When law and politics are entwined

WITH the year coming to an end soon, it is appropriate for me to look at the events of 2018.

There have been many legal issues this year but these days, such matters often cannot be separated from political, social and other considerations.

Prosecutions have to be approved by the Attorney General. These start with investigations by the enforcement authorities, which have been very active over the second half of the year. A reader has asked whether the same speed and efficiency can be expected when an ordinary citizen is aggrieved. This is a difficult question to answer.

There has been talk of Pakatan Harapan trying to gain a two-thirds majority in Parliament so that certain changes in the law can be made. Even though some of these amendments were promised during the 14th general election, it is acceptable if these pledges are unfulfilled because Pakatan Harapan does not have the required majority in Parliament.

Certainly, it should not be done at the cost of bringing in politicians from other parties who are tainted or who have been aligned or associated with those who are viewed as tainted.

Another thing that has attracted a lot of attention this year is Equanimity, a yacht with luxurious features that few of us would have known. Whilst Malaysians generally are familiar with laws relating to ordinary transactions, the laws that govern ships are different and involve matters such as ship arrest, maritime lien, and ownership, name, flag and class of a vessel.

Equanimity is in Malaysians waters and the court has ordered the vessel’s arrest so that it can be sold. No party has come forward to challenge the orders made by the High Court. In the meantime, several months have passed.

Different parties have expressed different views over the action taken. In any event, the Court’s decision stands.

We have also seen this year the government’s shortcoming in the lack of will to ensure racial and religious harmony.

It may not always be the case now, but previously, the actions of the enforcement agencies seemed to have depended on a measure of dictation by the country’s top leaders. When enforcement authorities did not take action in certain cases, it was widely perceived that this was based on the tacit approval or endorsement of the government.

Even if the enforcement agencies were to be held solely responsible for their actions or lack of action, the people expected the leaders to be aware of the agencies’ decisions and that the leaders would do whatever appropriate to ensure that wrongdoings were looked into and the necessary action taken.

I refer to certain politicians and others who have made inflammatory statements this year in the context of race and religion. Some of these statements come clearly within Section 3(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948, which states that any act or speech or words is deemed to have a seditious tendency if it has a tendency to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government”.

Other statements come within Section 3(1)(d), which refers to the seditious tendency to raise discontent among the subject of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitant of Malaysia or of any State.

That is not all. Similarly, Section 3(1)(e) is about the seditious tendency to “promote feeling of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia”.

In the past, those who were not in the government have been charged with sedition and have served time in jail or paid fines for making statements that had not gone as far as the statements that have been made recently.

There is no information in the public domain or otherwise that any form of action has been taken against those who were involved in recent gatherings held without permits. During these events, people have given speeches containing statements that were, in my view, provocative.

So the question arises as to whether the leadership is serious about preventing such conduct. The silence of the powers that be can be reasonably interpreted to constitute an implied consent or at least an endorsement of such behaviour.

While working on this article, I read the sad news of the demise of Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin. When I started work in 1971, he was a journalist in Utusan Melayu and I met him many times in the course of work.

In those days, work was usually done through face-to-face discussions and phone conversations, unlike today, when it has come down to exchanging emails.

We used to chat and have teh tarik at roadside stalls. He was not only warm and frank, but to my mind, he was a true Malaysian.

Other journalists are in a better position to talk about his journalistic achievements; to me, he remained the same frank and warm person even when he moved up and was editor-in-chief and later a government minister.

In concluding, I am happy to receive feedback over the years from readers who have found my articles easy to read and understand and at the same time, enlightening and informative. On this note, albeit late by a day, I wish the Christian readers a Merry Christmas and all others a happy and meaningful year ahead.

Any comments or suggestions for points of discussion can be sent to mavico7@yahoo.com. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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Opinion , Bhag Singh , Law for Everyone


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