do is mix up his own aspirations with reality, and the reality is that Malaysia is secular. If you want to change its nature then there has to be either a major constitutional amendment or a complete change of constitution. There is a procedure for this and that will have to be followed. Simply making statements, even if it comes from the Prime Minister himself, does not make this country non-secular.
Now, should we get the court to settle this matter once and for all? Actually, there is no need because Che Omar Che Soh is still good law as it has not been overturned. A wise decision has already been made. What we need is for ministers to be taught what the law is and to stop making incorrect statements.

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