Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Check and Balance in Government.

One of the most important aspects of a democratic govenrment is the the separation of power between the Executive branch of government. the Legislature and the Judiciary. Each has its own area of authority and the three check each other against any misuse of power, thereby maintaining a kind of balance so that no one branch of government becomes too strong such that it can force its will over the other branches. The 'separation of power' and 'check and balance' doctrine had been honoured by most democratic governments of the world, with the 'fusion of power' theory offering a midway alternative where the Executive had the power to appoint the non-elected members of the Legislature.

In the US, the Senate can hold the President in check, whilst the President can veto any legislature the Senate is trying to pass.In UK the Prime Minister can be questioned by both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament and any bill could be blocked or delayed by both. Question: Who can check( and balance the power of) the PM or even a Minister in Malaysia? Even the Yang Dipertuan Agong cannot block a bill from becoming a Law after Article... ( citation required).... of the Constituion was amended.

This question is raised because the doctrine of check and balance seemed to have disappeared from our democratic tradition. Without any serious checks on the powers of the Executive, the Legislature and even the Judiciary can be suspected of becoming very docile and inefffective. It is no surprise, therefore, that the independence of our Judiciary has today been questioned, not only by the political enemies of the Barisan-led government but also by the Judicial freternity itself - the lawyers and members of the Bar. When 'Justice must not only be done but seen to be done', any doubt on the independence and integrity of the Judiciary is most pernicious to the concept of fairness and justice in the country.

This issue must be addressed as quickly as possible if national confidence on its judicial system is to be restored. The uneasiness among the judicial fraternity members has been compounded by a sudden confrontational attitude which seems to have taken a grip on two of the most important law enforcement units of the government - the Police and the ACA. Senior members of the former are being questioned by the the top guns of the latter. So are some senior members of other law enforcement agencies such as the Customs and the Emigration, including senior members of the civil service. Where must we now turn to, to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done without any lingering doubt that an injustice has been committed?

Once public confidence on the independence of the Judiciary is eroded, the rule of law will be jeapordized at all levels. Even students begin to question the authority if their teachers, employees their employers, the public servants their political masters etc, etc. Where will it all end? The UMNO General Assembly which is now in progress should be examining this issue rather that just " the checking and balancing of ethnic interests" within Barisan. National integrity, unity and understanding can only be fostered within an enviroment where the law will protect the innocent and punish the guilty party, irrespective of
poitical affinity or status. Nobody is above the law but the Executive arm of government must ensure in the first place that the Judicial system is independent , beyond any shadow of a doubt!

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