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Can election victors ensure highest standard of justice to the vanquished?

Photograph: Sumisha Naidu/CNA

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This nation that dignified its democracy with the maturity of its votes is thrust into a situation where it should display unquestionable decency towards the vanquished, writes Dominic Damian.

That our nation dignified itself by voting for change is undeniable.

Despite the overwhelming odds, it was an undisputed victory for the people.

But what is the price and pride in this newfound freedom? Has there been a price extracted? Have we as a nation in the process reclaimed and won honour in a holistic manner?

These are early days perhaps where celebrations are in order rather than incisive soul-searching. Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons to warrant our conscience to work even in moments of joy.

The case of an ex-leader is a disturbing sign that the anarchy of the media circus and journalistic sensationalism is evident. Our system is not of the highest professional standards when faced with depravity and criminality, when we try and seek justice in the face of the shameless, scandalous greed of our ex-leader and his cohorts.

Perhaps it has been quite a while since the security apparatus had a real criminal case on their hands; as such, the inexperience is showing.

What purpose or profit is there in the cheering and gloating over small snippets of information about the stolen loot, which are shared like nuggets of gold on social media and other platforms?

The villains are already the most vilified and loathed of persons wallowing in their misery – subject to the scorn, ridicule and derision of media bashing; joked about; pulverised by police investigations; abandoned by all and betrayed by their fine-feathered plastic friends.

What satisfaction does one attain from the gleeful gaping and gawking at the infested can of political worms crawling out from every nook and cranny?

Meanwhile, the elephant in the room has been reduced to a scampering whining shell of a mouse, pathetically complaining about chocolates and candy bars. It would save everyone time, money, heartache and the circus act if a confession was forthcoming and everyone could then move on.

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Even these who are now the crumbs of our thoughts must be fed the bread of justice!

A nation’s true greatness of character lies in its accordance of justice to even the worst of its offenders. What is the purpose and meaning of justice? Do we believe in the ideals of restorative justice that resuscitates life?

The humanistic conceptualisation of this idea is that every offender should be offered rehabilitation and redemption and eventually be reintegrated into society, with the caveat being that they are not a threat to life, limb or property.

This does not in any way imply that punitive measures or laws are redundant or irrelevant. These still have their place and should be exercised with prudent and sensitive consideration.

The responsibility of natural justice in no way detracts from the simple tried and tested fact that repentance dictates some form of restitution.

True justice in its pure essence is not the rejection of the sinner but of the sin. Real justice is not achieved through repugnance or repulsion arising from the shocking revelations of crimes, but in securing an understanding of the root causes of the existence of such crimes and how its size and weight increased.

The endemic levels of corruption and the sense of entitlement among the political, governing and business elite that manifested itself did not arise overnight by chance. Rather, they arose due to obvious politically guided choices of patronage built over decades by delusional parties whose lust for power, position and wealth was camouflaged by the race and religious agenda.

The circumstances and the environment were just about ripe for the crooks and criminals to capitalise on the situation. Unsurprisingly, it was an exotic flavour: an entourage of famous personalities, a veritable international who’s who in the financial banking system, cooking up a global storm.

This was no accident or a simple one-off incident. The trajectory was set some time back, and it was an inevitable tragedy waiting to happen.

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The opportunity, the temptation was always there leading to undesired results; it only needed the right criminal in the right place and in this instance, it was the leader of a nation, his family and his cohorts.

The persistent nagging thought that claws at the conscience is that:

  • the sinners of the past who sinned grievously left the rotting, infected wound of sin festering within the flesh of governance in the nation.
  • the sinners of the past created, wrote and perpetrated the ideological manual of permutations and variables that legalised all manner of sins so that they could remain in power.
  • the draconian, tyrannical monster of corruption and mayhem that was dethroned was a creation from the past. Should not the responsibility for this nightmare be a shared responsibility arising from the sense of realisation and acknowledgment of all the sinners?
  • this is a case of sinners judging other sinners who have sinned differently or have taken it beyond the original written manual.

The obvious facts scream into our faces: the obscene opulence, the murders, the repression and suppression, baton charges, tear gas, extravagant spending, migrants treated as slaves, refugees harassed, lock-up deaths, a citizen killing himself after being hounded and prosecuted for possessing RM200 worth of contraband cigarettes, and the incarceration of politicians. These and many other sorrows besieged the citizens of this nation.

Justice for the ordinary operated in brief and in spurts – but was on holiday when it was most needed. The cowardice of the most educated and exalted was never so conspicuous and suspect: burning buildings, missing persons and an absence of conscience despite the suffering of the ordinary people being always visible and ever present.

The smallest and seemingly most inconsequential act of injustice perpetrated towards anyone will stain the fabric of our nation. The various institutions and individuals must acknowledge their part in this inexcusable darkness and resolve to strengthen their procedures’ to ensure such injustices never recur.

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Punitive laws must be subject to periodic reviews and reforms, whenever we can think of far more meaningful and better options. We should discuss and improve the mechanism of how justice is dispensed.

The convention of common wisdom over the ages is the voice of reason – in knowing that the past and the present determine the future.

Just repealing draconian or repressive laws and instituting new laws as safeguards isn’t enough. Introspective soul-searching of the past and the present with impartiality, acknowledging weaknesses, and accepting the gauntlet of challenges associated with freedom will go some way towards healing the nation of its wounds.

It was not impossible to obtain votes and secure victory across the length and breadth of the country as achieved by the parties presently in power. But the same dedication and commitment should now be employed to unify and renew the divided children of this nation in healthy competition and cooperation for the greater good. Those who have been misled should be invited back to the fold without rage or rancour.

Pure justice does not preclude exploratory possibilities. The process of reinventing, reinvigorating and refining laws to reflect a society that is advancing – and not trapped by the eye-for-an-eye mentality – must be pursued.

Justice must never be driven by revenge or retribution. This nation that dignified its democracy with the maturity of its votes is thrust into a situation where it should display unquestionable decency towards the vanquished.

The nation’s institutions and its leaders will not be defined in how they won this victory, but rather in how they applied the highest standards of justice.

Is justice a crumb thrown off the political table – or is it the ultimate social bread that should be shared as a sign of equality?

Dominic Damian is a poet, music educationist, composer, instrumentalist-vocalist recording spiritual and social songs – and parent of five young lives.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Krishna Singh
31 May 2018 10.23am

Isn’t the fact Najib has not been lynched by the public a testimony of our observation of the rule of law. If it was UMNO, their goons would have been already ended the lynching!

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