Saturday, September 17, 2011

The cloak hides the man

While we remove old laws and replace them with new laws, are we also making sure that the judiciary is independent and above political manipulation? The courts’ hands are tied in many instances. Like in the case of the ISA, for example. The court has no power to review your detention other than dabble on technicalities.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The clothes maketh the man. The cloak can also hideth the man. And this is what we may be seeing in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s announcement of the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the other ‘emergency’ laws -- a mere cloak of reforms.

Of course, I welcome this first step, however small that step may be. It’s a good start. But that is all it is -- a small first step and merely a start, not yet the end.

If you can remember, I once wrote that I had no problems with the ISA per se, just as I do not have any problems with the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the spirit it was introduced.

Just to digress a bit, I also wrote that I was once a central committee member of the Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry. And I never opposed the NEP. In fact, I supported it. What I opposed was the abuse of the NEP. I lamented on the implementation, or rather the poor implementation.

I argued that we need some form of policy to address the imbalance between the various races and the widening gap between the haves and haves-not. The NEP, in the spirit it was introduced, was good. But then it was hijacked and later abused and used as an excuse to perpetuate corruption.

They did things that went against set procedures and that by-passed the checks and balances. Those-in-power argued that they were just implementing the aspirations of the NEP. In other words, what happened was, the NEP was the cloak used to cover corrupt practices. Criminal acts became legal if done in the name of the NEP.

And the same goes with the ISA. It is the abuse of the law and the fact that it was being used to detain those who oppose the government that is the issue rather than the law itself. The ISA was a cloak to stifle dissent and opposition.

I know some will argue that if a law can be abused then it can’t be a good law and therefore must be repealed. But that is just it. All laws have a potential to be bad if abused. Even Shariah laws, which are supposed to be God’s laws, will be bad when abused.

Take the case of the many abandoned wives who can’t receive justice in the Shariah courts. The husband just walks away, leaving the unemployed wife to care for all the children. And when these women go to the Shariah court to seek justice, all they get is ‘advice’ from the court that it is the wife’s duty to try and reconcile with her husband. The wife is denied justice and over the next few years she has to suffer while the husband marries a new wife and disowns his old family.

Is this God’s law? Is God to be blamed or the people who hide behind the cloak of God to deny women justice?

King Henry VIII once reformed England as well, just like what Najib appears to now be doing in Malaysia. But King Henry’s reforms merely transferred the abuse of power from the hands of the church to the hands of the Monarch. The church no longer had the power to decide whether you had committed heresy or were a deviant or whatever. Henry decided that and the punishment for these perceived ‘crimes’ were no different from before the so-called ‘reforms’.

In fact, the church itself suffered punishment. Those who still insisted on holding onto the ‘old religion’ and who refused to comply with the ‘new religion’ were persecuted.

So, the old laws were removed and replaced with new laws. But the new laws were just as draconian as the old laws. Things did not really change much. It was the same old system camouflaged under a new cloak.

Are we seeing just that -- a new cloak being thrown over the same old thing just to give the impression of reforms? That is yet to be seen. So I am not celebrating just yet.

Laws are one thing. Implementation of these laws is another. And new laws to replace old laws do not maketh a reform, as King Henry VIII has shown us.

While we remove old laws and replace them with new laws, are we also removing the vast and unbridled powers of the AG? The police can say you have committed a crime. But if the AG refuses to prosecute you because you are his buddy or the buddy of the Prime Minister, then nothing happens. And if the police have no evidence that you have committed a crime, but if the AG or those in power want to get you, they can still charge you and put you on trial (and order the judge to find you guilty).

What good are laws then, whether good or bad laws, if one corrupted man can decide whether to spare you or to send you to jail?

While we remove old laws and replace them with new laws, are we also making sure that the judiciary is independent and above political manipulation? The courts’ hands are tied in many instances. Like in the case of the ISA, for example. The court has no power to review your detention other than dabble on technicalities.

The court should have the power to review laws and rule that laws that violate the Constitution or that violate your fundamental rights need to be repealed. Currently, the courts have no power to rule on what Parliament has decided. And Parliament decides what is good for the ruling party. That means the court merely upholds the interest of the ruling party.

So, reforms is not just about repealing old laws and replacing them with new laws equally draconian in nature. If that is all it takes, then Henry VIII reformed England although more people suffered under Henry’s new laws than under the old church laws.

Reforms must come in a complete package. Only then can we celebrate Najib’s reforms.

Can I declare that I am an Atheist and that religion is slavery of the mind, the worst kind of slavery?

Can I declare that I am leaving Islam to become a Buddhist because I feel that Islam is a militant religion while Buddhism preaches peace?

Can I declare that I am a Communist because I feel that Democracy is a form of economic slavery where the rich oppress the poor?

Can I declare that I am gay or at least uphold the right of those who are gay?

Can I enter into a gay marriage or at least uphold the right for gay marriages?

Can I declare that I am anti-Monarchy and that I uphold the aspiration of a Republic of Malaysia because I feel that the Monarchy is a relic of the past just like Colonialism?

If I can’t do all that, then reforms are yet to come to Malaysia.

And there are many more that needs to be done before we can declare we are seeing reforms.

Will we be seeing equal representation in government where the disparity or variance between seats is within 15% plus-minus, and not like now where it is more than 95%?

Will we be seeing at least 30% women candidates in the elections considering that women represent more than 50% of the voters?

Will we be seeing all Malaysians born in Malaysia after Merdeka being called Malaysians and where there shall no longer be Bumiputeras, Chinese, Indians and lain-lain, and where your race and religion will no longer appear on your documents?

Will there be new laws introduced such as the Bill of Rights where your fundamental rights are guaranteed, Anti-Discrimination Act where racists will be sent to jail, Freedom of Information Act to replace the Official Secrets Act, Freedom of Association Act to replace the UUCA that forbids students from being involved in politics, Freedom of Religion Act which prevents the government from interfering in your religious beliefs (or lack of it as the case may be), and so on and so forth?

If someone prevents you from changing your religion, that person goes to jail.

If someone prevents a student from campaigning for a political party, that person goes to jail.

If someone prevents you from publishing documents involving corrupt ministers, that person goes to jail.

If someone asks you to declare your race and religion or puts obstacles in your way because of your race and religion, that person goes to jail.

And so on and so forth.

My take is that many Malaysians are not yet ready for full liberties. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) is all about. It is not about the elections. It is not about contesting the elections. It is not about identifying candidates to contest the elections.

I am quite happy to have nothing to do with the elections if that is what most of the MCLM members want. Let us just leave it to the political parties to fight it out. And if Barisan Nasional wins, yet again, and this time with a two-thirds majority as well, so be it. We shall have to live with that.

I am going to discuss with the MCLM committee that since Najib now appears to taking his first but small step to bring reforms to Malaysia, we focus on that and not dabble in the election process or even bother with talking about candidates. Chances are there is going to be chaos and three-corner fights come the next election. So be it. That is not our problem any more. That is the problem of the political parties. I would like to focus on seeing total reforms in Malaysia and not cosmetic change like now.


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