Wisdom Foundation: Adopt democratic procedures if BM text were to replace English as authoritative version of Federal Constitution

Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau

KUCHING, Jan 17: Wisdom Foundation implores Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Malaysia’s Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) to adopt democratic and consultative procedures instead of relying entirely on Article 160B if they wish to initiate the transformation of the Federal Constitution’s authoritative text from the English language to Bahasa Malaysia.

According to a press statement issued today by Wisdom Foundation executive chairperson Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, he stated that on Jan 10, 2023, Idrus proposed for Malaysia’s Federal government to adopt a Bahasa Malaysia translation of the Federal Constitution as the authoritative version of the supreme law in the country in line with Article 160B.

“We recognise this desire for change as it is only right in principle for the supreme law in our country to be in the national language.

“This enables the majority of Malaysians, with their first language being Bahasa Malaysia, to better understand their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

“Nevertheless, this proposed change arouses deep concern, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, as the Bahasa Malaysia translation has not been presented to the Federal Parliament and the Assemblies of Sabah and Sarawak and subjected to adequate debate and scrutiny,” he said, adding that the Malay language is still in the process of developing better legal terms to bear the same nuances and meanings as in English.

He went on to say that the English language was used officially to create the 1957 Federal Constitution and in the signing of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) as the British government was also included in the proceedings.

“It is important to acknowledge that language develops over time; the English language used in that period bears nuances and intentions made specific to that particular context of time.

“Hence, a premature change of the authoritative text to Bahasa Malaysia would fail to reflect the true intention of the 1957/1963 Federal Constitution and MA63.

“A translation needs to reflect the rights of all Malaysians within the correct context and to uphold the original spirit and intended nuances during the creation of the 1957/1963 Federal Constitution,” he claimed.

Wilfred Madius continued, “It must also be remembered that our supreme law permits references to English laws if there are gaps or omissions in our statutes.

“Within the purview of the Borneo States, Article 161(3) of the Federal Constitution states that English remains as the language used in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak unless a change is approved by the Legislature of the State.”

In addition, he revealed that the Wisdom Foundation has recommended several measures to ensure a holistic approach should Idrus’s proposal move forward, such as having special Parliamentary and State Assembly proceedings to debate the super amendment to the Federal Constitution; setting up a Special Select Committee in Parliament to supervise the translation process; conducting meetings with relevant stakeholders to receive input and performing physical and/or virtual surveys to receive views from the general public.

“Given the paramount journey ahead in the nationalisation of the language of Malaysia’s supreme law, we also call upon all Malaysians to speak up and take immense measures in the change of the authoritative text language to protect our rights from dilution or extinguishment while avoiding unnecessary tensions that may arise from inaccurate translations,” he asserted. — DayakDaily