Rule of law means little for empty stomachs: Anwar
22:10 Oct 06, 2019  |  By SabahKini2
Rule of law means little for empty stomachs: Anwar

“The rule of law has little meaning for empty stomachs, nor for children who have no access to good schools,” said Anwar.

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 4): The rule of law cannot be isolated from ensuring economic freedom but must be pursued through a multi-dimensional approach that enables ordinary people to participate in democratic governance while enjoying distributive justice, says Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Making reference to economist Amartya Sen’s advocacy of development as freedom, the PKR president said that freedom of opportunity, including freedom to access credit as well as economic protection from abject poverty remain paramount when talking about the rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism.

Anwar said this in a special address at the inaugural LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law conference on Friday.

As Sen argued, development cannot be just about increasing basic incomes or boosting per capita income, said Anwar, who is also the Port Dickson MP.

“What is needed is a holistic approach by developing a package of overlapping mechanisms that would progressively enable not just freedom to vote or participate in elections, but also permit the realisation of that vast range of other freedoms,” he said.

“The rule of law has little meaning for empty stomachs, nor for children who have no access to good schools,” said Anwar.

A similar comprehensive approach should be adopted in dealing with the issues of poverty in Malaysia, he said.

“There is no shame in admitting that there may have been some flaws in calibrating the poverty rate at 0.4%, contrary to all other researches,” he said, referring to various institutions that put it in the range of 22-24%.

To rectify this anomaly, what is needed is transparency, accountability and the elimination of leakages, he said.

While recognising the palpable progress made on institutional reforms since the 14th general election in May last year, Anwar said more introspection was needed, as well as some humility to admit that there remains a litany of unfulfilled promises.

“As head of the Parliamentary caucus on reform and governance, I am often asked whether we are missing the woods for the trees, or wilfully turning a blind eye to certain stark realities confronting the people,” he said.

Anwar said the legal profession should do more public service and make legal expertise more accessible particularly to the less fortunate, the poor and the marginalised.

Public interest litigation and advocacy must remain the hallmark of the legal fraternity’s service to the constitutional safeguards of civil rights and freedoms, he said.

Anwar acknowledged that he had personally benefited from its fearless advocacy motivated by the fight for justice and the rule of law.

“Let the record show that the Malaysian Bar has been at the forefront of advocating and fighting for constitutional ideals and the rule of law in Malaysia,” Anwar said to applause.

The conference ends on Saturday.-THE EDGE