How uneven are our scales of justice?


January 9, 2017

How uneven are our scales of justice?

by Dr,Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

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Professor and Ambassadoor Koh is the first Singaporean to receive the “Great Negotiator Award”, given out by the programme on negotiation at Harvard Law School, which comprises of students and faculty from the university as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.

COMMENT In an exchange with Tommy Koh at a seminar on ‘Japan as an economic power and its implications for South-East Asia’ in 1974, the Singaporean diplomat reminded me that members of the legal profession did not comprise members of the world’s oldest profession, perhaps only second. That’s probably untrue as they could be third or fourth on this list.

Whatever anyone’s opinion of lawyers derived from personal experience is – we should not forget that lawyers generally sell their services to the higher bidder – there needs to be concern about how unevenly tilted the scales of justice in Malaysia have become.

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Surprisingly or not surprisingly, there has been little discussion of this important topic though we have had a courageous whistleblower, Justice NH Chan, who called attention to the shortcomings of some of his former judicial colleagues in his book, ‘Judging the Judges’, subsequently printed in its second edition as ‘How to Judge the Judges’.

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Although Justice Chan, who sadly passed away recently, directed his criticism principally against his senior colleagues, his reiteration of the fundamental underpinnings of justice administration resonate in its relevance to the entire judiciary and other members of the legal profession.

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Members of the Judiciary–The judge must be fair and impartial. At the same time, it is important that even litigants who lose should feel that they had a fair trial.–Lim Teck Ghee

To him, the epitome of justice is a fair trial and this requires that the judge must do justice according to law – “this is what the rule of law is all about”. The judge must be fair and impartial. At the same time, it is important that even litigants who lose should feel that they had a fair trial.

Justice Chan also felt that the public should have sufficient knowledge to enable them to judge the performance of the judges.

However, even when there is public scrutiny – which rarely happens except in the most attention-grabbing of cases, say one in every tens of thousands – it appears to be well-nigh impossible to bring anyone from the judiciary – from the lowest subordinate magistrate level to the highest level of federal supreme judge – to book for any abuse of power, corrupt practice or judgment or judicial behavior seen to be unfair or unjust.

The Royal Commission’s no-action decision on the notorious VK Lingam case serves as a good example.Being fair and impartial means that each and all members of the judiciary especially have to rise above the factors of class, race or religion in arriving at judgment. Do integrity and impartiality constitute the norm or is the judiciary – as with the rest of the civil service – influenced by extraneous factors in the cases they hear?

To what extent, for example, are members of the judiciary influenced or affected by the racial identity of the accused and/or of the lawyers in the cases they hear? Are they likely to be more lenient when sentencing members from the rich and powerful strata of society or from members of their own racial grouping?

Are they biased against those from the poorer classes who do not have the services of sharp and expensive lawyers to ensure that they get a fair trial or against those from different racial or religious groups?

Seldom raised in public realm

To my knowledge, these and similar questions have seldom been raised or discussed in the public realm. Colleagues from the legal fraternity to whom I have addressed this question in private, although generally agreeing that the judiciary is far from being independent or free from political influence, argue that the scales of justice are generally evenly and fairly administered in Malaysia in terms of the influence and impact of race and religion.

The most recent findings in the 2016 Rule of Law Index conducted by the World Justice Project appear to contradict this view. This is Malaysia’s score on the following components of civil and criminal law

Civil Justice

No discrimination – 0.5
No corruption – 0.5
No improper government influence – 0.38
Accessibility and affordability – 0.5

Criminal Justice

No discrimination – 0.51
Due process of law – 0.57
No improper government influence – 0.39
Timely and effective adjudication – 0.53

Source here, p110.

What the data by this organisation seems to indicate – the index is based on over 100,000 households and 2,400 expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced, but we do not know the details of this sampling for Malaysia – is that one out of every two cases of civil and criminal justice in the country is tainted by discriminatory or corrupt action by the law enforcement agencies, including the judiciary.

Public attention – local and international – has tended to focus on issues related to fundamental rights and freedoms, constraints on government powers, and open government.

However in a robust and thriving democracy, it is equally important to ensure that the rule of law – as experienced in practical, everyday situations by ordinary people – is also subject to scrutiny and reform so that it is fair and impartial in all aspects.

