Past Events

[Book Launch & Meet the Author] Upholding the Federal Constitution: The Judicial Thoughts of Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus

About the Book

The book discusses key decisions of Justice Hishamudin Yunus, a retired Malaysian Court of Appeal Judge, who holds strongly to the principles of judicial independence. His commitment to judicial independence stems from his appreciation for an effective check and balance mechanism to ensure that the Executive and the Legislature act within their constitutional limits.

Justice Hishamudin regards law as an embodiment of justice, and his landmark decisions, which includes more than 700 judgements during his 23 years on the bench, gave life to many provisions in relation to fundamental rights in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. As an impartial judge, he ruled without fear or favour, always being true to his judicial oath to uphold the law and the Federal Constitution.

Moderator: Gareth Richards, Gerakbudaya Bookshop Penang
Launch by: Dato’ Seri Dr Anwar Fazal


About the Speaker

Dato’ Seri Mohd Hishamudin Yunus is a retired Judge of the Court of Appeal, Malaysia. Upon reading law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he began his career in the Malaysian Judicial and Legal Service in 1973 as a Magistrate in Kuala Lumpur. He went on to serve in other capacities, including as President of the Sessions Court, Deputy Public Prosecutor, State Legal Advisor for the state of Selangor, Deputy Parliamentary Draftsman and Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court. Presently, Justice Hishamudin is a Consultant with the law firm Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership with offices in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

This event is co-organised by Penang Institute and Gerakbudaya Bookshop Penang.

Key takeaways from the event:

During his insightful talk. Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus touched upon several key areas related to the Federal Constitution:

1. Role of the Judiciary: Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus emphasized the vital role of the judiciary in upholding the Federal Constitution and maintaining the rule of law. He highlighted he significance of interpreting the constitution without fear or favor, particularly in sensitive and political cases involving the government.

2. Fundamental Liberties: The speaker discussed his judgement and thoughts on various fundamental liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, rights to property, rights to equality, native rights and rights to life and liberty. He stressed the importance of safeguarding these fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

3. Judicial Independence: Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus expressed his commitment to upholding judicial independence and the oath of office as a judge. He acknowledged the challenges and sacrifices faced in maintaining an independent judiciary, while also highlighting the crucial support of his family, especially his beloved wife, Siti.

4. Lessons from Judicial Tragedy: Referencing the judicial tragedy of 1988, which resulted in the unjust dismissals and suspensions of respected judges, Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus urged Malaysians never to forget such a horrific episode. He emphasized the need for learning from past mistakes and ensuring that such incidents are never repeated, reinforcing the importance of an unbiased and fair judiciary.

5. Judicial Activism and Public Confidence: The speaker praised the federal court’s seminal pronouncements on matters such as the basic structure doctrine, separation of powers, upholding fundamental liberties, and the power of judicial review. These landmark judgements were seen as inspiring and instilling public confidence in the judiciary. Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus expressed hope that these developments would motive judges, lawyers and law students to fearlessly uphold the Federal Constitution.

6. Doctrine of Basic Structure: Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus discussed the doctrine of the basic structure of the constitution. He explained that while Parliament has the power to amend the constitution, there are limits to this power. The fundamental character and basic liberties of the constitution cannot be altered, even with a 2/3 majority in Parliament.

7. Separation of Powers: Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus underscored the significance of maintaining the separation of powers among the three branches of government executive, legislative and judiciary. This principle ensures check and balances and prevents the concentration of power.

8. Appointment of Judges: The speaker expressed the need for a transparent and impartial process in appointing judges. He highlighted the important of ensuring the independence and integrity of the judiciary by separating the role of the Attorney General from that of the Public Prosecutor.

9. Interpretation of the Constitution: Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus discussed the role of the judiciary in interpreting the constitution. He emphasized that judges have the responsibility to interpret laws in a manner that uphold justice and protects citizens’ right, without the power to amend or change the laws themselves.

In conclusion, Dato’ Seri Hishamudin Yunus emphasizes the crucial role of an independent judiciary in upholding the Federal Constitution, protecting fundamental liberties and ensuring the justice for all. He calls for a judiciary that interprets the constitution without fear or favor and he remains optimistic about the future of the judiciary in Malaysia.