I will tell the Home Minister the next time I see him
(Posted on 09.50am Jan 19, 2002 )

The year 2002 has just started and I have already been told of rumours circulating that there is an impending RM10 million defamation suit about to be filed against an administrator of a popular community web-site in Subang Jaya.

The action is rumoured to be taken by a politician whose is alleged to have been "embarrassed" by negative reports on the construction saga of Subang Jaya's Chee Wen school. If the impending legal action is true and not a sandiwara to 'frighten and intimidate'

individuals and community leaders from criticising actions or inactions, then this will be another milestone of 'suspect political culture'.

In doing this elected representatives or politicians are acting in bad faith. They should instead engage individuals and community leaders who differ in opinion and strategy in proactive discussions.

I had begun to believe that after the 1997-1999 political mud-slinging and the disrutping of a peaceful country for political agendas, things were beginning to return to normal. Individuals and even the prime minister and his deputy had traveled the country for crisis management tokeep the rakyat focused on the bigger picture and the need to stand firmly behind the Barisan Nasional.

All this work will be lost if we have a scenario in the political landscape where elected representatives, instead of managing the rakyat with the much preached about mesra rakyat culture, resort to a culture of filing legal suits each time they are 'politically cornered'.

If the suit mentioned above is filed, it would effectively label the township of Subang Jaya a very litigious society with their million ringgit suits. Last year saw three major suits being filed.

According to various quarters, it is alleged that "tempers are high" because the said politician is strongly lobbying for a Selangor State Exco seat. Now with the Subang Jaya community in Subang Jaya so riled up over the Chinese school issue, and not forgetting MCA being split into Team A and B, I wonder that appointment to Selangor State Exco, though close, may materialize!

I am told battle lines have already been drawn with a large cross-section of the community supporting the web-site administrator.

Rough house tactics

Earlier in the week, those who campaigned for a new school building were labeled "opposition members" while several parents who visited the same politician had alleged that they had their details taken down by two persons claiming to be "Special Branch officers".

It is quite shocking if these claims are true. All law abiding members of the Malaysian family cannot but ask: why the rough house tactics of fear and intimidation? Are we also saying that one cannot question an elected representative, politicians or even a civil servant on any matter which is of public interest?

I am quite certain the Special Branch has better things to do, what with the al-Qaeda, Al-Ma'unah, KMM and other extremist groups running around and suspicious jail breaks by dangerous criminals. They will not spend valuable time and limited resources interviewing law abiding, but no doubt angry and frustrated parents, who want a school for their children as promised in an election manifesto.

The next time I meet the home affairs minister, I will certainly share this concern and ask for an internal investigation.

Has the passion for public interest issues and their deliberations - like the infamous UEM case - died an unnatural death?

Are we saying that if a wealthy politician owns several choice properties and builds another huge bungalow on a choice site, like the one on Jalan Opu Daeng Chelak 9/2, Shah Alam, he or she should not be questioned as to the source of his or her financial income?

Dangerous trend

Does it also mean that if an elected representative's driveway looks like luxury car dealer's showroom, with a fleet of luxury cars, the rakyat must say nothing?

Are we to agree that if an elected representative has accumulated wealth which does not correspond to his or her monthly earnings, we, the rakyat, can say nothing as it is against "national security and interests"?

Does it also mean that blatant and blind support for corrupt politicians will benefit one with ownership of shop-lots, houses from developers at special rate, construction contracts and awards even if one is "blacklisted for poor workmanship" by the government, and positions in state funded community groups?

And those who love King and country, support the prime minister and the Barisan Nasional government but speak intelligently and with conviction for good governance, accountability and transparency should suffer selective prosecution, retrenchment and have their details taken by the authorities?

A dangerous trend is in danger of being set, all because some vulnerable political warlords and their parties feel we should tolerate corrupt politicians because "we cannot afford another by-election". Such an opinion only belittles the maturity and intelligence of the enlightened communities they serve.

Truly it will be a sad day for Malaysian politics, if, there are further attempts to shackle dissent and discourage diverse opinions after such a fine display of political and crisis management by the country's leadership.

Dr. Jacob George
Subang Jaya

This opinion piece has also been published in Malaysiakini