Sunday, September 02, 2012
Interesting Sentences and What They Mean
The annual ritual continues. Step aside, Ku Ali is here.


Since we have just entered our 55th year of independence, perhaps it is wise to review, assess, and reflect the values and standards we wish to uphold in society.  We, Malaysians, are concerned and alarmed at what we see as the unnecessary lowering of societal standards.  From the characters of representatives (we hesitate to use the term ‘leaders’) we choose to put in Parliament, to our current rojak communication (in any language), we seemed to have settled for less. We hope this article will help wake complacent Malaysians from their deep sleep. Things can be good, if we choose. We deserve better.

The recent outcomes of two statutory rape trials call for urgent discussion on the state of our societal values and standards. Before we delve deeper into discussion, let us be clear that the cases had been ruled upon by eminent judges, and we respect their rulings. All was done with legal provisions, and we appreciate the Judiciary for handling the cases in a professional manner.

However, we still believe that the country may benefit from a frank and honest discussion on the ramifications of the decisions and what those rulings say about us as a society. Let us first briefly describe  these two cases and their rulings.

In the first case, a bowler (let’s not mention names and increase their celebrity factor, as the offenders had been made famous enough by the press) was found guilty of one count of statutory rape. At the time of the crime, he was 19 and the girl 13. In the second case, an electrician was found guilty of two counts of statutory rapes. At the time of the crime, he was 21 and the girl 12. In sentencing both cases, Section 294 of the Criminal Procedure Code was invoked. The two convicted criminals were served a RM 25,000 good behaviour bond. They will be monitored for 5 (bowler) and 3 (electrician) years respectively. There is no jail time.

Many feel that the punishment is inadequate. However, let us be reminded that this is all conducted within the legal framework. We will not elaborate the provisions under Section 294 and what it means, as we have limited space and time here. And we do not believe in the practice of spoon feeding. We have high regards of our readers, and believe they are capable of undertaking their own independent research on this. We encourage them to arrive at their own conclusions.

We are much more interested to discuss what the rulings say about us as a society. One of the justifications offered for the light sentences was that the sex was consensual. We find this reasoning rather problematic because it basically says that a minor (in this case 12 and 13 year olds) bears legal agency and is mature enough to give this consent. Perhaps the victims were mature enough to make such decisions, as maturity is not necessarily related to age (as we have seen). Furthermore, what is considered mature or immature is highly subjective. Thus, we can establish that ‘maturity’ means different things to different people, and is measured using different standards. So let’s not be judgmental.

However, in approaching some matters that are ambiguous, the Law functions as a guide. And for the Law to have meaning, its prescriptions must be adhered to in a consistent manner. Our Laws concerning statutory rape is quite clear in establishing what constitutes a minor. A female below 16 years old is a minor, and the implication is that her consent to sex is void and she has no legal agency to make such a decision (even for herself). If she contracted venereal diseases, she cannot seek medical care without her parent’s permission. If her agency is not even recognized in the hospital, why should her consent suddenly matter in cases of statutory rape? The whole point of a provision for statutory rape in our Laws is that we don’t recognize sexual consent by a minor. It is about protecting the vulnerable amongst us.

Putting weight on a minor’s consent in sentencing these cases means we recognize that children should bear legal agency on their own crimes. The implication of recognizing this legal agency is that parents and guardians can only exercise minimal control and grant a significant amount of freedom and liberty for their children to make their own decisions at a young age. Malaysians must ask ourselves whether we want this and are we ready to face the consequences. If the answer is yes, good luck to us. If the answer is no, then let’s play by the book. It is our choice, ultimately.

The ‘youthfulness’ of the convicted criminals and their hopefully bright future were other considerations that resulted in the light sentences. What constitute being young (as with maturity discussed earlier) is highly subjective. Thus, in the same light as our discussion on minors, the legal definition of what is considered ‘adult’ must be adhered to. Males age 18 years and above are legally defined as adults, and must be held responsible as adults should. If we say that 19 and 21 year olds are too young to be sent to jail, we must then ask the question: When should we stop protecting people from the consequences of their actions and start letting them learn the importance of responsibility?

Criminals must be given the chance to redeem themselves by bravely facing the consequences of their actions. This includes accepting adequate punishments for the crimes done. We feel the light sentences passed denied these convicted criminals their chance of redeeming their humanity. Is that fair to them?

Perhaps, having represented his nation, the bowler deserved membership in the ‘bright future’ club. However, it seemed that it is not that difficult to qualify as member, as even a high school dropout had gained membership. The club certainly tries to cover the whole spectrum in this respect. We feel it is rather amusing that hypothetical ‘bright’ futures have impact in passing sentences. We detect an element of celebrity privilege in the ruling of the bowler’s case. Since he had represented the country, he must have a bright future, and putting him in jail would not make sense. This had set a precedent, which is proven by the ruling in the electrician’s case. We feel an alarming message was sent out to the public, which basically says celebrity status matter in determining sentences. The fact that the bowler had bowled overseas should not have mattered.

Everybody should be considered equally in our courts. The message should have been: It doesn’t matter who you are; flirt with crime, you do time. Frank, but fair.

It was mentioned that ‘public interest’ was a consideration in the decision. We, the public, are interested to know how not jailing these convicted criminals benefit us? Perhaps it is wise for someone well versed in Law to explain to us the merit of allowing convicted rapists to roam free amongst us. We don’t really see sense here, so please enlighten us.

Was justice served? It is a difficult question to answer. Justice (like maturity and youthfulness) is subjective. It depends on what values we hold dear. However, we feel that an important criterion to establish whether justice was done is how the injured party’s complaints were addressed. The family of the girl raped by the electrician expressed dissatisfaction over the ruling. Thus, we hesitate to agree that the victim’s grievances were adequately addressed.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor acting on behalf of the family had filed an appeal against the light sentence. This is the way forward. We hope the next judge presiding over this will dignify us with a worthy sentence. Please consider real public interest and the precedent that will be set by the sentence in carrying out this duty. We, Malaysians, want to be impressed by the Judiciary. However, the Judiciary must first take itself and the role it is to play very seriously.

Although our discussion focused only on the two recent cases, it relates to a more alarming issue in our society. It alludes to Malaysians accepting lowered standards (in all matters) and being comfortable with it. Let’s stop this rot. Our values and standards should be higher (or at least maintained). Never lowered.

Perhaps, looking at the identity of the criminals, this is a case of 1Malaysia gone wrong. Let’s hope there isn’t a Raju to confirm our suspicions. For the sake of the nation, let’s not be politically correct. Let’s just be correct.

Malaysians, where do we go from here?


Remember the name, it's Ku Ali. In case you have forgotten already.

P.S. Click here here and here for his old ramblings.

posted by Izham Ismail at 1:13 pm | Permalink |