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Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia

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Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia defines various terms used in the Constitution. It has an important impact on Islam in Malaysia and the Malay people due to its definition of a Malay person under clause 2. It took effect after August 31, 1957 ("Merdeka Day" or "Independence Day") in West Malaysia, and took effect in Singapore and East Malaysia when they merged withMalaya in 1963. The article no longer applies to Singapore, as it declared independence from Malaysia in 1965 (Singapore is also a secular state); however, it does affect the legal status of Malay Singaporeans when they enter Malaysia.

Definition of a Malay[edit]
The article defines a Malay as a Malaysian citizen born to a Malaysian citizen who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, adheres to Malay customs, and is domiciled in Malaysia or Singapore. As a result, Malay citizens who convert out of Islam are no longer considered Malay under the law. Hence, the Bumiputra privileges afforded to Malays under Article 153 of the Constitution, the New Economic Policy (NEP), etc. are forfeit for such converts. Likewise, a non-Malay Malaysian who converts to Islam can lay claim to Bumiputra privileges, provided he meets the other conditions.

Full text[edit]
Wikisource has original text related to this article: Constitution of Malaysia

1. The Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance, 1948, as in force immediately before Merdeka Day shall, to the extent specified in the Eleventh Schedule, apply for the interpretation of this Constitution as it applies for the interpretation of any written law within the meaning of that Ordinance, but with the substitution of references to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for references to the High Commissioner. 2. In this Constitution, unless the context otherwise requires, the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them, that is to say -

"Aborigine" means an aborigine of the Malay Peninsula; "Act of Parliament" means a law made by Parliament; "Attorney General" means the Attorney General of the Federation;

"Borrow" includes the raising of money by the grant of annuities or by entering into any arrangement requiring the payment before the due date of any taxes, rates, royalties, fees or any other payments or by entering into any agreement whereby the Government has to repay or refund any benefits that it has enjoyed under that agreement, and "loan" shall be construed accordingly;

"Casual vacancy" means a vacancy arising in the House of Representatives or a Legislative Assembly otherwise than by a dissolution of Parliament or of the Assembly;

"Chief Minister" and "Menteri Besar" both mean the president, by whatever style known, of the Executive Council in a State;

"Citizen" means a citizen of the Federation; "Civil List" means the provision made for the maintenance of the Yang di-Pertua Agong, his Consort, a Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri out of public funds;

"Commonwealth country" means any country recognised by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be a Commonwealth country; and "part of the Commonwealth" means any Commonwealth country, any colony, protectorate or protected state or any other territory administered by the Government of any Commonwealth country;

"Concurrent List" means the Third List set out in the Ninth Schedule; "Debt" includes any liability in respect of any obligation to repay capital sums by way of annuities and any liability under any guarantee, and "debt charges" shall be construed accordingly;

"Elector" means a person who is entitled to vote in an election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly of a State;

"Enactment", where the expression occurs in the Eighth Schedule, means a law made by the Legislature of a State;

"Executive Council" means the Cabinet or other body, however called, which in the Government of a State corresponds, whether or not the members of it are Ministers, to the Cabinet of Ministers in the Government of the Federation (and in particular includes the Supreme Council in Sarawak);

"Existing law" means any law in operation in the Federation or any part thereof immediately before Merdeka Day;

"Federal law" means -

(a) any existing law relating to a matter with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws, being a law continued in operation under Part XIII, and

(b) any Act of Parliament;

"Federal List" means the First list set out in the Ninth Schedule;

"Federal purposes" includes the purposes of the Federation in connection with matters enumerated in the Concurrent List and with any other matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws otherwise than by virtue of Article 76;

"Foreign country" does not include any part of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland; "Governor" (Repealed). "Law" includes written law, the common law insofar as it is in operation in the Federation or any part thereof, and any custom or usage having the force of law in the Federation or any part thereof;

"Legislative Assembly" means the representatives assembly, however called, in the Legislature of a State (and in particular includes the Council Negri in Sarawak), but except in the Eighth Schedule includes also a Legislative Council, however called;

"Legislative Council" (Repealed); "Legislature", in relation to a State, means the authority having power under the Constitution of that State to make laws for the State;

"Local rates" (Repealed); "Malay" means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom and -

(a) was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or was on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or

