November 7th, 2015

Understanding the Federation of Malaysia

You may well know that Malaysia is a federation. Our country is made up of 13 individual states, forming a federation of states known as the Federation of Malaysia.

But what is a federation? A federation is a geopolitical entity in which smaller entities, such as territories or states, come together to form a bigger entity. A ‘federal’ government will govern this bigger entity, while the smaller entities will retain jurisdiction to enact laws and govern in certain defined areas.

In Malaysia, there is an institution that has the power to create laws for the whole of Malaysia. That institution is the Parliament of Malaysia. There is another institution that has the jurisdiction to carry out and govern the federation. This institution is the Government of Malaysia.

At the same time, each of the 13 states in Malaysia has its own state legislative assembly known as the Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) and also a state government tasked to govern each of the individual states.

The Federal Constitution divides the jurisdiction to enact laws between Parliament and the Dewan Undangan Negeri. The Constitution provides the type of laws that may be made by Parliament and those that may be made by the Dewan Undangan Negeri. These are the legislative jurisdictions of the Federation and the States.

There are 3 different lists in the Constitution when it comes to the legislative jurisdictions of the Federations and the States.

This 'Federal List' states the matters which are under the purview of Parliament. The 'State List' lists matters under the jurisdiction of the Dewan Undangan Negeri of the individual states. The ‘Concurrent List' meanwhile contains matters where both Parliament and the Dewan Undangan Negeri may legislate on.

Matters under the Federal List include foreign relations, defence, internal security, civil and criminal laws, citizenship, finance, trade, shipping, transport and communications, medical and health, welfare of Orang Asli and tourism.

Examples of matters in the State List include Islamic laws, land, agriculture and forestry, local government, state public works and state holidays.

The Concurrent List meanwhile has matters such as public welfare, scholarship, protection of wildlife, drainage, sports and culture, housing and heritage.

This Concurrent List allows Parliament and the Dewan Undangan Negeri to make laws for the same matters and so long as they are not in conflict with each other, they can exist and operate together. However, if there is a conflict, then Federal laws would prevail.

There are also instances where Parliament may enact laws under the State List. For example if there is a Proclamation of Emergency then Parliament may make laws for anything under the State List, except for those relating to Islamic laws, Malay customs and native customary laws of Sabah and Sarawak. Parliament may also make laws for matters in the State List for the purpose of uniformity of laws in several states on that particular matter.

The Dewan Undangan Negeri may also make laws under Federal jurisdiction, but only if Parliament has authorised the same. If not, the state will not be able to do so.

Lastly, the states of Sabah and Sarawak occupy a special position in the Federation compared to other states. This is provided for in the Constitution.

These 2 states may make laws on matters which are not found in the State List for other states. For example, they have powers to make laws to control the entry of persons into the respective states. That is why the governments of these states may prevent the entry of persons into those states from outside.

We must always remember that Malaysia was not formed through the coming together of 13 states to form a federation. Malaysia was formed when 3 nations (4 if we include Singapore); Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak came together to form a federation on 16 September 1963. That is why Sabah and Sarawak are in a different position compared to the other states.

We should also remember that although the Federation has more powers compared to the individual states when it comes to legislative jurisdiction, the Federation must still respect what is rightly within the jurisdiction of the states. To encroach into these boundaries would be to go against the Constitution itself.

Syahredzan Johan The STAR Online Home > Opinion > Online Exclusive A Humble Submission Monday November 2, 2015 MYT 9:59:00 AM

Expose corrupt practices

ETHICS and good moral values are essential if we are to have a clean, efficient and trustworthy administration.

Civil servants must develop a culture which will help pave the way for the emergence of not only a dedicated, efficient and ethical civil service but also one which emphasises management integrity.

To achieve this objective, it is necessary to have a work culture that incorporates honesty, trust, discipline, responsibility and transparency.

While we welcome the incorporation of noble values in the civil service, what really is important in the final analysis is to ensure all civil servants practice these noble values. Mere slogans and lip service are not going to help.

Corruption has been with us since the beginning of human organisation. Yet we cannot be unconcerned and complacent about corruption because it attacks not only the economic and social fabric of society but also the moral foundations of order. Above all, we must never allow corruption to be institutionalised.

Corruption is pervasive, affecting almost every aspect of life. From the person who wants his business application to be processed speedily to those who want to expedite their application for low-cost housing, bribery can take place. It manifests itself in so many other forms where the public interacts with the authorities.

It has been proven in many instances that an individual took bribes mainly because he is greedy and is presented with opportunities to commit corrupt practices. It is indisputable that greed is the motivating factor behind most, if not all, corrupt practices.

Officers involved in corruption are mostly those in charge of law enforcement. To eradicate such practices, all law enforcement agencies should have an internal audit system which can detect irregularities.

Efforts should continuously be made to instil integrity and ethical values among law enforcement officers because persons of high integrity are not likely to be involved in corrupt practices whatever the circumstances.

All public administrators and civil servants must discharge their duties with integrity and honesty, besides being ethical and transparent.

I believe the inculcation of noble and ethical values accompanied by adherence to the oath of good governance are the most effective ways to fight corrupt practices in the civil service.

We need to build strong mechanisms which will subject corrupt practices to public scrutiny.

The information age is providing citizens and non-governmental organisations with powerful tools and information to combat local corruption.

Likewise, the global economy puts tremendous pressure on local governments to rid themselves of factors that reduce their competitiveness. Corruption is clearly a factor that can and does reduce the attractiveness of one community over another.

The movement towards decentralisation, accountability and transparency at the local government level is gathering momentum. In this context, the enormous costs of corruption are being explicitly recognised, as is the urgent need to correct governmental malfeasance.

Corruption is an entrenched symptom of misgovernance often reflected in patronage, red tape, ineffective revenue-generating agencies, large-scale bribery in procurement and failure to deliver services to city dwellers.

But when local officials in charge of public resources are accountable to their citizens, decision-making can become participatory. In turn, a participatory process can be the cornerstone of a national strategy to reform “sick” institutions and improve the welfare of city dwellers.

The challenge facing local governments is to develop innovative ways of building effective, accountable, and transparent systems.

Cities that implement and sustain accountable and transparent systems as well as good governance reform programmes benefiting the urban dwellers can expect to attract financial and human resources and become showcases of exemplary practices to be emulated nationwide.

In the final analysis, preventing corruption helps to raise city revenues, improve service delivery, stimulate public confidence and participation, and win public support.

In line with the creation of transparent local authorities, steps must be taken to instil moral and ethical values among their staff.

This is essential as honesty, sincerity and discipline are important elements every civil servant must possess when discharging his or her duties to the public.

Morals and ethics are not only important to the civil service but also to all sectors of Malaysian society. This is because graft and other forms of malpractices are also evident in the corporate world, non-governmental organisations and even voluntary organisations.

The answer really lies in every Malaysian as to whether he or she is prepared to make honesty and integrity a way of life.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye Kuala Lumpur The STAR Home > Opinion > Letters Friday November 6, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM