KUALA LUMPUR: The Malay version of the Federal Constitution will supersede the English text as the authoritative supreme law of the country when it receives Royal Assent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
While no date has been given for the enforcement, the Constitution was amended in 2001 to include Article 160B, which provides for the King to stipulate that the version in the national language was the valid text.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, launched the version yesterday, after years of reviewing, changes and fine-tuning by constitutional experts to put it at par with the status of the Malay language as the country’s authoritative and official language.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was present at the ceremony, held at the Royal Ballroom of the Palace of Golden Horses hotel here.
The 265-page national language text of the Federal Constitution contains the articles of the Constitution, list of amendments made between 1957 and 2003 and other amended articles.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Solicitor-General Datuk Zaitun Zawiyah Puteh said translations of the Federal Constitution started in the 1970s but it was not until last year that the Attorney-General’s office felt confident in the viability of the Malay text.
Asked why it took more than three decades to fully translate the Federal Constitution, she said:
“It is going to be the supreme law and we want it to be the authority in future. So, it must be very clear and correct. There were several changes and amendments previously.
“When the Yang di-Pertuan Agong prescribes it to be the authoritative text, in the event of discrepancies or inconsistencies between the Malay and English versions, the Malay text will prevail.”
Earlier, she read out a speech by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who traced the efforts to translate the Federal Constitution since the 1960s , starting with the first effort by former Lord President, the late Tun Mohd Suffian, when he was holding the post of judge.
“We are all aware that the Constitution that we now have was inherited from pre-Independence days. It was drafted after taking into account the views, suggestions and recommendations made by the leaders of that time.
“A commission, known as the Reid Commission was formed in 1956 to make a proposal and draft the Constitution that would be used by the newly-independent Federation of Malaya.
“The Federal Constitution was thus born on Aug 31, 1957,” said Gani, adding that at that time it was not done in Malay as it was based on the reports of the Reid Commission.
“The most significant fact here is, while the Constitution had gone through various amendments since 1957, the essence of the Constitution has remained; and that is, the creation of a Parliamentary democratic administration,” he said.
He said Sept 1, 1967 marked a milestone in the use of the Malay language, when the National Language Act dictated that all Bills, Acts of Parliament and its subsidiary laws, enactments and ordinances should be in both Malay and English but the Malay version will take precedence until and unless the King rules otherwise.
A section of the Act also provides the King with the power to stipulate that all translated text before 1967 to be the authoritative Malay text.
Gani said over time, the use of the national language expanded and many new terms were created. This resulted in the national language text of the Federal Constitution in 1972, produced by the A-G’s office and the Government printers of that time.
The A-G’s department then formed a committee to review the translated Constitution, seeking the advice of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka for certain appropriate and definitive terms.
“Although the committee took a long time to come out with the text, this was completed in 2002,” he said.
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