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Theories of Law and Development

Asian Trajectories and the Salience of Judicial Reform in Myanmar

Andrew Harding

Abstract

This article takes a long look at the law and development movement and its attempts to entrench the rule of law in developing countries in Asia via the means of legal technical assistance (LTA) designed to reform judiciaries and judicial bodies. It does so with special reference to Myanmar, being the latest instance of LTA in Asia. Currently there are more than 30 organisations working directly on rule of law LTA in Myanmar. Such efforts ought to represent the state of the art after half a century of LTA. The article looks at the trajectory of law and development since the 1960s, noting that the phases of law and development have led us through inaugural, critical, revivalist “moments” to a “post-moment” that appears to be pluralistic, and contextually nuanced. It notes that judicial reform has always featured in LTA through all of these “moments”, and discusses whether or in what circumstances judicial reform is the most desirable or justifiably prioritised approach to rule of law LTA. It concludes that in the current phase of law and development too much emphasis is placed on judicial reform, explaining why this is so and why other approaches could be more profitable. The argument leads to a conclusion that we might now usefully identify a “Burmese” moment in law and development—one in which we realise that one size will never fit all cases, that law and development is multi-faceted and needs to be broken down into distinct modes of operation. In this dispensation, the opportunity is offered to secure real and ongoing gains in rule of law technology.

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Edited by Andrew Harding

Although it is commonly asserted that enhanced citizen participation results in better environmental policy and improved enforcement of environmental standards, this hypothesis has rarely been subject to testing on a comparative basis. The contributors to this book set out to study the extent to which citizens can and do exert influence over their urban environments through the legal (and extra-legal) 'gateways' in eleven countries spanning several continents as well as different climates, levels and type of economic development, and national legal and constitutional systems, as well as exhibiting a different set of environmental problems.

One interviewee questioned about access to environmental justice, dryly remarked that in his city there was no environment, no justice and no access to either. Yet this view, as will be seen, requires to be nuanced.
While few people will be surprised by the finding that legal gateways to environmental justice are largely ineffective, the reasons for this are revealing; but also the richness of detail and the comparisons between the different countries, and also the positive aspects which surfaced in several instances, were indeed both encouraging and sometimes surprising.

This book presents the first comparative survey of access to environmental justice, and will be of considerable use to lawyers, policy-makers, activists and scholars who are concerned with the environmental issues which so profoundly affect and afflict our habitat and conditions of social justice throughout the world.
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Andrew Harding

This book aims to give a comprehensive picture of law, government and the constitution in Malaysia, and to set constitutional developments in their proper political and social context. It is written in such a way that lawyers may see how perspectives other than the purely legal can enrich the understanding of constitutional issues in Malaysia and that others may comprehend the lawyer's perspective on these issues. There has been an increasing interest in constitutional issues in Malaysia since the mid-1980s following a number of important events, including the advent of judicial activism and the curtailment of royal powers. There is now a pressing need for a reappraisal of the Malaysian constitution in terms of its political and social dimensions and dynamics, and the extent of its adherence to, or its interpretation of, those principles which are collectively known as `constitutionalism', that is, democratic government, the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the observance of fundamental human rights and liberties. The book examines how the constitution has adjusted to its environment, how it actually operates and how its abstractions differ from reality.
The author concludes that the principles of the constitution have been eroded to such a degree that a new constitutional settlement is needed - one which makes it clear what the basic tenets of the Malaysian polity are.
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Andrew Harding

Malaysia has a classically plural society with a Malay/ Muslim majority and a legal system which, for historical reasons, is bifurcated between the common law and Islamic law. It also has a colonial-era federal constitution under which Islam is a state issue. Disputes concerning religion are both many and divisive. They are dealt with mainly in constitutional terms, especially in debates about the notion of an Islamic state, in light of Article 3 and the enshrinement of an official religion and in litigation. The latter is rendered complex by the separation of Islamic from common law jurisdiction in 1988, a fact that has given rise to highly sensitive and troubling litigation involving, especially, religious conversion in Lina Joy (2007). This article traces historical developments relating to religion and the law, and finds cause for some optimism that religious divides can be bridged by constitutional means, in light of recent judicial responses and evolving debates about the constitutional position of Islam.

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Andrew Harding