A good example of such public examination is that recently conducted by British Columbia in its 2012 Justice Reform Initiative which resulted in a white paper and road map for justice reform in the state. We are sorely in need of such an initiative or minimally a clear and useful dialogue on this often neglected aspect of the Rule of Law. Perhaps the Bar Council can take the lead in this exercise.


LIM TECK GHEE is a former World Bank senior social scientist, whose report on bumiputera equity when he was director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies sparked controversy in 2006. He is now CEO of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.

 

Bersih, BERSIH, Bersih–A Great Success


November 20, 2016

Bersih, BERSIH, Bersih–A Great Success

by Dean Johns

http://www.malaysiakini.com

BERSIH wants him to get lost

Here’s to success for BERSIH in its fifth public rally in support of its campaign for clean, free and fair elections in Malaysia.

Not that I, or I imagine anybody else, expects anything like success, at least in the short-term. But even false optimism beats succumbing to feelings of despair and defeat.

Though it must be terribly difficult not to concede defeat in the face of an electoral system so corrupt that it leaves Malaysians with no choice but to vote with their feet.

READ THIS:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-conversation-global/malaysias-bersih-5-rally_b_13070788.html

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Bersih, BERSIH, Bersih

To either walk away from the criminal cesspit to which the UMNO-BN regime has systematically reduced the country, as millions of Malaysians including my wife and daughter have done, or to stay and walk the talk like the BERSIH marchers are doing on November 19.

Of course both sets of walkers are playing their parts in striving to perform the feat of forcing UMNO-BN to clean-up the disgusting mess it has made of the country in its greed for power and plunder, or to clear-out in favour of an honest, people-friendly government.

Countless Malaysian emigrants and expatriates around the world in Global BERSIH gather together to agitate, rally and march in support of their fellows back home.

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Congrats to Maria Chin, Ambiga, and Your Colleagues

And many work hard individually for clean, free and fair elections and clean, free and fair government for Malaysia.

My wife, for example, who as a Malay-Chinese married to a mat salleh is a living exemplar of multi-ethnic accord, is close to completing a PhD at Sydney University on the possibility or otherwise of Malaysian’s achievement of a unifying national identity despite UMNO-BN’s determination to maintain its domination of the nation by preaching unity but actually promoting racial and religious division and discord.

A PhD that wouldn’t be totally impossible to pursue in any of Malaysia’s local or internationally-affiliated universities, given their all-too-obvious domination by regime-friendly management and academic appointees.

Meanwhile our daughter, as dearly as she loves going balik kampong to spend time with her maternal relatives, has been inspired by the fact that she feels physically and spiritually ‘grubby’ every time she visits UMNO-BN’s Malaysia, to aspire to an eventual career in human-rights law.

My own motivation for at least metaphorically walking in support of BERSIH and indeed all other Malaysian organisations and individuals working to clean-up the malodorous mess that UMNO-BN has made of Malaysia by writing this Malaysiakini column for the past decade or so is both personal and a matter of principle.

Driven to seek the light

As vividly aware as I am of the unceasing power-struggles within our human psyches between opposing forces for either good or evil like virtue and vice, greed and generosity, creation and destruction, co-operation and conflict, truth and falsehood and so on, I find myself driven to support and seek the light along with those of my fellows who similarly try and avoid the dark.

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Dean Johns–Malaysia’s Mat Salleh Friend

And thus I’m delighted to declare my solidarity and write if not literally walk in step with BERSIH and its supporters, especially those with sufficient spine to stride out on the streets in demonstration of their disgust at government corruption and sundry other criminalities, rather than settling for complaining in secret.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that I wish all power to BERSIH in its latest street-march calling for Malaysians to be accorded their constitutional right to clean, free and fair elections, and by extension clean, free and fair government.

And conversely, all the bad luck in the world to every member, supporter and crony of the discredited UMNO-BN regime, from its alleged 1MDB-billionaire Crime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his cabinet, through its Judiciary, Police Force and fawning mainstream media, on down to its very dregs, those dedak-hungry so-called red-shirts, all united in their efforts to keep empowering and enriching themselves and in the process sending Malaysia and Malaysians on the road to ruin.

Malaysia–The Land of Fear and Intimidation


November 17, 2016

Malaysia–The Land of Fear and Intimidation

by Dennis Ignatius

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Fear is filling our land. People are becoming increasingly afraid of their government, a government which has been amassing more and more power to harass, intimidate, threaten, punish or imprison those who oppose or disagree with it.

The goal is to cow the people into submission, force them to toe the line, pressure them to bend their knees to what their heart cries out against, to keep silent when citizenship demands a response.

Liberty impoverished

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Najib Razak’s  Lapdog or Guardian of Public Order?

There are so many oppressive laws now and so many different ways they can be applied and enforced.There are laws against sedition, laws prohibiting actions detrimental to parliamentary democracy (a law that is itself detrimental to democracy), laws against online posts that are deemed offensive or that might hurt the feelings of others and laws against insulting behaviour, to name a few.

A tweet, a Facebook post or a careless comment on a blog can suddenly bring tactical teams to your front door. What is free speech in other democracies is increasingly criminal here.

Even harmless yellow balloons can become subversive material, leading to a “breach of peace,” be seen as “intent to provoke anger” or be taken as “insulting behaviour.”

On pain of suspension or dismissal, university students are denied the right to protest, make known their unhappiness or be politically active unless, of course, they are active on behalf of the establishment.

Cartoonist and artists may not lampoon political leaders or bruise their ever so sensitive egos. Evidently many thin-skinned politicians feel they need protection from the disdain of the people.

The people may not insult their political leaders or hurt their feelings; political leaders, however, are under no obligation to respect the feelings or the intelligence of the people.

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Freedom is their cause

Whatever it is, the underlying message from those in power is simply this: public opposition and dissent invite state retaliation in one form or another. If you play the game – close your eyes, turn away, keep silent and wave the flag when it is demanded of you – you’ll be spared their wrath.

It appears that as citizens the only privilege we have is to pay for all the profligacy, misgovernance and corruption that we see all around us. And, of course, to suffer in silence.

Never in our history have we been so impoverished of our rights, so at the mercy of those in power.

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Is this what they mean when they talk about wanting a governance system based on Asian values, standards and requirements rather than on “the lopsided ethos” of the West (whatever that means) as one leader asserted recently?

The word is out

The word is out: don’t talk publicly, don’t write, don’t demonstrate because you never know who’s listening, who’s watching, who’s waiting for you. The state may not have such vast capabilities to monitor what people are saying or doing but when the people believe it, it becomes real. They modify their behaviour, they tone it down, they retreat from the public square.

Dissent is slowly being driven behind closed doors – people complain in private, grouse quietly among friends, surreptitiously share black humour on WhatsApp or vent their anger online under cover of anonymity. This is what we have been reduced to.

Outsourcing terror

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UMNO’s Gangsters

And then there’s the outsourcing of terror and intimidation to groups like the Red Shirts who run around with apparent impunity threatening, intimidating and sowing fear. They vow bloodshed and promise destruction if they don’t get their way – to stifle all criticism of the party in power, to silence dissenting opinions, to deter public protest. They are shallow, crude and thuggish but they have their secret admirers.

It is simply devious for political leaders to disavow any connection to the Red Shirts while allowing them to continue their reign of terror and excusing their ugly behaviour.

In the meantime, those responsible for public safety, quick to investigate and arrest opposition leaders and activists for what they say, dismiss the threatening language of the Red Shirts as harmless talk, a mere “war of words.”

Perhaps to demonstrate some resolve, some semblance of impartiality, a few Red Shirt minions are being investigated for the minor offense of dumping trash in front of Malaysiakini’s offices.

That in itself is an affront; it is the leader of the Red Shirts himself who should be held accountable and not simply for usurping the functions of Alam Flora but for criminal intimidation.

For so long as the Red Shirts leader is allowed to strut around like a peacock on heat, it will be hard not to conclude that he has a patron in high places, that he is merely a protected hired-hand doing the dirty work of men hiding in the shadows.

The colour of legitimacy

Some, of course, are endeavouring to conflate the illegitimacy of the Red Shirts with BERSIH, suggesting that both are but different sides of the same coin, that both should stop their activities.Nothing could be more disingenuous.

BERSIH is exercising its constitutional right to peaceful assembly to demand clean elections, clean government, support for parliamentary democracy, the right to dissent and the empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak.

The Red Shirts, on the other hand, have no other agenda than to prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. They have no legitimacy, no integrity and no business harassing BERSIH supporters.

There’s no moral equivalency here; they are poles apart, as different as night is from day. And in harassing BERSIH, they cannot even claim the right to peaceful assembly.

