Last year, in this very column, I shared my wishes for 2011.

My first wish was for greater constitutional awareness. While there is no way of measuring this, at least through the MyConstitution campaign organised by the Bar Council, we are able to gauge that the general public do want more knowledge about their Federal Constitution. The numerous activities undertaken by the campaign throughout 2011 is testament to this.

My second wish for 2011 was for the abolishment of draconian laws in the form of the Internal Security Act 1960 (“ISA”), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (“EO”) and Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measure) Act 1985. The three are known as the ‘unholy trinity’ of detention without trial legislation.

We will thankfully see the end of two – the ISA will be abolished sometime in March 2012, and the emergency declarations of 1966, 1969 and 1977 have meanwhile been annulled by Parliament on Dec 20, 2011. Six months thereafter, the EO will cease to have legal effect.

However, we have been told that legislations to replace these draconian laws are being drafted, and will continue provide for detention without trial. So even with the abolishment of the ISA and the annulment of the emergency declarations, we must remain vigilant to ensure the draconian nature of these legislations do not manifest itself in new laws. Preventive detention – whilst being a feature of many jurisdictions these days – must be for a specific purpose; terrorism. It cannot be a carte blanche power to punish extra-judiciously. We must also ensure that the injustices of the past can no longer be repeated in the future.

My third wish for 2011 was for better inter-faith relations, to mend the interfaith relationship that took a beating in 2010. Unfortunately, this wish of mine did not materialise. Christians in particular bore the brunt of the inter-religious aggravation. They have been accused with collaborating with communists to topple the government and have been accused of attempting to convert Muslims through a ‘Christianisation’ movement (gerakan Kristianisasi in Bahasa Melayu).

The climax of these tensions was the Jais raid on a church earlier this year as well as the Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun) assembly of Muslim NGOs, purportedly to ‘defend the Islamic faith’ from this christianisation.

I will renew my wish for better interfaith relations in 2012 and in this I am heartened to see that the Christians of Malaysia have remained true to their teachings by reacting with calm, turning their collective cheeks and still loving their neighbours. There are also many Muslims who denounce this demonisation of their fellow countrymen. In this, I remain hopeful.

My last wish for 2011 was if general elections were called, we would vote for the right leaders to represent us in Parliament. 2011 came and will end without the dissolution of Parliament, but the elections will almost certainly be in 2012.

My hope will be carried over to 2012, that while we may not see less politics, we will at least see a more dynamic, robust and meaningful Parliament after the 13th General Elections.

Looking ahead, I hope for a better year in 2012 for our nation. My first hope is that the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011, which has been passed by both Houses of Parliament, will be amended at the very least. A fortnight ago, I wrote of how this Bill is flawed and should be withdrawn. A withdrawal may be too late, but I truly hope that efforts are underway to amend the more severe aspects of the legislation.

I also hope that in 2012, we will finally see the proposed amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) to allow for the participation of students in politics. I have also wrote in this column of the landmark decision of the Court of Appeal in the UKM4 case and it is my wish that the decision will herald a new dawn in the movement to push for the constitutional rights of students, curtailed by the UUCA.

2012 will be an exciting year. The impending general elections and developments in the fundamental liberties of the rakyat will mean that socio-politico-legal commentators like me will have more than enough material to fill their columns. Let us hope that when I write again on this topic next year, it will reflect upon a good year for Malaysia.

*this article was first published on 29.12.2011 for The Star’s iPad application for my column, A Humble Submission

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