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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Through The Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass

Living in Malaysia, one gets used to the farcical and ludicrous. Daily encounters in the media with those who claim to lead us have made many of us resign ourselves to the fact that life here in Bolehland (to borrow the delightful moniker from Martin Jalleh) is very much an acid-trip down a rabbit hole. So much so that one cannot help but wonder whether Lewis Carroll would have been bestowed a title had he wandered onto our shores; “Tan Sri” perhaps, considering how keenly he was able to visualize the Malaysia that would be.

This year, the award for most so would have to go to the Royal Malaysian Police. It outgunned all other candidates with its “Save The Children” themed efforts this past month. That and the “we detained her under the ISA to protect her” gambit in September, formulated with some assistance from the Home Minister, sealed it for me.

One has to acknowledge the sheer gumption of those who made the decisions to go with those justifications despite the obvious disparagement they would result in. Or could it be that we have misunderstood what was really a display of compassion, laughter being the best medicine for the many aches and pains we suffer from. Whatever the case, hats off to the men in blue for having out-farced all others, not an easy task looking at the range of candidates in this year of “Zero Opposition”.

Lest it be said that I am being cruel and cynical, allow me to say that I am not. I am in truth at a total loss as to how to comprehend why the force continues to position itself in the way it does when there is no need to. How the scenarios that have presented themselves this year - from journalistic expression to candle-light vigils of solidarity to road-shows aimed at promoting a fair, just and compassionate society, to name a few – could be perceived as being threatening of public order is mystifying.

I wrote an open letter in this column some time ago. In it I expressed the view that the force is not intended to police thought, the point being made in light of the way public assemblies were being regulated. It seemed to me then that senior police officers were taking the view that assemblies were not threats to public order if they were supportive of governmental positions. They however were seemingly such if they expressed viewpoints that could be perceived as being critical of the government.

Events since the letter was published, in particular the posturing over the blatant intimidation of those involved in the commendable JERIT campaign for transformation, have gone far to convince me that my surmise was in fact true. There is no other way to explain the inconsistency on the part of the force.

Which brings me to my point; the force needs to remind itself that we are allowed to think in Malaysia. The Constitution guarantees this, just as it allows us to express our thoughts and does not in any way limit us to saying things that are supportive of the government of the day. In fact, Malaysians can say what they want; if they however breach a law in saying what they do, they can be punished. That is why there is no law that prohibits speech; those laws only criminalize certain types of statements. There is as such clearly no basis for preempting expression.

This however begs the question of why the force is taking it upon itself to police thought in the way it does. Allowing access only to viewpoints that are supportive of leadership, and the half-truths this allows for, is propaganda. Is the system so far gone that the force has become a moving part in the propaganda machine of the State?

I would like to think not. The Royal Malaysian Police plays an invaluable role in the protection and promotion of democracy, in part through the fair and impartial enforcing of public order and security where this is necessary. For it to be able to fulfill its role, public confidence in the institution is essential. Sadly, justifications like those that we have been offered for unjustifiable and repressive action does not assist in this cause.

The truth is that police officers have more important things to concern themselves with than advancing petty political interests. Their jobs are difficult as it is and chasing activists, whether on bicycles or not, seems to be an unnecessary diversion of resources that are already stretched as taut as a drum skin.

Public assemblies really need little or no regulation. Malaysians have shown themselves to be capable of gathering and expressing their views peacefully and without rioting. The ceramah-ceramah that took place in the run up to March 8th and the various peaceful assemblies that have taken place since then, whether supportive of the government or pro-transformation, prove this.

And if the concern is not so much about those participating in the assemblies but rather instigators or agitators that might turn a situation ugly, then the force should be looking out for those disrupters of democracy rather than clamping down on democracy itself.

That is after all how it is supposed to be on this side of the looking glass.

(Malay Mail; 23rd December 2008)



Anonymous said...

