Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My daddy used to say

My late father used to say that Malaysia is technically still in a state of emergency, since the emergency rule that was imposed in the aftermath of 13 May 1969 was never properly rescinded. People just conveniently forgot about it and carried on business as usual. Just two weeks ago, Thierry Rommel, the outgoing EU envoy to Malaysia, echoed similar sentiments.

Now that I think about it, my dad's comment does make sense. I mean, the way the politicians and police behave often leads me to think that we are still living in some quasi-emergency state where a violent explosion of civil unrest or rebellion could happen any moment. This also explains why the present politicians would rather go down in the elections than revoke emergency laws such as the Internal Security Act 1960 which is a rehashed leftover of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948 enacted by the British to lock up Communists. The Ordinance was repealed in 1960 at the end of the Emergency, but the newly-independent Malaysian government nicely enacted the ISA as the successor to the Ordinance. Brilliant. Perhaps it was a necessary evil back then. But fast-forward 50 years... is it still necessary? Are we hoping to lock up terrorists? Or Opposition politicians?

The oppressive laws in Malaysia were crafted for emergency conditions. The laws were meant to fight Communists in 1948 or xenophobiacs in 1969, not peaceful demonstrators in 2007. If you thought Old Town Kopitiam was old-fashioned, you should check out the laws of Malaysia. That's retro for you, dude.

The ISA's cousin, the Emergency Ordinance (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) 1969 (notice the word "emergency" again), was enacted to subdue suspected racist instigators by
detaining them without trial at detention centres like Simpang Renggam or to banish them to "remote" places like Gua Musang or maybe Cameron Highlands. Once banished, the poor suspects would be totally cut off from the rest of the world since there was only one road into town, and the fella had to report to the police station twice a day, and there were only a few fixed line telephones here and there. Anyone banished would be rendered powerless through mere physical isolation. Today the police still use the same outdated law to banish criminal suspects, but guess what, with modern telecommunications and highways the fella could still be directing his criminal empire from a "remote" location 500km away! You could be banished to Gua Musang, and report to the police station in the morning, drive to KL for a meeting, and still make it back to report again in the evening. What we need now are tough laws that hit where it hurts. We need anti-money laundering laws. We need laws to freeze and confiscate all assets of convicted criminals. Yea, but first we need a clean police force to prosecute and get them convicted. That's more difficult than simply banishing bad guys and hoping that out-of-sight means out-of-mind.

In this information era, many countries are enacting laws enabling Freedom of Information, but Malaysia still holds on to the Official Secrets Act 1972 for dear life. Whose life, I wonder? It only makes life more difficult for people
such as researchers and journalists, who need to obtain information for legitimate purposes, but hardly stops government officials from leaking so-called confidential documents, because, like it or not, there are many government staff who are frustrated with their own political "masters" but cannot openly voice out their grievances.

The politicians want a new generation of students who can think critically, create innovatively and learn independently. But the politicians also want to keep the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 which prohibits students from getting involved in political activities, among other things. I'm like, duuuh?! There's a thing called opportunity cost. You can't have your cake and eat it. Or, maybe those politicking fellas are dreaming of having their cake but eating someone else's. Creative economics. Deserves another honorary PhD.

Malaysia is shackled and bogged down by so many antiquated, anachronistic, outdated laws. I wonder how we can really progress. It is one thing to build skyscrapers; it is another thing to develop minds. No prizes for guessing which one Malaysia excels in.

My daddy said some others things too while he was still around. Perhaps I should have listened more back then, but I was too stubborn. Haha. :)


lina said...

Goodness gracious! My friend, you should demand for royalty for living up to the marketing policies and guidelines... really ;D

Very well said. Do you want to take up law? You should consider.It is not too late. We are in need of constitution and human rights lawyers who are really committed for the good of mankind without personal agendas.

Just for clarification, you were at the BERSIH peaceful rally, right? Were there tear gas and asid water used to disperse the crowd? I was informed that the police did not resort to these.

The ISA, EOs, OSA and whatever is employed for public safety are tools of convenience for the people in power to uproot any threats of whatsoever nature including but not limited to unwanted oppositions. So... it is definitely necessary to guard it at all possible costs (excluding their own, of course) in order to ensure that their power (and "prosperous") position stay intact for as long as possible.

