††††††††††† Here are some selected pastexamination questions and the suggested (specimen) answers to the questions. You are

††††††††††† required to master the artof answering exam questions, after carefully reading the suggested answers.


1.      Explain the jurisdiction (bidangkuasa) of the superior courts in Malaysia.


The superior courts in Malaysia comprise the Federal Court (Apex Court), the Court of Appeal and the High Courts (2).


The Federal Court is the highest judicial authority and the final court of appeal in Malaysia. It has jurisdiction to hear appeals against the decisions of the Court of Appeal in civil matters (where the Federal Court has granted leave to do so) where the matter in dispute in the appeal amounts to or is of the value of RM 250,000.


It also hears and determines criminal appeals from the decisions of the Court of Appeal, but only in respect of any criminal matter heard by the High Court in its original jurisdiction (i.e. where the case has not been appealed from the Subordinate Courts).


The Federal Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a law made by Parliament or by a State Legislature is invalid (tidak sah). It also determines disputes between the States or between the Federation and any State. It has also the advisory jurisdiction under Article 130 of the Federal Constitution to give its opinion on any constitutional issue that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has referred to it.


The Court of Appeal generally hears and determines all civil appeals against decisions of the High Courts. It has also the jurisdiction to hear and determine any criminal appeal against any decision of the High Court.

The High Courts (2) have unlimited civil jurisdiction. Generally, they hear all matters relating to the validity or dissolution of marriage (divorce); bankruptcy; winding-up of companies; guardianship or custody of children; grants of probate, wills and letters of administration of estates; injunctions; and contractual matters. The High Courts have also unlimited jurisdiction in all criminal matters other than matters involving Islamic law. In addition to these powers, the High Courts have general supervisory and revisionary jurisdiction over all the Subordinate Courts. Moreover, they have jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Subordinate Courts in civil and criminal matters.



2.  Explain the advantages and disadvantages of a bicameral legislature.


A bicameral legislature is a parliament or legislature which consists of two chambers or houses, often classified as the lower house (e.g. Dewan Rakyat in Malaysia) and the upper house (e.g. Dewan Negara in Malaysia). Some examples of countries with a bicameral legislature are: Malaysia, the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the United State of America.




(a)      A second chamber is a safeguard (pelindung) against the tyranny (kezaliman) or despotism of a single chamber or majority party. The upper chamber provides checks and balances. The existence of a second chamber has a healthy effect on the members of the legislature. They know that whatever bills they pass will require the approval of the other house and that fact forces them to pass the bills in such a form that it is acceptable to the other house as well.


(b)      A bicameral legislature canrepresent and defend the interests of all groups, segments, regions and minorities in a country.


(c)      It can provide an opportunity for enhanced and better control of the Executive branch.


(d)      An upper chamber can make useful revisions to bills and delay hasty, ill-considered and intemperate (yang dibuat dengan terlalu tergesa-gesa) legislation (perundangan).


(e)      A second chamber can adopt a broad vies of national problems and issues and share the workload of the lower house.


(f)       A second chamber can be used to bring into the legislature men and women who are not prepared to take the trouble to contest elections. Such persons can be nominated as members of the second chamber and advantage can be taken of their experience, expertise,knowledge and business acumen.Such a thing is not possible if there is only one chamber, elected on the basis of adult franchise.




(a)      The bicameral system is expensive as the members of the second chamber have to be paid and the system has to be maintained for a long time. This means that it is costly to the government and taxpayers.


(b)      A second chamber merely duplicates the work of the lower house. The process of law-making takes a long time. This is a waste of time and resources.


(c)      There is likely to be a deadlock or impasse in enacting legislation, if two different parties hold the majority in each house. Such a situation prevails currently in the United States.


(d)      The same party, which puts up candidates for the lower house,also puts up candidates for the upper house. The party programme is the same in both cases. Under the circumstances, the upper house is not likely to show any consideration for the interests of the various groups in the country. It simply endorses or supports the ruling partyís agenda.



  1. Explain the functions of elections.


Elections perform a variety of functions and these may be stated as follows:


    1. Elections enable citizens to choose their leaders and representatives.


    1. Elections allow voters to hold their leaders accountable for their performance in office.


    1. Elections serve to legitimise (menjadikan sahih) a government.


    1. Elections allow people with different views and policy agendas to come to power.


    1. Elections are held to fill public offices in the legislature and in the Executive, organise and administer a government.


