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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Desecrators, Not Defenders of Malay Honor

What strikes me on this latest Raja Petra saga is that the public officials involved were all Malays. Their behaviors besmirch the good name of my race and culture. Contrary to their conviction and assertion, they are not the defenders of Malay honor; they are the desecrators of Malay honor.

Charging Raja Petra Kamarudin as well as author Syed Akbar Ali under the Sedition Act for what they had posted on the Internet is less a crude attempt at intimidating bloggers but more a sinister shadow play (wayang kulit) with many hidden hands each trying to make its puppets move in a particular way in order to convey its threatening message. It is also a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system.

While the government may wish it to be otherwise, this crass manipulation of prosecutorial power would not make citizens refrain from using this new medium, nor will it infringe on its freedom. The Internet is now well beyond the control of any authority, least of all a corrupt and incompetent Third World government.

More significantly, this latest spectacle reflects two unsavory and destructive traits that are fast becoming the norm among our leaders and public servants.

One is their small mindedness and the other, their contemptible habit of misusing government assets for personal gains. The first attribute is closely associated with incompetence; the second, corruption. This pairing is lethal; it will destroy our society very quickly.

There is one other observation which while abundantly clear, is rarely stated openly. As the leadership and public service in Malaysia are increasingly under Malay control, these two odious traits (corruption and incompetence) are now viewed as an integral part of the Malay persona and culture. This is what makes me angry, as it should every Malaysian, Malays especially.


Small Minds At Work

First were the UMNO Youth members who lodged the police report. You can bet that they are all either on the public payroll or dependent upon government dole and contracts. If only they had a better comprehension of the English language, they would agree with millions of Raja Petra readers that there was nothing seditious in the said article.

Similarly, the police officers who raided Raja Petra’s home and grabbed his laptop never bothered to question those UMNO Youth leaders what was so seditious about the article. If the police had posed this most elementary preliminary inquiry, they would more than likely discover that those UMNO blokes had not read the piece, or if they did, they did not understand a word of it.

These police officers were not low-level sergeant types but ASPs and DSPs. They, like UMNO Youth members and many of the present generation of “educated” Malays, are English illiterate, thanks to our abominable UMNO-inspired education system.

As for the prosecutors and other lawyers in the Attorney General’s office who signed on to proceed with the case, as well as the presiding judge, well, that is what happens when you “massage” the scores of the Bar examinations.

If only the police had told those UMNO Youth members to grow up, or if the prosecutors and others in the Attorney-General’s office had exercised their independent judgment that Raja Petra was no threat to public security, the nation would have been spared this spectacle. More importantly, those police officers could then focus on solving the numerous unsolved murders, while our prosecutors could go after corrupt officials. There is no shortage of both.

As for the judge, if only she had exercised a modicum of diligence and read the allegedly seditious article, she would have thrown the case out. If she had any sense of judgment, she would have dispensed with the bail and released Raja Petra on his own recognizance. Did she really believe that he would flee?

That judge obviously did not have the courage of her colleague, High Court Judge Hishamuddin Yunus. In May 2001, this brave judge ordered the release of two ISA detainees on a writ of habeas corpus application when it was shown that the police officers were cavalier in carrying out their duties. The judge went on and fearlessly declared that Parliament should review and either scrap or amend the ISA so as to reduce its potential for abuse.

I did not expect the judge in Raja Petra’s case to lift her judicial robe and look beyond her bench, as one Judge Syed Aidid Abdullah did. Enough that she would do it like Judge Hishamudin, in the course of her deliberation and written judgment.

Syed Aidid was the judge who in 1996 wrote a letter to the Attorney-General alleging specific instances of corruption, abuse of power, and judicial misconduct among his colleagues on the bench. The Attorney-General of the time dismissed it as surat layang (poison pen letter), which reflected more on his competence and integrity. Syed Aidid was forced to resign; perhaps that was the lesson.

No wonder none of the senior public officials involved in Raja Petra’s case paused to reflect on their actions, or do anything other than what they have been instructed to do. They all dutifully carried out what was asked of them, robot-like, without thinking.

In a commentary after his release, Raja Petra wrote of his decision to let his wife post bail. He was initially determined to stay in jail until his trial to expose the rot in the system. What made him change his mind were the words of his jailors.

Of all the public servants, those jailors were the only ones who went beyond their prescribed duties and used their brains. They convinced Raja Petra that he would be more useful to our nation by being outside of prison than inside.

They were also concerned about his safety as well as that of the other prisoners. In their wisdom, the officials had detained Raja Petra in the same prison where the accused murderers of Altantuya were held. Again, wisdom and common sense elude our public officials!

It is ironic that of all our public officials, only the jailors were capable of independent judgment. One would have thought that this would be second nature for those in “higher” positions.


Abuse of Public Property

Malaysia-Today had posted many more damaging and yes, even seditious and libelous commentaries involving personalities more powerful than Najib Razak, yet the authorities had not responded in like manner.

There was the earlier “visit” by the police after Raja Petra made highly uncomplimentary comments on the Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan. It was just a “visit” with the usual routine seizure of Raja Petra’s computer. Well, at least one of the police officer’s home now has a computer!

Malaysia-Today did not spare Prime Minister Abdullah either, with its series on UN’s “Iraq Oil For Food” corruption scandal. Then there was the highly damaging series on the “world’s richest unemployed” (to borrow Lim Kit Siang’s inimitable phrase), the Khairy Chronicles, and the equally damning expose on the “double Muhammad,” the former Mentri Besar of Selangor who was caught at an Australian airport with millions in cash in his back pocket. In none of these instances did the police react.

If Najib felt that he was being libeled, he should have hired his own lawyers and bear his own legal fees. Instead, the criminal justice system was being abused for this dirty job, for free at least to Najib.

Sadly, treating expensive government resources as their personal assets is fast becoming a pattern among our leaders, from using the fleet of luxurious corporate jets for their political campaigns, to “privatizing” choice government-linked companies to “sell” to their cronies and families.

There are many hidden hands and concealed causes in this latest convoluted shadow play. They would all be instantly exposed if only someone would flip the light switch on. Thus the fury provoked by Raja Petra’s initial lighting of a small candle. Rest assured that this man has his hands right on the main light switch. Keep reading!

Individuals like Raja Petra, as well as Judge Hishamuddin Yunus, Syed Aidid and Raja Petra’s jailors, rekindle my faith. We have eagles in our midst, but it is difficult for them to soar surrounded as they are by turkeys. To put it in a local metaphor, it is hard for a kucing belang to show its stripes when surrounded by kucing kurap (scruffy cats).

We have to get rid of these kucing kurap so our kucing belang could do their work in getting rid of the rats infesting our society. We cannot remain silent as that would only encourage these kucing kurap.

I join others in denouncing this brute behavior of the Abdullah administration. Raja Petra suffered with dignity while detained under the ISA. This latest clumsy act will not in the least dint this patriot’s resolve to bringing greater freedom to Malaysia.

To Raja Petra Kamarudin, Judge Hishamuddin Yunus, Syed Aidid, and all the kucing belang in our midst, I salute you! Hunt down ‘dem rats!

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