By Christine Chan | Malaysiakini
A bunch of tech-savvy law students are using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools on the Internet to raise awareness about the Federal Constitution.
The ten law students have joined the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee (ConstiLC) led by lawyer Edmund Bon, and a number of journalists, for its MyConstitution Campaign.
Launched last October, the campaign aims at “empowering the rakyat and creating greater awareness of the Federal Constitution” through advertisements, booklets and a host of other awareness-raising and interest-building programmes.
While some of the students are involved in the task of “translating” parts of the constitution and shedding it of its more cryptic legal jargon to be incorporated into the pocket-sized “Rakyat Guides” (RG) planned for publication, some have been tasked with taking their activism online and keeping the discussions alive.
Interviewed by Malaysiakini, fourth-year student Yip Xiaoheng said he is among those in charge of updating the campaign’s official website.
“We have people on duty to upload articles to make sure that the website is active, and we have a team called the “activators” to move the campaign online,” he said.
In addition, the students are also kept busy keeping discussions alive on the campaign’s Facebook, twitting live updates of their events through Twitter, and uploading videos onto the campaign’s YouTube page.
With currently 4,800 fans in its Facebook, the activators are not slowing down. They are even conducting workshops about their campaign in colleges all over the Klang Valley.
“We try to make the campaign as interesting as possible so that people will participate and understand the importance of the constitution to them,” 21-year-old student Joshua Tay said.
What about the Constitution?
A second-year law student, Joshua believes that the main problem lies in people’s underestimation of the importance of the Federal Constitution.
“Some might think that it is just a ‘manual’ by which the government runs the country. But it is not just that. It also enshrines the rakyat’s rights. If people are aware of the constitution, then they will know their rights,” he explained.
He said further that one of the main problems is that while people know of the constitution, they cannot relate what is enshrined therein with the problems they see plaguing the country, he said.
“They say, ‘As long as I am not affected, or only involves other people, then it is not my problem. I’m fine as long as I get my salary and food on the table’,” said Joshua, relating his experience with his more complacent friends.
“But how are you going to change things when you are not part of the change? What if, one day, your rights are breached, and others react the same way?” Joshua asked.
Echoing Joshua, classmate 26-year-old Greg Marimuthu said knowing what the constitution says is important.
“Our rights are guaranteed in the constitution. Ignorance means our rights might be infringed and we might even not know about it!” he said.
Apart from raising public awareness, the My Constitution campaign also advocates the incorporation of education on the constitution into the curricula of schools.
Twenty-two-year-old Suriya said the campaign in general, and the pocket RGs, in particular, serve as a good start towards achieving that goal.
“The effect of it being incorporated into our (school) syllabus will be tremendous. Imagine reading it from the time you are in Standard One and knowing your rights from then!” she said.
The guides cannot be distributed free forever, Suriya explained further.
“We want to be able to make it permanent so that it will be an ongoing thing,” she claimed.
The third phase of the MyConstitution campaign, to be jointly organised with the Selangor government, will be launched tomorrow at the Bangunan Sultan Salahuddin Sultan Aziz Shah in Shah Alam.
Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim will launch the event, which will feature prominent legal eagles and academics such as Abdul Aziz Bari, Fahda Nur, Mavis Puthucheary, Derek Fernandez, and Hanipa Maidin.