Knowing your rights under the Constitution

Part II of the Federal Constitution sets out these basic rights, or fundamental liberties.

Article 5 of the Constitution provides for the right to life and personal liberty. This right to life and personal liberty cannot be deprived from him or her unless it is in accordance with law.

Right to life here should not mean mere animal existence. It includes the right to livelihood and the right to have quality of life.

Personal liberty meanwhile also includes other rights such as the right to privacy.

Article 6 is the prohibition against slavery and forced labour. Article 7 is right to be protected against retrospective criminal laws and repeated trials, or better known as ‘double jeopardy’.

Article 8 provides that all persons are equal before the law and is entitled

to equal protection of the law. The article also prohibits any form of discrimination on account of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender unless expressly allowed for by the Constitution itself.

Article 9 in general guarantees our freedom of movement in the country. A citizen cannot be restricted from excluded or banished from the Federation and can move freely across state borders.

However, Sabah and Sarawak, by virtue of their special may also enact laws to restrict

entry into their respective states.

Article 10 has 3 important parts.

The first is the freedom of speech and expression. The second is the right to peacefully assemble. The third is the right to form associations. However, Parliament may enact laws to restrict these rights as it deems necessary or expedient for specific

purposes, such as national security of public order.

Article 11 provides that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion. The right is also extended to the propagation of one’s religion; however, the states may control or restrict the propagation of any religion amongst persons professing the religion of Islam.

Article 12 provides for rights in respect of education. The provision provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth.

Last, but not least, Article 13 is the right to property, and provides that no person shall be deprived of property save in accordance with law.

No law shall provide for the compulsory acquisition or use of property without adequate compensation.

You can certainly live your life in this country without ever knowing any of your rights. There is no law that requires us to know them.

But imagine if you buy a new television set. It is equipped with the latest technology when it comes to home entertainment. You can take it out of the box, plug it into a power source and your cable television decoder and you can immediately watch television.

Throughout the lifetime of that television set, you need not read the manual at all to use the basic functions of the set.

But if you want to truly take advantage of what it comes with, or if you want to troubleshoot any problem that may arise, you must read and understand the manual.

Similarly, if we do not know of these rights, then we would not know that they have been violated. We will also not know how to fully assert our rights.

That is why it is important for us to know and understand our basic rights as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

Just like how we can only truly make full use of that television set once we know the manual, we too can realise and assert the full extent of our basic rights if we know Part II of the Federal Constitution.

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