 

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Tan Sri Razali Ismail

As Razali Ismail, the Suhakam chairman, said, “If the intention of the organizers of a counter-demonstration is to prevent another assembly from taking place, or to interfere with it, the counter-demonstration will cease to enjoy the protection afforded by the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.” That makes them a mob, illegitimate and illegal.

Hard choices ahead

Whatever it is, we all have a hard and difficult choice before us: keep silent as our nation continues on its downward trajectory towards tyranny or stand up and speak out despite the threats and intimidation.

Many feel the battle is already lost and are leaving. Others have decided to just stay out of the fray, abandon the struggle to build a better nation. They figure the only option that they have is make the best of a bad situation, keep their heads down, learn to survive in tyranny’s shadow.

But submission to tyranny doesn’t buy peace; it merely postpones the day of reckoning. Unbridled greed, misgovernance and the abuse of power will take its toll; it always does.

Benjamin Franklin may well be right: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty not safety.”

We all have some soul-searching to do to confront both the fear within and the fear without. We either overcome our fears or go quietly into the dark night that awaits us if we do nothing.

 

 

Time for Scholars and Intellectuals to speak up for Freedom of Thought


October 29, 2016

Time for Scholars and Intellectuals to speak up for Freedom of Thought

by Kris Hartley

Kris Hartley is a Lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University, where he teaches quantitative methods and public sector economics. He is also a Faculty Fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center and a Nonresident Fellow for Global Cities at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

He holds research appointments at the Center for New Structural Economics at Peking University, the Institute of Water Policy at National University of Singapore, and the Center for Government Competitiveness at Seoul National University. In the past four years Kris has held academic appointments throughout Asia, including Visiting Researcher at the University of Hong Kong, Visiting Lecturer in economics at Vietnam National University, Visiting Researcher at Seoul National University, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of the Philippines, and research and teaching assistant at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Kris focuses on economic policy, urban planning, and environmental management. An avid global traveller, he has visited 50 countries and resided in ten on three continents. Kris received a B.A. in classics (Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Tennessee, an M.B.A. from Baylor University, a Master of City Planning from the University of California–Berkeley, and a PhD in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore.

Scholars should allocate a portion of their time to addressing social injustice, Kris Hartley writes, and academics of all disciplines have a crucial role to play.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s draconian crackdown on university professors and deans has sent a chill through global academia. While Turkey’s oppressive political climate appears uniquely hopeless, free speech is under assault around the world as a wave of authoritarianism crashes ashore. Politically opportunistic ‘strong-men’ such as Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, and potentially Donald Trump are taking advantage of fears about terrorism and globalisation while ridiculing opponents as weak and traitorous.

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Sadly, their actions do not end there. Stifling freedom of thought has priority status in the dictator’s playbook and limited press freedom in many countries is an unsettling bellwether. Scholars may be next in line at the figurative guillotine, but does the academic system encourage them to fight back?

A widely circulated 2015 commentary by Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr argued that scholars are not doing enough to address real-world problems, with credibility and job security reliant almost exclusively on publishing output. Indeed, the academic promotion system rewards publication in journals that are at once elite (to a few) and obscure (to everyone else). Aspiring scholars are further incentivised by the metricization of research. One example is “impact factor,” a measurement of the mentions one article receives in other articles.

Like a tempest in a teacup, this tiny professional realm buzzes with insular measures of self-importance. It can do better.

Are academic elites repelled by activism and public engagement? The aforementioned term “impact” is misleading and has little concern with the practical world. Resources and intellectual capital are devoted to journal articles that reflect brilliant work but often receive little attention outside the teacup. More tragically, such work monopolises the time of scholars who could otherwise allocate some effort to social advocacy through their own discipline-specific perspectives.

A sea-change in the way scholars view their profession – rejecting the role of intellectual line-workers and embracing that of publically-engaged thought leaders – would not only inspire change-makers to enter academia but also lead to more impactful research.

Scholars are often portrayed as arrogant pontificators luxuriating in the proverbial ivory tower. Indeed, modern society has in most parts of the world granted them the freedom to speak as they please. It is left to the marketplace of ideas to reward some with publicity and others with indifference. However, when authoritarianism rises, scholars are among the first to be silenced. From Hitler to Pol Pot, and now to Erdoğan, the early stages of power consolidation see intellectual freedom deemed a threat to political legitimacy. Unenlightened governments fear that an informed populace is a noncompliant one. Fortunately, they are correct.