Hei... needless to say this is after all malaysian version of a democratic country ... minus the freedom of speech, separation of powers between judiciary and government and what nots :-x

anon#1 said...

u r obviously passionate about this. Yup, not too late to take up law. Many ppl have done this – ie. switched from some other profession to law at a later age ( unlike things like medicine, engineering etc. )

participation in BERSIH rally is a one-off thing, voting is a once every 5(or less ) years thing. These things are just the bare minimum. What about in-between?? What can u do???!! ( if u are not the PM ;P, politician, policy-maker, lawyer etc. ). There’s lots more u can do if u really want to – but first, u have to be in the RELEVANT field :)

Of course we all can “contribute/ make a difference” to our country at all levels from the PM to the doctor to the teacher to the housewife etc… but not all of us are cut out to “contribute/ make a difference” at “THAT” level ( ie. to be politicians or human rights lawyers. etc ). Yup we need ppl who are smart/savvy enough, but also compassionate, rational, balanced, sensible and PASSIONATE enough.

So if you really have the “passion” for this sort of thing, then why not?

( now that I think about it, perhaps there is even some physical resemblance to Malik Imtiaz Sarwar :P LOL )

HL said...

lina: Yes, I was at the Bersih rally. The police were good boys at the Istana and did not spray the water cannons there. But they did spray the crowd at Masjid Jamek earlier at about 2.30PM. That was shown on Al Jazeera.

No, I have no dreams of being a constitutional lawyer. I don't like to argue with fools.

BTW, there is no such thing as a person without a personal agenda. :)

anon#1: I got some passion, but the last I checked, it still ain't enough to take me down the lonely path of fighting for social justice or to endure solitary days at the Kamunting Spa and Resort. I heard that the body massage sessions there are not very good. They tend to press too hard. And I also heard that they will wash your brain even though you didn't ask for it. :P

Paul said...

"No, I have no dreams of being a constitutional lawyer. I don't like to argue with fools."


I don;t think you need to be a lawyer ...

lina said...

Hahaha... then don't be a lawyer. Be a politician! Hahaha... seriously, I don't know which is worst.

Wait a minute... lawyers don't argue with fools. We never do. Lawyers reason with people because we are generally peacemakers... the fools are those who try to argue with the lawyers and create havoc in the process ;D

CHARIS said...

Your daddy would've been proud :)

howcan said...

My daddy was very smart and informed. I remember he told me about the need for newspapers to renew license every year. I was frustrated at the government lackey-ness of The Star. He didn't say PPPA, but understood how things operate. Not that this excuses The Star's editorial behaviour, especially in its pre-Bersih doomsdaying. People should boycott local newspapers. What you say about the UUCA is hits the nail on the head. Our leaders want critical thinking youth, but cannot take criticism. They want good human resource - so that they can claim credit for our development - to emerge out of a sterilised, kindergarten-ish environment. Stupid, greedy, oppressive. Good reflections, da ke! Wish I could have been at the Bersih march.

ma said...

Yes, your daddy was not only smart and informed, he was also very "unconventional" in his thinking, which is reflected in both of you (Howcan and HL). He would have been very proud of both of you!

Paul said...

Your daddy was an incredible man. I only got to know him for a few years when he taught me OT at seminary an then for just a few months when I joined the PJGH staff ... but sadly he was quickly diagnosed with cancer so I hardly ever saw him.

He was indeed unconventional as he "broke" some of the unwritten rules of seminary (there were three lecturers like that then but sadly all three soon left). These were stupid rules really and if were not for him and these other 2 lecturers, I would not have made it and graduated - what he taught me helped me survive seminary even when they all left in I think my 3rd year)

I have a number of interesting stories about him that made a personal impact on my life in a very short time.

Telling the story needs to be done live so one day HL ... (you already know that he introduced me to my wife .... lol) but one special relates to how he treated me as a person and a "peer" despite he being very strict in terms of how one should relate to those older than him and in authority etc. As a young man struggling with personal issues of self worth and so many other things related to inadequacies at the thought of serving God ... his example made a lasting impact!

Anonymous said...


HL said...

paul: Thanks a million for your encouraging words. So, I gotta visit you to hear the whole story and perhaps interview you for more details? I'm actually getting to know my late dad through people like you. :)

lina: The problem is, power tends to corrupt, and the corrupted seek power.

charis: Thanks for the affirmation!

howcan: I'm only picking up after your example. You started on this trail ahead of me. :)

ma: You are unconventional in your own way too. That means, I inherited a double whammy! :P

anonymous: Thanks for the lovely song.