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Dear Prime Minister: Whose truth? Whose facts?

In Malaysia on September 5, 2008 at 5:39 am

(in support of A Joint Merdeka Day Message – available here)

On Wednesday, 3rd Sep 2008, our PM Abdullah Badawi said that we should ‘uphold truth without fear. Yet, I don’t think he understands the point.

It’s not the principle of telling the truth that Malaysians fear. So what if they did tell the truth? Will the relevant authorities act on principle? The last I heard, they are corrupt. Is that wrong? I also believe that they are quite incompetent. Is that also wrong? Finally, the banning of an entire website for comments relating to one post at Malaysia Today goes against the very grain of fairness and reason. Am I wrong to say this?

On failing to act on principle: During our 51st Independence celebrations, you asked for unity amongst Malaysians. However, 5 days prior, a member of your party made an extremely rude and racist remark. Instead of acting on the principle that such bigotry should have no place in our government, federal or state, you aplogised for his behaviour because – this is the best bit – it was said during a by-election.

On incompetence: At the most vulnerable period of UMNO as a political party, the coalition government’s Malay representative goes out to offend a significant portion, perhaps even more than 50%, of the country, by saying Malaysian Chinese are mere squatters and therefore has less rights. Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-racial society but not harmonious nor integrated exactly because politicians use fear amongst races to shore up its base of supporters. This is irresponsible populism at its worst.

Further incompetence: The future of our ICT infrastructure does not just require a large number of users but also need greater usage. Yet, instead of ensuring greater usage the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) which has a duty, amongst others, to ensure that Malaysia’s ICT industry grow to be more competitive, tries to take down one of the more popular site in Malaysia. The last time I checked, Malaysia Today had more hits than New Straits Times (more on this in a later post).

A further quote of Abdullah Badawi (see article link above):

I would like communication technology and channels to be used constructively as instruments upholding the principles of justice by disseminating the truth based on facts.

I’m assuming this is in reference to the recent banning of Malaysia Today. So, what are the facts pertaining to the ban? Setting aside that its clearly against the Bill of Guarantee, who decides what Malaysia Today posted were not based on facts? The MCMC or our courts?

Finally, reason and fairness: I too believe we should uphold the truth and the principles of justice but mere slogans are not going to help. So, let’s state clearly what we mean, when we say “facts” and “truth’ and “principles of justice”. The powerfully righteous phrase – Rule of Law – is frequently used as a slogan. I too would like to use it but I will argue, not so much for its emotional appeal, but as a meaningful principle, the principle of justice.

Our criminal justice system seeks to ensure that we are sufficiently coerced so as not to commit offences. This is only true if the rules which govern us are fixed, knowable and certain. And in applying the principle of rule of law, it means that all Malaysians are subject to the same rules.

The case of the racist leader in the Penang by-election shows that the rules on sedition does not apply to him, because, you Prime Minister, thinks it should not. Malaysia Today, based on the decision of fact by MCMC, not our courts, has done wrong. And the list goes on. Hence, I do not think any sincere Malaysian could honestly say that our laws apply to all Malaysians equally, rich or poor, without discrimination.

Again, what are the facts? Yes, uphold the truth, but, only do it when you are powerful enough that our laws do not apply to you. Otherwise, the full weight of it will come down extremely hard. Again, and in the interest of upholding the truth, am I wrong to say this?

Sir, you’re in your second term, time is running out and as a smart guy said recently during DNC 2008, “the third time is not the charm“.

One final question: Which side of history do you want to be on? The truth, or the other side – like one of our leaders who failed to uphold the principles of justice and now seek to regain some semblance of a legacy?

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