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More Noam Chomskys Needed Urgently

What can the world’s scholars do to help inform the populace? The modern academic profession is globally connected, particularly in research addressing universal problems like financial crises, pandemics, terrorism, and climate change. Academia offers a platform for immediate action through the strength of its networks. It is as unfair to expect scholars in Erdoğan’s Turkey to take a public stand against rising authoritarianism, as it also would have been in Stalin’s Russia or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Outspokenness in such environments can be career suicide – or worse.

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However, scholars in liberal countries can be valuable partners in exposing political ills, using information provided by their peers in at-risk countries. Information, like education, is a peaceful but useful weapon against authoritarianism. Several years passed before the world became aware of Pol Pot’s atrocities in Cambodia and governments were slow to act. It took the Khmer Rouge’s foolish military provocations to elicit the ire of Vietnam, resulting in swift regime change. Pol Pot, like Kim Jong-un today, tried to seal his country from information flows. Even in the modern era of ubiquitous information access, awareness alone has not always led to action (an example is the Darfur crisis). External intervention for regime change is a risky strategy and many governments fear domestic political blowback. Regardless, lack of exposure should never be a reason for predatory regimes enduring and academia can play an important role.

This call to action recognises the importance of maintaining a firewall between scholarly research and commentary. Credibility in one is not mutually exclusive of the other, as proven by the many internationally visible thought leaders holding academic positions (such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich). It is crucial to the quality of scholarship that academic writing remains robust, scientific, and ideologically neutral; research should stand on its own scientific merit rather than on emotional arguments or political currency. Still, many journals now request authors to provide bullet points listing the practical implications of their research. While this effort recognises the gap between theory and practice, scholars must also go beyond bullet points and use their credibility to draw broader attention to social, economic, and political issues that have an impact on – and are explained by – their own particular disciplines.
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Malaysia’s Plutocrat ala Erdogan–Freedom with Words and Double Speak

History may regard the current era as a reincarnation of the 1930s, when a ramp-up of authoritarianism was watched with nervousness before spiralling out of control. Scholars are positioned to fight back through a global conversation about freedom, fairness, and social justice. Hasty actions against academia by nervous authoritarian governments are evidence of this power.

Scholars who allot even a paltry 10 per cent of their time to addressing social injustice can make a transformative difference. No discipline is beyond this conversation. The social sciences – including economics, political science and sociology – are directly relevant. The fields of business, health, education, science, and humanities also offer valuable perspectives on government malfeasance, failed policy, and humanitarian strife. The venues are numerous – press publications, blogs, even Facebook posts – and in the modern era of social media a commentary in an obscure outlet can receive widespread attention almost instantly.

The renowned educator Horace Mann once said: “be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” To paraphrase this, scholars should feel professionally unfulfilled until they have made dictators uncomfortable. Academia is capable of maintaining its scientific standards while mobilising for progress. Growing authoritarianism is a call to reinforce this effort.

Kris Hartley is a Lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University, a Faculty Fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center and a Nonresident Fellow for Global Cities at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

This article is published in collaboration with Policy Forum — Asia and the Pacific’s leading platform for policy analysis and discussion.

Professor, speak up and make a difference

 

The Twitting IGP, UMNO State and Public Order


September 25, 2016

The Twitting IGP, UMNO State and Public Order

by Cmdr(rtd) S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get…”

– Raymond Chandler, ‘The Lady in the Lake’

I have a “guilt by association” complex when it comes to journalists or former journalists. While what I write has nothing to do with journalism, whenever a journalist is harassed – someone once told me, once a journalist always a journalist – I have an overwhelming feeling of simpatico for journalists who are threatened by the UMNO state.

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Agents of UMNO State–127,000 of them

It is ironic that in a fascist state or one trending to fascism, the written word sometimes becomes powerful in ways that could never be in lands of the free. It is also notable that in such states the Police Force always reminds citizens that it is the fair and just instrument of the state.

Reading the Facebook posting of Norlin Wan Musa (above) on the treatment meted out to her husband, former journalist Sidek Kamiso, is like reading the testimonials of people who live in countries where even the pantomime of democracy has been discarded in favour of whatever kind of tyranny that the state chooses to indulge in.

When Norlin asks, “What have we become”, the answer to that question is reflected in the actions of those who invaded her home, menaced her family and dragged her husband across state lines to face charges brought on by cowardly men who file Police reports as a means to stifle free speech. This is 1Malaysia in all its glory.

