Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Church Protestors

Sin Chew Jit Poh
23 April 2015


What to do about those people that protested against a church in KL recently?


It goes without saying that I disagree with them. I find their reasons to protest as misguided, racist, bigoted and wrong theologically.


But do I want them punished? Not in the slightest. It is their right to assemble and it is their right to say idiotic things looking like fools in the process.


There have been those who call for their charging under the new revamped sedition act. Well apart from the fact that I am unsure if the “new and improved” amendments are in force yet I don’t think anyone should be charged under any law for expressing themselves. The exception being if their words were meant to incite violence.


If one does not like laws like the sedition act to be used against people like opposition politicians and political activists, then one must also oppose the use of any such law against bigots and idiots.


So what can be done?


Well, the best way to battle bigotry is to point out the flaws in their arguments and logic. Also there has to be clear and unswerving condemnation of their actions, preferably by the leadership of the country. And such condemnation has to be consistent.


Along with the condemnation there must also be firm protection of those who are being protested against. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of all citizens. This responsibility takes two forms. First is a negative duty to not restrict one’s rights. And secondly a positive duty to protect those whose rights are being challenged. Therefore in this situation just as the protesters have a right to express themselves which ought not to be curtailed, the church and its congregation and their right to worship has to be protected too.


Let’s face facts, there are nasty people out there with nasty little brains and nasty big mouths. This will never change. But shutting them up would mean disrespecting the very rights which we desire for ourselves. As the philosopher once said “I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.


But consistency is the key. Consistent intellectual repudiation of bad ideas and the pushing forward of good progressive ones. And strong leadership which condemns such backward thinking even if it is at a political cost to themselves.


It is only in this way can there be created a norm accepted by the community as a whole. A norm based on humanism, humanity and the respect for one another. No laws can ever do that.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

It’s basically their job

Brave New World (The Star)
15 April 2015

The one thing that they are supposed to do is to be in the Dewan Rakyat and make laws, or oppose them as the case may be.


LAST Saturday, high in the South Stand of White Hart Lane, a little boy was excitedly chattering away to his father. He was going on and on about his hero Harry Kane.
He was describing in detail how he thought that the new wonderkid striker for Tottenham Hotspur was going to score.
And when the game finally started, his excitement was vented by the occasional high-pitched cry of “Come on, you Spurs”.
Ninety minutes later, after Spurs had put in yet another pathetic display of indifference which allowed relegation-threatened Aston Villa to walk away with three points, the little lad was understandably quiet. It’s tough when your heroes let you down.
And that is why so many people, myself included, were so furious last week when we learned that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) could have been defeated if most of the Pakatan MPs were in the House during the vote. We felt let down.
Since then there have been many column inches dedicated to the issue.
One online news portal went so far as to check on the missing MPs and find out why they were not there.
Some of the reasons were undoubtedly justified; critical illness, for example. So much has been said that I don’t really want to add any more to this matter; therefore this will be my last word on it.
Pakatan has not been perfect. No one expected them to be.
They have had some seriously bad hitches, like the ill-advised plan to make Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the Mentri Besar of Selangor via the dodgy method of forcing a by-election.
They may have had their reasons, but the whole thing looked tawdry and cheap; which made PKR look as capable of low-level political machinations as their opponents are.
Then of course there is the hudud thing. PAS goes off on its own doing something which was not part of the Pakatan manifesto.
They had been supported by non-traditional PAS voters because they gave the impression that they were far more concerned about social welfare and good governance than ancient criminal justice systems.
Furthermore, having portrayed themselves as democrats, their leader is now going around saying Muslims cannot question their version of hudud. Yes, very democratic.
In other words Pakatan has let voters down before.
So why the vitriol and anger about them letting slip the opportunity to defeat Pota?
Well, because if there is one thing that Pakatan has been utterly clear about it is the fact they oppose such draconian laws.
The one thing that was perhaps their strongest appeal was that they will not stand for such unjust and wicked laws.
No matter what their differences, this was the thing that voters thought they would be absolutely united over.
And the manner with which they could have opposed it also matters. For what they had to do was basically their job.
I understand that MPs in this country are expected to do a million and one things which they are not supposed to be doing and their lives are difficult.
But the one thing that they are supposed to do, their raison d’etre, is to be in the Dewan Rakyat and make laws, or oppose them as the case may be.
Nobody is perfect, but there is only so much one can let slide by.
On the one issue that we thought they would be absolutely firm on, the one job that they were voted in for, they let us down.
That is why people are so angry. That is why I was so angry.
And if the Pakatan cannot realise that, if they can only make excuses, then they run the risk of taking the people for granted and in politics, that is suicidal.


Sin Chew Jit Poh
9 April 2015

You may have heard of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. The government has said this proposed law is necessary to deal with terrorism, in particular international terrorism like that conducted by groups like ISIS. Critics of this proposed law say that it is a new Internal Security Act and that it not only tramples over civil liberties but it is also open to abuse. Here are some very worrying points from the Prevention of Terrorism Bill.


The first point is with regard to the person or persons who conducts the investigation. This person is called an Inquiry Officer and he or she is not supposed to be a police officer. The Inquiry Officer is appointed by the Minister and it is his report which will be the main justification whether to detain a person or not.


Under section 10 of the Bill it says that an Inquiry Officer can obtain evidence even if under normal circumstances such evidence will not be admissible in court. Why is this worrying? Because under normal circumstances, evidence such as confessions obtained under duress, is inadmissible. Does this provision mean that a suspect can be tortured in order to obtain a confession?


Then there is the Prevention of Terrorism Board. This Board is the body that decides whether a person can be detained or not. The government has made a big deal about how this is an improvement to the ISA because whereas in the ISA the Minister alone makes the decision to detain or not, the POTA leaves that decision to a Board. Sure, this decision is now in the hands of many and not one, but who is it that appoints the Board? It is the government of the day; and this naturally raises questions as to the Board’s neutrality.


And what are their powers? They can detain a person for up to two years without trial and they can extend that order for a further two years. In other words this is exactly the same as the ISA.


The ISA had been challenged in court before on grounds that the powers of the Minister if left unchecked by the court could be made on spurious grounds. The POTA tries to get around this by having section 19 which clearly states that no decision of the Board can be questioned in court except on procedural grounds. Whether this section can stand the scrutiny of a court is one thing, but what is clear is that this law is designed to try to keep a court of law out of the equation in the decision making of the Board.


But surely we ordinary people have nothing to fear as this law is meant only for terrorists. Well, the ISA was only meant for violent threats to security but it was used on political dissidents, environmental activists and a host of other people not involved whatsoever with violence. Besides, how can we be sure that a person accused of terrorist activities really was involved because the Board which makes the decision to detain is unaccountable to a court and the Inquiry Officer looks like he or she can take any measures to obtain evidence.


For these reasons alone I oppose the POTA completely. The small steps that we appeared to take as a country with the repeal of the ISA now looks like it is going to be completely wiped out and once again the government of the day is going to have far too much power in a law which so easily can be abused.