(b) is the issue of such a person;

"Member of the administration" means, in relation to the Federation, a person holding office as Minister, Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary or Political Secretary and, in relation to a State, a person holding a corresponding office in the State or holding office as member (other than an official member) of the Executive Council;

"Merdeka Day" means the thirty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven; "Office of profit" means any whole time office in any of the public services, and includes -

(a) the office of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court; and (b) the office of Auditor General; and (c) the office of a member of the Election Commission, of a member (other than an ex officio member) of a Commission to which Part X applies, or of a member (other that an ex officio member) of any corresponding Commission established by the Constitution of a State; and

(d) any other office not specified in Clause (3) of Article 132 which may be declared by Act of Parliament to be an office of profit;

"Pension rights" includes a superannuation rights and provident fund rights;

"Public authority" means the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Ruler or Yang di-Pertuan Negeri of a State, the Federal Government, the Government of a State, a local authority, a statutory authority exercising powers vested in it by federal or State law, any court or tribunal other than the Supreme Court and High Courts, or any officer or authority appointed by or acting on behalf of any of those person, courts, tribunals or authorities;

"Remuneration" includes salary or wages, allowances, pension rights, free or subsidised housing, free or subsidised transport, and other privileges capable of being valued in money;

"Rule Committee" (Repealed); "Ruler" -

(a) in relation to Negeri Sembilan, means the Yang di-Pertuan Besar acting on behalf of himself and the Ruling Chiefs in accordance with the Constitution of that State; and

(b) in the case of any State, includes, except in Article 181 (2) and the Third and Fifth Schedules, any person who in accordance with the Constitution of that State exercises the functions of the Ruler;

"State" means a State of the Federation' "State law" means -

(a) any existing law relating to a matter with respect to which the Legislature of a State has power to make law, being a law continued in operation under Part XIII; and

(b) a law made by the Legislature of a State;

"State List" means the Second List set out in the Ninth Schedule; "State purposes" includes, in relation to any State, the purposes of the State in connection with matters enumerated in the Concurrent List and with any other matters with respect to which the Legislature of the State has power to make laws;

"Tax" includes am impost or a duty but does not include a rate levied for local purposes or a fee for services rendered;

"The Federation" means the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957;

"Written law" includes this Constitution and the Constitution of any State; "Yang di-Pertuan Negeri" means the Head of State in a State not having a Ruler.

3. Unless the context otherwise requires, any reference in this Constitution to a specified Part, Article or Schedule is a reference to that Part or Article of, or that Schedule to, this Constitution, any reference to a specified chapter, clause, section or paragraph is a reference to that chapter of the Part, that clause of the Article, that section of the Schedule, or that paragraph of that clause or section, in which the reference occurs; and any reference to a group of Articles, sections or divisions of Articles or sections shall be construed as including both the first and the last member of the group referred to.

4. Where under this Constitution a person is required to take and subscribe an oath, he shall be permitted, if he so desires, to comply with that requirement by making and subscribing an affirmation. 5. References in this Constitution to the Federation and its States and to the territories of the Federation or any of its States, and to any officer holding office under the Federation or any authority or body in or for the Federation shall be construed -

(a) in relation to any time after the coming into operation of the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1948, and before Merdeka Day, as references to the Federation established under that Agreement, and the States and Settlements comprising it and to the territories of that Federation or any of the States and Settlements comprising it, and to the corresponding office holding office thereunder or the corresponding authority or body in or for that Federation;

(b) in relation to any time before the coming into operation of the said Agreement (so far as the context admits) as references to such of the countries, territories, offices, authorities or bodies for the construction of references to which provision was made by Clause 135 (2) of the said Agreement, as may be appropriate.

6. References in this Constitution to any period shall be construed, so far as the context admits, as including references to a period beginning before Merdeka Day. 7. References in this Constitution to the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1948, shall be construed, except where the context otherwise require, as references to that Agreement as in force immediately before Merdeka Day.

