It appears that the notion of incarceration for convicted criminals has been turned on its head ever since Najib Razak joined their ranks in Kajang Prison on 23 August.
The former prime minister, who was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment after the Federal Court upheld his conviction of misappropriating SRC International funds, has done a few things that many, especially fellow inmates, would consider as thought-provoking.
Some of his actions also had the effect of challenging the conventions that exist in prison. A few might even hail Najib as a reformist for making attempts to forge changes to the prison regime.
Although some things Najib did were by and large made possible by the mere fact that he once occupied the highest office in the land where feudalism still thrives, they are likely to help open up new avenues to improve the welfare of fellow prisoners.
For instance, his ability to get immediate medical treatment from the health authorities after suffering from some “health complications” should be good news for many prisoners who usually have to contend with a long wait.
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This also means that prisoners who yearn to have the best public healthcare there is in the country could have their long-held hopes realised.
Prisoners are generally required to wear prison garb and be handcuffed whenever and wherever they go outside of the prison grounds. But Najib appears to have been able to challenge these conventions.
The prison wear, whether it is in white or other colours, is normally meant to instil uniformity so that the status of all inmates is levelled equally, that is, as convicted people.
But with Najib given the option to wear a suit to the court, it would mean that an appreciation has developed for a bit of variety in prison life. It would add colour, literally and metaphorically.
Similarly, prisoners are normally made to wear handcuffs for security reasons.
There is also another meaning to this requirement. Wearing handcuffs visibly declares personal freedom that is curbed, a harsh reality that is expected to evoke a sense of humiliation and shame on the part of those who have committed a crime.
However, if some prisoners are unable to harbour a sense of shame and remorse for their misdeeds, then wearing the handcuffs may not be applicable and should instead be made optional. This probably explains why Najib rightly does not wear them.
And lately, Najib sought permission from the Prisons Department to attend parliamentary sitting, as he insists he is still an MP, and also after House of Representatives Speaker Azhar Harun declared that he was in no position or “powerless” to disallow the prisoner from entering the lower house.
And given that the request was rejected by the department concerned, Najib’s lawyers have expectedly filed legal action against it.
The lawyers are also seeking permission for Najib to meet his aides regularly to enable him to perform his tasks as a committed MP. There is also a possibility that he might want to visit his Pekan constituency.
Some social media users have expressed concern about the idea of allowing a convict to enter into the august chamber where the people’s representatives make, not break, laws.
The irony might be seen as abominable as having a fox in the henhouse, but then, that is stretching it a bit.
Be that as it may, a success in Najib’s legal bid to quash the Prisons Department’s restrictions would directly or otherwise mean a triumph for fellow inmates.
Following Najib’s footsteps, an inmate may, for example, seek permission to attend a parent-teacher association meeting as he, who was once its dedicated chairman, is deeply concerned about the educational achievements of the schoolchildren. Nothing could be more important than that. To be sure, this idea was proposed in jest by a social media user. It might just come to fruition, much to his chagrin.
It would, of course, be going over the top to suggest, as a social media user did, that Najib be allowed to dine with wife Rosmah Mansor for their wedding anniversary. That would be seen as an abuse of privilege for selfish ends.
While it is not Najib’s intention to treat prison like a homestay, as unfairly accused by another social media user, imprisonment need not necessarily be reduced to a life of captive pigeons. – The Malaysian Insight