Do we want jus­tice or re­venge?

To be a de­vel­oped na­tion we need to adopt more hu­man­i­tar­ian poli­cies and not give in to emo­tional re­sponses.

The Star Malaysia - - Dots - Martin Vengadesan @mar­t­in­vthes­tar

I WAS think­ing about the twists and turns of life when in­ter­view­ing whistle­blower Xavier Justo a cou­ple of weeks ago. He first sur­faced as a pris­oner in Thai­land four years ago but now he here was, walk­ing around Malaysia, feted as a celebrity.

Justo talked a good game about how his time in a Thai prison led him to turn his back on the profit mo­tive and learn the true value of things in life. But when it came to his for­mer co­horts in PetroSaudi, he did not deny that it was partly about see­ing them locked be­hind bars.

He may want jus­tice to clear his name, but he also wants re­venge against those he holds re­spon­si­ble for his jail time.

The whole is­sue of jus­tice or re­venge crops up all over the place. From mon­i­tor­ing The Star On­line read­er­ship num­bers and feed­back, I can tell you that many Malaysians out there seem more ob­sessed with see­ing the pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion of the for­mer regime’s lead­ers than they are con­cerned with pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion to make Malaysia a bet­ter place.

I am not re­ally fond of the per- sonal de­mon­i­sa­tion of ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­nents.

For ex­am­ple, the fat-shaming of Jho Low and un­for­tu­nate de­pic­tions of the for­mer self-ti­tled First Lady of Malaysia, FLOM, are not my cup of tea.

Which do we want more? The re­turn of stolen monies or to see the per­pe­tra­tors hu­mil­i­ated and pun­ished for what they have done?

On Fri­day, the Philip­pines’ anti-cor­rup­tion court or­dered the ar­rest of its for­mer first lady Imelda Mar­cos af­ter find­ing her guilty on seven counts of graft dur­ing the two-decade rule of her hus­band and for­mer dic­ta­tor, Fer­di­nand. And I won’t deny it, I thought it was great news. Not to men­tion nearly 30 years too late!

When the govern­ment an­nounced the abo­li­tion of the death penalty in Malaysia, I was sur­prised to find that a full 45% of The Star On­line read­ers who took our poll were not in favour of the move.

It made me ques­tion how many of us re­ally want a new Malaysia built on mu­tual re­spect and for­ward-think­ing.

One as­pect of the death penalty is the con­flict be­tween our emo­tional and ra­tio­nal re­sponses. To me, it’s easy enough when some­one gets the gal­lows for med­i­cal mar­i­juana or is a drug mule. But a ques­tion that of­ten comes up is ... what if some­one com­mit­ted a hei- nous crime against your loved one? For gang rape or child abuse, tor­ture and mur­der, do you re­ally think a con­victed crim­i­nal de­serves the chance for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, to get out af­ter good be­hav­iour, to be housed and fed for many years at the tax­payer’s ex­pense?

It’s hard to for­give some crimes. Imag­ine some­one who burnt the body, broke the bones, bashed the brains and tore the rec­tum through sodomy of a baby or an in­fant. Why do we even want to give them a chance at any sort of life af­ter com­mit­ting such a crime?

Part of my ob­jec­tion to the death penalty is cen­tred around flaws in ev­i­dence-gather­ing and ac­cess to proper le­gal coun­sel.

I know that the sys­tem is flawed so I don’t want the state to be re­spon­si­ble for taking the lives of peo­ple proven later on to have been in­no­cent.

Many Malaysians may not know it but we ac­tu­ally have a his­tory of sum­mary jus­tice.

In 1945, af­ter the Ja­pa­nese surrender, there were kan­ga­roo courts set up by the com­mu­nists to pun­ish col­lab­o­ra­tors. All it took was to be ac­cused and a crowd would be there bay­ing for blood. There was no chance for real jus­tice, so dom­i­nant was the thirst for re­venge.

And that is def­i­nitely not what we want mov­ing for­ward. We want a good sys­tem in which we can trust our po­lice, pros­e­cu­tors and judges to seek jus­tice and not be mo­ti­vated by other agendas.

We need a sys­tem that is not so lu­di­crously harsh such as that in Pak­istan, in which an or­di­nary woman, Asia Bibi, and her lawyer have to flee for their lives just be­cause of an ac­cu­sa­tion of blas­phemy.

We don’t want one that is so soft that it doles out the sort of light­weight pun­ish­ment that Os­car Pis­to­rius got in South Africa.

Part of be­ing a de­vel­oped na­tion is to adopt more hu­man­i­tar­ian poli­cies. As tempt­ing as it is to give in to emo­tional re­sponses, I think we should whole­heart­edly em­brace a sys­tem­atic move that is more about jus­tice and less about re­venge.

News edi­tor Martin Vengadesan is con­flicted but con­cedes that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Over­due jus­tice: The Philip­pines’ anti-cor­rup­tion court or­dered the ar­rest of its for­mer first lady Imelda Mar­cos af­ter find­ing her guilty on seven counts of graft dur­ing the two-decade rule of her hus­band and for­mer dic­ta­tor, Fer­di­nand.

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