Adiós a saltar el arma

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

THE head­ing in one of the many satir­i­cal col­umns two weeks ago read: “The lu­natics are at the gates”. It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek piece on the blink­ered view of at least one self-ap­pointed man of God who had asked for the de­struc­tion of all stat­ues of an­i­mals in the coun­try.

We all had a laugh at the idio­syn­cra­sies of those who want us to be­lieve that they are per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Almighty. Pub­licly, I have ac­knowl­edged that this is free­dom of ex­pres­sion that such thoughts and views – how­ever stupid or moronic – should never be pre­vented from be­ing dis­sem­i­nated.

I have al­ways rea­soned that it is for dis­cern­ing peo­ple whether to ac­cept, re­ject or take such rant­ings with a pinch of salt. To­day’s head­ing means “Good­bye to jump­ing the gun” and read se­ri­ously into it!

On Sun­day evening, I was fol­low­ing the mov­ing events on the so­cial me­dia as I have Face­book and Twit­ter ac­counts. I had rea­son to re­mark cyn­i­cally: “Now ‘adios’ joins the list of for­bid­den words ... Ban the Western movies. Take away the Filipino and Span­ish dra­mas on TV. What will they think of next? Ban adi­das ap­parel be­cause it sounds sim­i­lar?”

The rum­blings of self­ap­pointed guardians of public morals in­clud­ing politi­cians from ei­ther side in­di­cated a whole­some mire of not un­der­stand­ing the mean­ing of a Span­ish word ie adios. It sim­ply means “good­bye or farewell”. The unini­ti­ated, the in­spec­torgen­eral of po­lice (IGP) and his of­fi­cers who are mon­i­tor­ing cy­berspace, just need to Google the mean­ing of the word.

Af­ter be­ing sat­is­fied with its mean­ing, use Google Im­age. What will ap­pear are two im­ages with the words “Adios Di­ana” with the pic­ture of fa­mous princess and her two sons – Wil­liam and Harry.

Ditto for Nel­son Man­dela. When the for­mer South African pres­i­dent died, yet an­other Span­ish mag­a­zine went to town with its “Adios Nel­son Man­dela” cover.

So, what is wrong with the words? Judg­ing by these two im­ages, both the Span­ish mag­a­zines, in their own af­fec­tion­ate way, ex­pressed their farewell to Di­ana who was de­scribed as the “Princess of the Peo­ple”.

On its own, adios is a harm­less ex­pres­sion. The other phrase that of­fence has been taken to: “Let there be peace”.

The IGP says the case is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated un­der Sec­tion 298 of the Pe­nal Code for caus­ing dishar­mony, dis­unity or feel­ings of en­mity, ha­tred or ill will, or prej­u­dic­ing the main­te­nance of har­mony on grounds of re­li­gion.

But how have these re­marks in­sulted any re­li­gion or prej­u­diced har­mony? They may be con­sid­ered dis­re­spect­ful by some, but be­ing so con­sti­tutes no of­fence.

Sim­i­larly, what is wrong with this state­ment?

“Some­one who made his ca­reer sell­ing air jampi for any ill­ness suc­cumbed to his ill­ness in a mod­ern day hos­pi­tal in San Fran­cisco.”

Where does re­li­gion come into the pic­ture? It is a state­ment made by an in­di­vid­ual and its truth­ful­ness is no busi­ness of the po­lice or any other law en­force­ment author­ity.

Tan Sri IGP, I learnt this while serv­ing on the panel of the Malaysian An­tiCor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion – you can’t be charged for stu­pid­ity. If some­one pays RM1,000 for a screw­driver and re­ceived no grat­i­fi­ca­tion, or he is a firstclass id­iot, what can he be charged for?

There is no leg­is­la­tion in the world which de­fines stu­pid­ity as a crime. Nei­ther is there one for be­ing dis­re­spect­ful or talk­ing about holy wa­ter.

But what is more wor­ry­ing is the man­ner in which the al­leged maker of this state­ment, a for­mer jour­nal­ist, was treated when the po­lice went to ar­rest him.

In an im­me­di­ate response, the IGP ar­gued that un­der the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Act, no war­rant is needed to ar­rest a per­son, en­ter or search premises. But lawyers have since pointed out that Sec­tion 258 states that upon com­ple­tion of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a Malaysian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Com­mis­sion of­fi­cer is to hand over the in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice.

“A po­lice of­fi­cer may, by war­rant, ar­rest a per­son who may have com­mit­ted an of­fence un­der this Act or its sub­sidiary leg­is­la­tion,” the sec­tion reads. They say it is not a seiz­able of­fence, hence it is not jus­ti­fied to ex­er­cise ar­rest with­out a war­rant.

But more im­por­tantly, was it nec­es­sary to jump over the fence to en­ter into the com­pound of the house? Where’s the cour­tesy to ring the bell? Were they there to ap­pre­hend an es­caped con­vict or a mass mur­derer?

Can we as jour­nal­ists be ar­rested for ex­press­ing our views which may be con­trary to thoughts and in­ter­pre­ta­tions of cer­tain peo­ple? Just be­cause some­one is of­fended by what we write or say, have we com­mit­ted a crime to be ar­rested like sus­pects in mur­der and rob­bery cases? Would you throw the book at us for telling the truth, which you may per­ceive as false?

We try and keep within the law in car­ry­ing out our du­ties as re­spon­si­ble pur­vey­ors of news. We are not pro­pa­gan­dists and nei­ther do we hold the can­dle for any­one.

La­bels can eas­ily be af­fixed on us, but our pri­mary func­tion is to tell it as it is which I have car­ried out for more than 40 years. Tan Sri IGP, this is not un­so­licited ad­vice and first-year law stu­dents learn in their Public Law lec­tures the prin­ci­ples of Audi al­teram partem.

Be­fore a posse of of­fi­cers de­scend on my home early to­mor­row morn­ing, with­out un­der­stand­ing the mean­ing, (as in the case of adios), let me ex­plain.

This is a Latin phrase which means “lis­ten to the other side”, or “let the other side be heard as well”. It is the prin­ci­ple that no per­son should be judged with­out a fair hear­ing in which each party is given the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to the ev­i­dence against them.

This usu­ally ap­plies in a court of law, but be­cause of the se­ries of ac­tions that has been taken, it is still ap­pli­ca­ble.

In this in­stance, you have pre­judged the is­sue by first ask­ing one of them to sur­ren­der and even de­scribed him as “mu­lut gatal”.

So, I have my side of the story. Would you care to tell your side of the story to the public on why all the brouhaha over two posts is caus­ing so much un­hap­pi­ness among right­minded Malaysians?

R. Nadeswaran makes no bones of tak­ing on bird-brained peo­ple who make po­lice re­ports at the drop of a hat. Comments: cit­i­zen-nades@the­sundaily.com

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