Language change ‘just an idea’

GEORGE TOWN: There is no decision yet to replace the English version of the Federal Constitution with the Bahasa Malaysia translation as the authoritative text, says Ramkarpal Singh.

The Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) said as far as he was concerned, the matter was only an idea from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) that was mooted during the Opening of the Legal Year 2023 last month.

“Well, I think the AGC was only mooting the idea. At this moment, there has been no decision as to whether this will actually become a policy,” he said during the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency’s Chinese New Year open house at Dewan Pasar Terubong Jaya yesterday.

Ramkarpal said any changes to the Federal Constitution must be made with reference to the background of the Constitution and the Reid Commission back in 1956, which formed the basis of the current constitution.

He said if the changes were made, it might cause confusion as there had always been issues of interpretations of various words, which have far reaching implications such as the word “parent” (“ibubapa” in Bahasa Malaysia) when it came to citizenship laws.

It was reported that Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun had said that the AGC would bring a proposal to the government for the prescription of the Federal Constitution in the national language to be the authoritative text, in line with Article 160B of the Federal Constitution.

Article 160B states that where the Federal Constitution has been translated into the national language, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may prescribe such national language text as authoritative.

It also states that if there is any conflict or discrepancy between the national language text and the English text in the Constitution, the national language shall prevail.

Idrus had said the Federal Constitution is the country’s cornerstone for the separation of powers.

However, constitutional law expert Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said the Federal Constitution was not a piece of subsidiary legislation that can be enacted, amended and enforced by the executive fiat, without parliamentary scrutiny.

He had said the delicate job requires a non-partisan approach, and a process of wide consultation with constitutional and language experts.

He had said that the translators must have knowledge of constitutional history and a deep understanding of the nuances of both Bahasa Malaysia and English.

Meanwhile, Ramkarpal, who is Bukit Gelugor MP, said he was happy that around 1,000 visitors from different walks of life attended the open house, with guests including Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng.

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