The PDRM have been turning the constituional law upside down but where is the Pilot-the IGP Musa Hassan who is suppose to pilot his cruise members in proper and right direction ? May i Humbly suggest that one of the requirements to be appointed as IGP must be one who is legally qualified & trained ? Malaysia Bolehland has provided much cracks beyond apprehension !

Anonymous said...

The Police Force. How apt for a highly dependent uniformed entity charged with keeping the peace.

deck said...

What's really exasperating to me is how little tact they possess. Even if they're obliged to serve their political masters, it doesn't hurt them to be a bit more diplomatic and media conscious in how they act and what they say.

The JERIT campaign is a good example. It's obvious that the government doesn't like what they're up to, but intimidating them only makes the JERIT participants look like they're the good guys and strengthens their resolve. They should just make sure that the campaign goes as smoothly as possible so that it gets done with quickly with as little media attention as possible.

If they did that, the Malaysian public would just forget about the campaign the next day. As it is, it's become yet another rallying call against police abuse.

Unknown said...

Dear Malik,

While I do agree with you in some of your points, but how on earth can you missed ANWAR IBRAHIM and his chief coolies RPK in your assessment?

Please do not insult them!

Don’t tell me Anwar’s NOW YOU SEE, NOW YOU DON’T GOVERNMENT failed to make the mark!!???

Godddd Malik! The drama queen (read Anwar) even had the whole world (read America) on their feet. I think ‘Sainthood’ should best being bestowed to this man; especially since he is seen as one by some actually!

What about all RPK’s mind blowing (the brain being blown to minute pieces) statements and claims?

His latest claims, for example, of CHIN PENG being a FREEDOM FIGHTER? Shouldn’t he be honored for that alone? ‘Tun’ship for me is the most appropriate...don’t you think so?

But then again Malik, especially now in Malaysia, objective analysis is fast becoming the last in the list. It is all a question of which looking glass are we referring to... as you rightly said!

Anonymous said...

Where there is so much expectation on them in high-crime Malaysia, Polis Raja Di-Malaysia seems to ironically epitomise hopelessness in Malaysia now.

The IGP Musa Hassan, for all intents and purposes, is hopeless for Malaysia. We should not focus on him. Recent experience I had suggests that we should go down one level and focus on those OCPDs. When I called the OCPD of Kuala Kangsar on his mobile to express my unhappiness of PRDM's handling of JERIT campaigners, I could sense it that some effect occurred over the line.

So, start calling the OCPD concerned directly whenever necessary, for each of them, hopefully, is as human as we expect.

BTW, it would be unfair to generalise all members of PRDM. However, each of them should feel the less of pride in what had come out of PRDM lately.

Anonymous said...

Dear Damansara, just focus on the points Malik's making on this article. Your tendency to avoid those points and divert only confirms yourself to be what is said in your last paragraph: objective analysis is fast becoming the last in the list.

sampalee said...

Many of us hold bits and pieces of what you wrote within our heart but does not have the ability to evpress it.Your gift of articulating our frustration is liberating in no small way

Anonymous said...


this article is about the police which should be there to ensure rule of law is applied. if the police wants to be politically inclined to BN, then resign and go join UMNO. Nobody gonna stop them. Wonder why we have double digit growth that is CRIME RATE?
Sure, Anwar is no saint. But thats for another day and story, isnt it.

Bangsa Malaysia

Anonymous said...

You missed out these 2- moving police beat from Chow Kit because of high crime rate and high STD infections; and enlightening the lives of several PJ YBs, uncles & aunties by ending their boring karaoke session of Negaraku and gave them some exciting clubbing!

Unknown said...

Pratamad, who is avoiding his points?

Read again, I agreed with most of his points.

But to say, ‘this year, the award for most so would have to go to the Royal Malaysian Police’ is in itself being totally biased.

Anwar, RPK and Ahmad Ismail were great clowns too.

Why so defensive?

ChengHo said...

Malaysia too liberal the minority go to the street instead of parliment to impose their believe to the majority. Come and live in Singapore they know how the handle this case or better still in USA they will just make you irrelevant and dissappear.