Law from Malaysian Perspective


In a society with certain structure it is definite that different individuals will have different opinions which have to be coordinated by law. Laws is a type of glue stick that holds society together, so that they can live peacefully. For example, law of criminal helps to safeguard the personal property and lives. Law of contract helps to ensure people keep on their promises Law protects basic individual rights and freedom such as liberty, equality and freedom of speech. It prevents individuals in powerful position from taking an unfair advantage of other people. Law ensures a safe and peaceful society, in which individual rights are preserved. Certain governments have cruel laws, where police and armies arrests and punishes people without a trial in the court. Law applies to every persons, public authorities, governmental departments, private bodies, profit making organizations as well as non-governmental organizations. In Malaysia, the legislative body which is made up of Lower House and the Upper house, both which consists of representatives of people, makes law. The executive body which is headed by YDPA, who is assisted by Prime Minister, enforces the law, so that everyone will follow. The judiciary body judges law. These three bodies form the Malaysian government. The law, however, is an independent entity by itself although it is made, enforced and judged by the government. Law changes as needs of the society changes. As a result, it appears to be unjust or unfair at times, for the aim of attaining justice in Malaysian society. The government and law should act in the interest of society and these bodies should not stand distinctively from the society in order to maintain peace and balance of power between people and government. But, whatever the case may be, the law can only proved to be supreme only by society. People have to know their scope of rights and freedom granted to them by government and must be able to demand for their rights whenever injustice takes place. Malaysian sources of law comprises laws that have emerged from three significant periods; the Malaysian history originating from Malacca Sultanate to spread of Islamic religion to Malacca and South east Malaysia and finally the colonial rule of British over the Malayan land which led to the sources of Malaysian as can be seen today. Basically, it contains the historical lessons and values, the decision held previously by the superior courts and the customary rules of diversified ethnics in Malaysia. The source of law can be classified into written law, unwritten law and Muslim law. Written law is the law written and gazetted to be followed by the individuals of a State. It is made up of Federal constitution, State constitutions, legislations and subsidiary legislations. Federal Constitution is said to be the highest legal authority of land. The Constitution was drafted by the Reid Commission in 1956 with 5 representatives from India, British, Pakistan and Australia. The Constitution came into force following the independence on August 31, 1957. It consists of 15 Parts, 183 Articles and 13 Schedules. Article 4(1) state that the constitution is the supreme law of the federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this constitution shall, to the maximum extent of inconsistency, be void. But, Article 159 and 161E provides provisions to allow the constitution to be amended with the condition of 2/3rds majority in both houses of Parliament agreeing to the amendment. Some may think that the constitution is not supreme because of this conflict. The constitution amended based on the needs of the current situation of the country and the people to bring benefits, holiness and and goodness to the public. This is why the constitution is still placed in a high position. It lays the fundamental rights of individuals and the scope of powers of the Federal and State governments. The government, even though having much authority, is still bound by the Federal Constitution and cannot go against it, e.g. the government cannot take away a person's citizenship without any reason, force people to work without pay or imprison a person not according to the laws. If any person feels that the government has taken action against him or her wrongfully, he or she can take the government to court. State Constitution is the same as Federal Constitution, except it is set by the states in Malaysia. The 8th schedule of the Federal Constitution mentions certain provisions that are to be included in the State Constitutions such as state executive members, finance, the state legislative assembly, roles of the Sultan or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, and etc. Article 71 mentions that all state constitutions must contain their provisions,