As I wrote when HRH Crown Prince of Johor discovered that the practitioners of the dark arts were monitoring him, “There is always that line a Malaysian crosses. That line that nobody used to talk about but these days the state assures us is there and there will be consequences if we cross it.”

What exactly are these “consequences”? If you are going to the United Nations with the intention of “addressing issues such as the refugee crisis and securing global peace”, then the least you can have is a security apparatus that does not issue threats to opposition politicians and harasses former journalists for tweeting about a deceased divisive religious operative.

Furthermore, it  behoves those who pontificate on such matters, especially on securing global peace and waxing lyrical about having “standard operating procedures (SOPs) and relevant laws in Malaysia to be adhered to by everyone”, to actually have a security apparatus that actually enforces such laws, without fear or favour, instead of patrolling the Twitterverse warning Malaysians against exercising their democratic right in calling for the removal of a sitting Prime Minister.

Apropos everything, this is the IGP, Khalid Abu Bakar who said “I don’t have a problem if they want to ban me from Twitter. If I’m banned, there are 126,000 others who will monitor it” – which just goes to show the priorities of our Police Force.

This of course brings us back to the threat the IGP issued to the Member of Parliament from Kulai, DAP’s Teo Nie Ching (photo), “not to make statements that could create public unrest”. Add to this the horse manure about dealing with a segment of society who have lost respect for the Force due to “incitement by certain parties” for their personal agenda.

The IGP also “reminded Police Personnel to be fearless when faced with challenges in the course of carrying out their duties”.

Politicising Police investigations

For insight into the “challenges” facing the institution the current IGP leads, please refer to my article ‘Behold our guardians of order’, the relevant section, reproduced here:

“All one has to do is refer to the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police published in 2005 to address “widespread concerns regarding the high incidence of crime, perception of corruption in the Royal Malaysia Police (Polis Diraja Malaysia, PDRM), and what did this commission discover?

“Under the appropriate euphemism of ‘challenges’ as reported in the press, three areas were highlighted that needed serious reforms. Those were:

1) widespread corruption in PDRM;

2) widespread non-compliance with prescribed laws and human rights obligations among police personnel; and

3) inadequate awareness and respect for the rights of women and children.”

I would argue that the only person “politicising” the issue of police investigations is the IGP himself.

First off, the IGP’s comment of a “segment of society” is either a reference to opposition supporters or the Chinese community. Furthermore, his comments about “certain parties” are a clear reference to opposition political parties or personalities, which is a loaded political statement. So much for non-partisanship of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM).

Remember, this is the country’s top cop who gloatingly warned Malaysians, “@PDRMsia is warning anyone, men and women, conspiring with him to be saner and not try to threaten Malaysia’s peace and harmony” after the arrest of Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen, and pompously proclaimed “Eric Paulsen is arrogant and thought he succeeded in inciting Malaysians to destroy the spirit of our 1Malaysia community.”

Then, there is the whole Jeff Ooi issue. More than a few readers have asked me what I thought about Ooi’s tweet and whether he should apologise, face sanctions or both. The short answer is:

1) I do not have an issue with what he tweeted.

2) I do not think he should be sanctioned by the state.

3) I have no issue with his party sanctioning him, for needlessly polluting the racial and religious waters.

As usual, I do take exception to the IGP “politicising” the issue by advising “politicians like Jeff Ooi” to be careful with what they post, again implying opposition politicians, when his establishment brethren have gone to town issuing threats and warnings without sanction from the PDRM.

Just one example of how the IGP distorts the discourse. When he writes of certain quarters inciting the public against the police, the assumption is that dissent only comes from the opposition and thus it is the opposition that has agendas against the institutions of the state. This is mendacity at its finest.

When the issue of the IGP refusing to carry out court orders and fulfilling his obligations to the people of Malaysia in the last unilateral conversion case was raised, the MCA put out a press statement stating:

“The IGP must not shirk responsibility by claiming that he is conflicted between the custody order of the Syariah Court and the apex court. The mother Indira Gandhi (photo) has been separated from her daughter (Prasana) Diksa for close to seven years already, whilst (Mohd) Ridhuan (Abdullah @ K Pathmanathan) is repeatedly in contempt of High Court orders awarding custody to the mother.”

And reminding the IGP that failure to discharge his duties will result in “people in contravention of the judicial decisions like Ridhuan will be emboldened to continue to break the law, knowing that their actions will be condoned by the IGP.”