    1. Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance.


    1. Elections serve as forums for the open and public discussion of national issues and concerns and facilitate the expression of public opinion. Elections thus provide political education for citizens and ensure the responsiveness of democratic governments to the will of the people.


    1. Elections give people an opportunity to have their say and, through expressing their preference (for a party or leader), to satisfy their need to feel a sense of belonging. Voting also enhances peopleís self-esteem and self-respect.



  1. Explain the features (characteristics) of a unitary system of government.


A unitary form of government is one in which all the powers are in the hands of the central or national government.


The essential elements of a unitary system of government may be stated as follows:


(a)      The state is governed constitutionally as one single unit with a one constitutionally- created legislature. There is no division of powers between the central government and the various units under its control.

(b)      Uniform policies and laws are laid down by the central government for the whole country.


(c)      The central government may delegate some powers to certain regional or local units (local authorities).


(d)      The various units of the country are the creation of the central government and they can be abolished anytime or their powers may be withdrawn anytime..



  1. Explain the characteristics of legislative bodies.


A legislative body is a branch of thegovernment responsible for enacting laws for the whole country.


The characteristics of legislative bodies may be summarised as follows:


(a)      They are multi-member representative bodies. (In Malaysia, for example, the Federal Legislature (Dewan Rakyat) consists of 222 members)


(b)      They are a branch of the government and a symbol of popular representation.


(c)      The members of legislatures are either directly elected by the citizens during a general election or appointed by the government or both.


(d)      All members have equal status.


(e)      They arrive at decisions after deliberating on alternatives for a long time.


(f)       They are a debating chamber for the discussion of national issues and concerns.

(g)      They control the Executive branch.


(h)      They are either unicameral or bicameral bodies.



  1. Explain the elements of a political party.


A political party is an organised group of citizens who share the same political views and by acting as a political unit, tries to control or form the government.


1.        Political parties have a formal organization structure.


2.        They have specific ideologies or policies (nationalist, socialist, liberal democracy, conservative,

††††††††††††††† religious, etc) to promote among the citizens.


3.        They have broad support to win an election and their membership is varied (i.e. includes people in

††††††††††† all income brackets, occupations).


4.        The leaders of political parties are elected by the general public and so they are responsible

††††††† and accountableto the people for their decisions.


5.        The goal of a political party is to gain power through elections.


6.        They have adequate financial resources and means of communication to reach to the people.



  1. Identify three (3) advantages of a single executive.


Single executive refers to a single (one) head of state and government. The United State of America is an example of a country with a single executive. Absolute monarchies are other examples.


The advantages of a single executive are the following:


1.        Decision-making is faster, prompt and easier as only one person is involved in it.


2.        The responsibility for governing and decision-making is clearly in the hands of a single person.


3.        The system of a single executive secures unity, integrity and transparency which are essential for

††††††††††††††† efficiency and effectiveness.



  1. Elaborate on two (2) types of direct legislation.


Direct legislation is a form of direct democracy. The initiative (citizensí) and referendum are the two methods of direct legislation. These two methodsemphasize the power of the people to make and approve laws.


Direct legislation is the most effective method of resolving deadlocks (kebuntuan)between the two houses of the legislature.


Initiative. It is a procedure that enables ordinary citizens to propose and enact a law by filing a petition. It is intended to allow the electorate (registered voters), rather than thelegislators, to initiate legislation independently of the legislature. It is practised in Switzerland. All that is required is certain number of signatures (usually between 5% to 15% of the voters in the district concerned) to start the process.


Referendum. It is a direct vote in which the citizens (entire electorate) are asked either to accept or reject a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, a specific government policy or a system of government. A recent example was a referendum on the new constitution of Thailand held on 19 August 2007. Major changes in the proposed constitution included: making almost half of senators appointed rather than elected; limiting the Prime Ministerís tenureof office totwo four year terms; banning the Prime Minister from major holdings in private companies; and making it easier to impeach the Prime Minister. According to the Election Commission of Thailand, about 70% of the people voted for (accepted) the new constitution.



© Peter Johnson 2005 - 2008