otherwise the Parliament can enforce those provisions or abolish any provision in the state constitution that contradict with those provisions. Legislations are the laws that are established by the Parliaments at federal level and by the State Legislative Assemblies at the state level. In Malaysia, the legislative gets its authority from the Federal Constitution. It mentions the scope of the Parliament and the State Assembly. If the Parliament (or any State Assembly) makes a law which is not in its scope of authority or contradicts with the constitution, the courts can declare that as null and void. On the other hand, the courts would have to use laws made by the Parliament or State Assembly if the law is regarding issues related to their authority and conforms to the constitution. Article 74 of Federal Constitution states that parliament may make law with referring to matters provided in the federal list and state legislatives may make law with referring to matter provided in the state list. Concurrent list is in the scope of enactment by both parliament and state legislatives. State list, federal list and the concurrent list are contained in the Ninth Schedule of Federal Constitution. If there are any contradictions between federal and state laws, the federal law shall prevail and state law is void to the scope of inconsistency. This was provided by Article 75 of Federal Constitution. Subsidiary Legislations are made by the persons or bodies who are authorized to by the legislatures. According to Interpretation Act 1967, subsidiary legislations are defined as rules, regulations, by laws, order, notifications made under legislations. Legislatures provide the basic law. It has insufficient time to expand the scope of law which can be applied by the bodies and persons to govern day-to-day matters. So the authority is delegated to them to make their own laws, but there should not be any contradictions between the subsidiary legislations and the basic law or Federal Constitution. If such, the subsidiary legislation can be void. There is an exception to this. Parliament may pass the power to legislate any subsidiary legislation during emergency, even if there are any contradictions with the Federal Constitutions involved, due to some exception in Article 150 of Federal Constitution. The related case is Eng Keock Cheng v. Public Prosecutor. In this case, Eng Keock Cheng who was convicted committed 2 offences during emergency period and was ordered to put to death. He appealed on the ground that there were neither a preliminary enquiry nor a jury adopted by High Court which were required under Criminal Procedure Act and claimed that the procedures set out in Emergency (Criminal Trial) Regulations 1964 was invalid as it contradicts with Article 8 of Federal Constitution. It was held that Parliament may pass the power to legislate any subsidiary legislation during emergency, even if there are any contradictions with the Federal Constitutions involved, due to some exception in Article 150 of Federal Constitution. The appeal was dismissed. Unwritten laws are laws that are not enacted and not found in any constitution. It comprises of English law (Common Law and Equity), judicial decisions and customs. Common Law is a major part of many States, especially Commonwealth countries. It is mainly made up of non statutory laws, which are the precedents derived from judgments given on real cases by judges. Law of Equity resolves disputes between persons by referring to principles of fairness, equality and justness. In these cases, nothing was done against the law by the parties to dispute, but their rights are in conflict. Thus, it is different from law; both the Statutory Law enacted by Parliament and State Legislatives and Common Law which consists of precedents and opinions given on real cases by judges. Section 3(1)(a) Civil Law Act 1956 states that courts in Peninsular Malaysia should apply Common Law and the Law of Equity as administered in England on 7th April 1956. Section 3(1)(b) and Section 3(1)(c) of Civil Law Act 1956 states that courts in Sabah and Sarawak should apply common law and law of equity together with the statutes of general application as administered in England on 1st December 1951 and 12th December 1949 accordingly. But it is not stated that the Common Law and Law of Equity in Malaysia should remain unmodified and follow the same law as administered in England. Common law and law of equity in Malaysia should be developed and amended according to the local needs. In addition, these two laws should also take into account of changes in these laws in England. However, Malaysian government can set their own scope for the amended or repealed Common Law and Law of Equity in Malaysia.

In the case Commonwealth of Australia v. Midford (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., it was held that the doctrine of sovereign or crown immunity which was developed in English Common Law after 1956 should apply in Malaysia. It was said that any developments in English Common Law after 1956 should apply in Malaysia. In the case Smith Kline & French Laboratories Ltd. v. Salim (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., it was held that the courts have the authority to put aside any Common Law or Law of Equity which cannot be applied in Malaysia. In the case Jamil bin Harun v. Yang Kamsiah & Another, it was decided that courts have the authority to decide whether to follow English Law (common law and law of equity) or Federal law, considering the circumstances and the scope the written law permits to do so. In the case Karpal Singh v. Public Prosecutor, it was held that the criminal offences in Malaysia were provided by Criminal Procedure Code of Malaysia and therefore, there is no allowance for English law to apply. There are certain boundaries as to the application of Common Law and Law of Equity in Malaysia. Common law can apply in the absence of local legislation. Local law is regarded highly that the English law. The English law is only meant to fill in the lacuna, in which the local legislation is not present. Only the relevant part which is suited to the local needs and circumstances applies. Malaysia is made up of different races, each possessing their own customs, different from English law. The entire importation of English law means that the sovereignty of local race is affected. The case law related to the boundaries of application is,Syarikat Batu Sinar Sdn. Bhd. v. UMBC Finance Bhd. In this case, problem of double financing occurred when first purchasers (UMBC Finance Bhd.) indorsement of ownership claim was not included in the registration card of vehicle. UMBC tried to repossess the vehicle. The plaintiff sued UMBC, claiming that defendants were not entitled to the vehicle. It was held that the English law requires the indorsement of ownership claim in registration card, but the law in Peninsular Malaysia does not really require the indorsement to be attached with the registration card of vehicle. The law regarding the indorsement of ownership claims in Malaysia which applies to the local circumstances has to be distinguished from the English law. Two components of English law are English commercial law and English land law.

