Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do Ministers speak on behalf of the Cabinet? Government? - or merely expressing a personal opinion

Cabinet Ministers represent the UMNO-led BN government, and they must stop making comments in that capacity on the "Allah" issue. When they do, one wonders whether their comments are on behalf of the Cabinet or on behalf of the Ministries they represent.

Remember that after the High Court decision, we were told by a Minister in the Prime Ministers Department that the government was going to appeal the decision. The relevant Minister should have been the Home Minister or the Prime Minister.

Now, we have another news report where another Minister is making a comment, and a rather stupid suggestion. He says that he is supporting a comment be a Sabah leader...but really which Sabah  leader is this? Is this Clarence Bongkos Malakun? If yes, who is he? Justice of the Peace - are they not the Commissioners of Oaths?

He suggests that the Herald edition for Sabah and Sarawak be permitted to use the word 'Allah' but not the issue meant for Peninsular Malaysia. The flaw is that the word "Allah" is used by Christians in Malaysia, not just Sabah and Sarawak...

The PM, the Cabinet and its Ministers should remember that they are the PM, Cabinet and Ministers of all Malaysians, and not just the 60% Muslims in Malaysia.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom has urged church leaders to adopt the same approach as a Sabah leader, who urged Christians to drop the claim to use the name "Allah".

Jamil Khir BaharomHe said this would help maintain peace and security and ease tension over the claim to use "Allah" by the Herald, the Catholic weekly magazine.

"I urge them to be wary and responsible toward peace and security in Malaysia. Other church leaders must have deep understanding of the situation and history (on the use of 'Allah') in the country," he said when commenting on a statement by a Sabah Christian leader urging Herald to drop the claim for the sake of harmony and security.

The Malaysian Justice of the Peace Council president Clarence Bongkos Malakun said Christians in Malaysia should not follow those in Indonesia on the use of "Allah" but to abide by the federal constitution. Bongkos Malakun is also deputy president of the Sabah Kadazandusun Culture Association.

On the spate of firebomb attacks on churches, Jamil Khir said it should not have happened.

"We still don't know who were responsible for them but we can't hurt one another as it is a teaching of Islam," he said.

Jamil Khir said the inter-faith dialogue would be continued and stepped up so that the people would have better understanding of religions.

- Bernama - Malaysiakini, 11/1/2010,
Minister asks Christians to drop 'Allah' claim

Justice of Peace - we have hardly heard any comments from them for a very long time, and there has also been suggestions recently whether we still need these Justice of Peace?

JPs are becoming extinct. Once a prestigious title just a rung below datukship, the Justices of the Peace, or JPs as they are popularly known, have somewhat lost their prestige and reputation.
The JP appointment is no longer as sought after as it used to be and most rulers have stopped appointing JPs to the extent that councils of JPs in several states have called for a review.
Johor has not appointed JPs for the past 36 years, Penang (19 years), Pahang (nine years) and Selangor (eight years).

The problem in Johor it seems is the most acute, where there are only 15 JPs aged at least 80 still around. While in Penang, the state council for JPs has urged the new state government to seriously consider its appeal for the appointment of new JPs this year.

The president of the Council of the Justices of the Peace, Penang, Datuk Yeoh Chip Tong, said its membership has shrunk to barely 100 people.

Yeoh said less than 10 per cent of the members were below 60, while those above 80 made up about 40 per cent.

This is despite the fact that the Penang council is deemed the most active in the country.

He said the shortage of new JPs had hampered the council's efforts to carry out activities such as monthly prison visits.

Yeoh concurred that the role of the JPs today had been relegated to sitting on school and prison boards and their prestige had somewhat become questionable.

However, he maintained that JPs were still needed.

He said there was a great need for JPs to help in community activities and to assist people in matters such as certification of documents of students, forwarding complaints to the relevant authorities and securing aid for the less fortunate and victims of natural catastrophes.

He said JPs provided a service to the community and their role should not be underestimated and unappreciated.

However, as the JPs councils clamour for new appointments, questions are also being raised over the need of having JPs at all.

Penang Bar Committee chairman Mureli Navaratnam said unlike awards like the PJK, AMN, Datuk and Tan Sri, the JP, as has been pointed out, is not a title bestowed on individuals for their contributions to society.

It is actually an appointment of what is supposed to be individuals who are credible, honest and trustworthy.

The person must not have any criminal record or be a bankrupt and should ideally have a working knowledge of law.

However, this is not a prerequisite, although the National Council of Justice of the Peace, Malaysia, has proposed this as an amendment to Subordinate Courts Act.

Questions over the relevancy of JPs have arisen as their historical functions have been replaced by full-time, legally-qualified magistrates.

Nowadays, Justices of the Peace are essentially titles of honour given by the government to community leaders and other individuals. (former deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk M. Kayveas once even went as far as to say that some JPs were awarded the title due to political connections.)

Mureli said the appointment of new JPs should depend on whether there was a need to have new ones.

He feels that the JPship should not be used to honour individuals for their contributions to society because there were other titles for that purpose.

"We have to ensure that the JP appointment remains just that, which is a Justice of the Peace.

"The prestige of the JP must be maintained and appointment confined to serve the purpose of contributing to justice."

However, he acknowledged that many JPs could not be automatically appointed as second-class magistrates as they were not legally qualified, to the point that some were even illiterate.

On the relevancy of JPs in today's society, Mureli said there did not seem to be much use of JPs of late, especially since there was already other judiciary officials to handle legal matters.

"Maybe we need to look into ways of using them more. Those who are capable can be used to help clear backlog of small cases and this is something that can be looked into."- New Straits Times, 14/6/2008, Do we still need Justices of the Peace?

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