Of course, there are many examples where the perpetrator and victim are sanctioned as evidence of how the UMNO state is fair and just – but this is beyond the scope of this article and fodder for another piece.

The day Ali Tinju’s wife makes a Facebook posting of warrantless sleep deprived by agents of the state invading her home and dragging her husband across state lines to answer charges filed against him, even though he was just exercising his right of free speech, is the day “that segment of Malaysian society” who have apparently lost respect for the PDRM may begin to rethink the idea that the PDRM is just another instrument of UMNO.

In Books on Donald Trump, Consistent Portraits of a High-Decibel Narcissist


August 27, 2017

by Michiko Kakutani

http://www.nytimes.com

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Over the last year, we’ve been plunged into the alternate reality of Trumpland, as though we were caught in the maze of his old board game, “Trump: The Game,” with no exit in sight. It’s a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog, zero-sum world where greed is good, insults are the lingua franca, and winning is everything (or, in tangled Trumpian syntax, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”).

To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.

That the subject of these books is not a fictional character but the Republican nominee for president can only remind the reader of Philip Roth’s observation, made more than 50 years ago, that American reality is so stupefying, “so weird and astonishing,” that it poses an embarrassment to the novelist’s “meager imagination.”

Books about Mr. Trump tend to fall into two categories. There are funny ones that focus on Trump the Celebrity of the 1980s and ’90s — a cartoony avatar of greed and wretched excess and what Garry Trudeau (“Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump”) calls “big, honking hubris.” And there are serious biographies that try to shed light on Mr. Trump’s life and complex, highly opaque business dealings as a real estate magnate, which are vital to understanding the judgment, decision-making abilities and financial entanglements he would bring to the Oval Office.

Because of Mr. Trump’s lack of transparency surrounding his business interests (he has even declined to disclose his tax returns) and because of his loose handling of facts and love of hyperbole, serious books are obligated to spend a lot of time sifting through business and court documents. (USA Today recently reported that there are “about 3,500 legal actions involving Trump, including 1,900 where he or his companies were a plaintiff and about 1,300 in which he was the defendant.”) And they must also fact-check his assertions (PolitiFact rates 35 percent of his statements False, and 18 percent “Pants on Fire” Lies).

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Perhaps because they were written rapidly as Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy gained traction, the latest of these books rarely step back to analyze in detail the larger implications and repercussions of the Trump phenomenon. Nor do they really map the landscape in which he has risen to popularity and is himself reshaping through his carelessness with facts, polarizing remarks and disregard for political rules.

For that matter, these books shed little new light on controversial stands taken by Mr. Trump which, many legal scholars and historians note, threaten constitutional guarantees and American democratic traditions. Those include his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and the “extreme vetting” of immigrants; his talk of revising libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations over critical coverage; an ethnic-tinged attack on a federal judge that raises questions about his commitment to an independent judiciary; and his incendiary use of nativist and bigoted language that is fueling racial tensions and helping to mainstream far-right views on race.

Some of these books touch fleetingly on Mr. Trump’s use of inflammatory language and emotional appeal to feelings of fear and anger, but they do not delve deeply into the consequences of his nativist rhetoric or his contempt for the rules of civil discourse. They do, however, provide some sense of history, reminding us that while Mr. Trump’s craving for attention and use of controversy as an instrument of publicity have remained the same over the years, the surreal switch of venues — from the New York tabloid universe and the world of reality TV to the real-life arena of national and global politics — has turned formerly “small-potatoes stakes,” as one writer put it, into something profoundly more troubling. From WrestleMania-like insults aimed at fellow celebrities, Mr. Trump now denigrates whole racial and religious groups and questions the legitimacy of the electoral system.

A “semi-harmless buffoon” in Manhattan in the waning decades of the 20th century — as the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, terms the businessman in a foreword to Mark Singer’s book “Trump and Me” — has metamorphosed into a political candidate whom 50 senior Republican national security officials recently said “would be the most reckless president in American history,” putting “at risk our country’s national security and well being.”

Two new books provide useful, vigorously reported overviews of Mr. Trump’s life and career. “Trump Revealed,” by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, draws heavily on work by reporters of The Post and more than 20 hours of interviews with the candidate. Much of its material will be familiar to readers — thanks to newspaper articles and Michael D’Antonio’s 2015 biography (“Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success”) — but “Trump Revealed” deftly charts his single-minded building of his gaudy brand and his often masterful manipulation of the media.