English Commercial Law is provided by the section 5(1) and section 5(2) of Civil Law Act 1956. The principles of English commercial law apply in Peninsular Malaysia except Penang and Malacca in absence of local legislations Section 5(1). This includes laws regarding partnership, banking, principals and agents, life and insurance and so on. There is no entire dependence on English commercial law as only certain principles apply and many local statutes have been inserted to the English Commercial Law. English Commercial Law applies in Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak as the law administered in these states will be the same as law administered in England, in the like case at corresponding period Section 5(2). These states are still dependant on the English Commercial Law. In the case Koon Thean Soong v. Tan Eng Nam, it was held that English law of partnership was inapplicable as there is a local statute governing the partnership in Malaysia, which is Contract (Malay State) Ordinance. As for the English Land Law, none of the English Land Law concerning the tenure, conveyance, assurance of or succession to any estate, right or interest therein applies in Malaysia. In Malaysia, National Land Code is the law that governs the land matters and there is no any allowance for English land law, unless the National land code applies it for the judicial comity. The case related is United Malayan Banking Coperation Bhd & Another v. Pemungut Hasil Tanah, Kota Tinggi. In this case, Johor State Authority transferred land to a proprietor with certain conditions and annual rent as consideration. The rent and penalties on arrear payments were not settled. Johor State Authority served a notice to forfeiture the land as the right of consequence of the offence. The appellant, Johor State Authority and the proprietor, appealed and they were granted relief against forfeiture. Collector of Land revenue appealed to federal court and the appellants appealed to Privy Council. It was held that English land law concerning the relief against forfeiture is inapplicable in Malaysia. Relief against forfeiture means that order for forfeiture is cancelled and it was provided by Malaysian National Land Code.

Judicial decisions are based on doctrine of binding precedent. Precedents are the decisions made by judges previously in similar circumstances. There are two types of precedents. Mandatory precedent is applied when the decisions of superior court are binding on lower courts or the superior courts are bound by their own decisions previously. However, the decisions of lower courts are not binding over superior courts. The lower courts must refer to the mandatory precedents of superior courts. However, judge of superior court will distinguish a case before him and the cases laying down the precedents and can decide not to follow the mandatory precedent if he thinks that the mandatory precedent is not related to the case before him. From this, an original precedent is formed. Persuasive precedent is a precedent which is useful or relevant to a case. It is not mandatory for the judges to apply persuasive precedent. Persuasive precedent may be binding on lower courts if judges of superior court choose to apply persuasive precedent. Customs are another important source of unwritten law. Customs are inherited from one generation to another generation. Every race has its own customs. Chinese and Hindus customs are governed by Chinese and Hindu Customary Law. Natives in Sabah and Sarawak have their own customary law which relates to the land and family matters. Adat applies to malays. There are two types of Adat; Adat Perpatih and Adat Temenggung. Adat Perpatih applies in Negeri Sembilan and Naning in Malacca. The unique characteristic of Adat Perpatih is matrilineal form of organization. It concerns with matters such as land tenure, lineage, inheritance and election of members of lembaga and YDP. Matrilineal is a system in which one belongs to mother's lineage; it generally involves the inheritance of property, names or titles from mother to daughters. Adat Temenggung applies in other states. It is based on the characteristic of patrilineal form of organization. Patrilineal is a system in which one belongs to father's lineage; it generally involves the inheritance of property, names or titles from father to sons. After the establishment of Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, the family law has been given enforcement on matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance. As a result, the Chinese and Hindu Customary Laws have lost its effect as an important source of unwritten law in Malaysia. Islamic law, which is only applicable to Muslims, is enacted under the Federal Constitution. The state legislatures have the power and are permitted to make Islamic laws pertaining to persons professing the Islam religion. Such laws are administered by separate court system, Syariah Courts. State legislature also has the jurisdiction over the constitution, organization and procedures of Syariah Courts. Now, Islamic laws are increasingly applied in banking and land laws other than applied to family matters and estate matters. The YDPA is the head of Islam in his home state, Penang, Malacca, Sabah, Sarawak and Federal Territories. The head of Islam of other States is Sultan