It provides a succinct account of Mr. Trump’s childhood, when he says he punched a teacher, giving him a black eye. It also recounts his apprenticeship to a demanding father, who told him he needed to become a “killer” in anything he did, and how he learned the art of the counterattack from Roy Cohn, Joseph McCarthy’s former right-hand man, whom Mr. Trump hired to countersue the federal government after the Justice Department brought a case against the Trump family firm in 1973 for violating the Fair Housing Act.

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Donald is not Ronald Reagan

“The Making of Donald Trump” by David Cay Johnston — a former reporter for The New York Times who has written extensively about Mr. Trump — zeros in on Mr. Trump’s business practices, arguing that while he presents himself as “a modern Midas,” much “of what he touches” has often turned “to dross.” Mr. Johnston, who has followed the real estate impresario for nearly three decades, offers a searing indictment of his business practices and creative accounting. He examines Mr. Trump’s taste for debt, what associates have described as his startling capacity for recklessness, multiple corporate bankruptcies, dealings with reputed mobsters and accusations of fraud.

The portrait of Mr. Trump that emerges from these books, old or new, serious or satirical, is remarkably consistent: a high-decibel narcissist, almost comically self-obsessed; a “hyperbole addict who prevaricates for fun and profit,” as Mr. Singer wrote in The New Yorker in 1997.

Mr. Singer also describes Mr. Trump as an “insatiable publicity hound who courts the press on a daily basis and, when he doesn’t like what he reads, attacks the messengers as ‘human garbage,’” “a fellow both slippery and naïve, artfully calculating and recklessly heedless of consequences.”

At the same time, Mr. Singer and other writers discern an emptiness underneath the gold-plated armor. In “Trump and Me,” Mr. Singer describes his subject as a man “who had aspired to and achieved the ultimate luxury, an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.” Mr. Kranish and Mr. Fisher likewise suggest that Mr. Trump “had walled off” any pain he experienced growing up and “hid it behind a never-ending show about himself.” When they ask him about friends, they write, he gives them — off the record — the names of three men “he had had business dealings with two or more decades before, men he had only rarely seen in recent years.”

Mr. Trump likes to boast about going it alone — an impulse that helps explain the rapid turnover among advisers in his campaign, and that has raised serious concerns among national security experts and foreign policy observers, who note that his extreme self-reliance and certainty (“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain”) come coupled with a startling ignorance about global affairs and an impatience with policy and details.

Passages in his books help illuminate Mr. Trump’s admiration for the strongman style of autocratic leaders like Russia’s Vladimir V. Putin, and his own astonishing “I alone can fix it” moment during his Republican convention speech. In his 2004 book, “Think Like a Billionaire,” Mr. Trump wrote: “You must plan and execute your plan alone.”

He also advised: “Have a short attention span,” adding “quite often, I’ll be talking to someone and I’ll know what they’re going to say before they say it. After the first three words are out of their mouth, I can tell what the next 40 are going to be, so I try to pick up the pace and move it along. You can get more done faster that way.”

In many respects, Mr. Trump’s own quotes and writings provide the most vivid and alarming picture of his values, modus operandi and relentlessly dark outlook focused on revenge. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one book. And in another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The grim, dystopian view of America, articulated in Mr. Trump’s Republican convention speech, is previewed in his 2015 book, “Crippled America” (republished with the cheerier title of “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America”), in which he contends that “everyone is eating” America’s lunch. And a similarly nihilistic vision surfaces in other remarks he’s made over the years: “I always get even”; “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”; and: “The world is a horrible place. Lions kill for food, but people kill for sport.”

Once upon a time, such remarks made Mr. Trump perfect fodder for comedians. Though some writers noted that he was already a caricature of a caricature — difficult to parody or satirize — Mr. Trudeau recalled that he provided cartoonists with “an embarrassment of follies.” And the businessman, who seems to live by the conviction that any publicity is good publicity, apparently embraced this celebrity, writing: “My cartoon is real. I am the creator of my own comic book.”

In a 1990 cartoon, Doonesbury characters argued over what they disliked more about Mr. Trump: “the boasting, the piggish consumption” or “the hideous décor of his casinos.” Sadly, the stakes today are infinitely so much huger.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page C19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Tower of Trump Books, at High Volume