An Open Letter to Tun Dr Mahathir!

Greetings to you Tun Dr Mahathir. I am an ordinary citizen who is very disturbed by the recent goings on in our country. I refer to the imbroglio concerning the Seafield Estate Temple. I am not even sure, as I pen this statement that it will reach you. But I am concerned enough about the situation, that regardless of that possibility, I must continue.

I applaud your insistence on the principle of the rule of law as a fundamental societal principle. But I extend on that as I find mere utterances of the words do not constitute existence of that principle nor does it by itself create the circumstances for development into national operating principles.

A robust system operating by the rule of law requires strong institutions operating on a strong foundation of truth. This in turn requires that the lingua franca be truth and the arms of the state able to operate truthfully and an ecosystem of laws and policies which enable truth to prevail.

Tun, please address the few following concerns I have about the rule of law issues externalized by the recent botched attempt to demolish the Seafield Estate Temple.

1) In a statement in the Star recently you are quoted by the Star as saying,‘ We don’t ask Malays to protect Hindu temples as much as we don’t ask Hindus to protect mosques. So this incident is a result of that,” he said at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday (Nov 29).


What is the truth  : Did the ultimate culprit send in the claimed 50 misguided Malay youths to “protect” the Temple. Were they indeed in there to protect the Temple as you put it? Is that the truth? Why are you projecting the matter this way?

The counter claim by those inside the Temple at that very time, is that the assailants  were all in there with Parangs, Samurai Knives, Changkul handles, Cycle Chains and such other offensive weapons, shouting and screaming at the devotees in the Temple to “Keluar, Keluar….” And they held one of the senior members among the devotees at knife point.  Is this the protection you talk about.  Are you just misinformed? Or are you in full knowledge of what happened but just choose to describe it this way as protection.

Is truth put in this way, your Government’s way of communicating and contributing to the rule of law? I am floored.

2) Who is or are the ultimate culprit or culprits responsible for the recent Seafield Estate Temple attempted mass murder in the wee hours of the 26th of November 2018? Are they to be the targets of your governments search for national security threatening anti national miscreants?. Or is the target of your government going to be ordinary citizens using their best devices to record a major crime .Let me quote from the Star about what your team member  Govind Singh Deo who said…..“He advised member of the public no to spread unverified news reports or make inflammatory statements on social media, as the MCMC is still monitoring the situation.

“Freedom of speech does not mean absolute freedom of speech, as there are laws and limits,” he added.

I cannot see how the acts from the actual site of crime be unverified, there…… see for yourself, it is exactly happening there in those videos. Who is the serious national security threat  – the ultimate culprit who is responsible for the major crime that night or the general innocent public who seek to put it on record so the crime cannot be wished away or misrepresented as has happened so many, many times in the past.

Of course in these early days there will be excesses. We must, in my opinion stop using draconian and sweeping measures to prevent such a powerful positive new methods of check and balance of excesses from developing. If, Tun, you are serious about the rule of law, muzzling social media with draconian measures is no way. It prevents the development of a necessary ecosystem for the rule of law.

3) Then there is the issue of the poor Fire Rescue Officer who is in hospital after an incident on the night of the 26th . Your IGP has assumed and let me quote from a Malaysiakini report..  “ He was commenting on the attack on Fire and Rescue Department medical personnel Muhammad Adib Muhammad Kassim during this morning’s riot near the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Subang Jaya……. The 24-year-old fireman is in the intensive care unit after sustaining serious injuries when a mob dragged him out of his vehicle and assaulted him when his team responded to a distress call.”

The Counter claim based on circulating videos is that the Fire Rescue Officer was actually knocked down by a fire engine as it reversed and hit him. He was behind the fire engine truck and he sustained injuries as a result of being hit by the truck. He was actually helped out by the Indian youths at the site and rushed to the hospital in a pickup.

What is the truth here Tun? Does it help if the official version is being touted strongly without establishing the absolute truth? Why are all those in power in a rush first to term the people who helped the fire officer out of danger as an attack by a mob and why the rush to rubbish the claims of the alternative version of how the fire officer was hurt and how he was rescued? This smacks of the way it used to be in a period when you say rule of law did not exist.

4) Your media advisor is just that, a media advisor, he is not the bully boy who sets the standards of operation by holding the whip. The system must allow for nascent new tendencies of criticism based on truths even from within about matters within before calling in providence to kill the inside naysayers.  Bully boys or whips are from a period of yore we all are trying to move away from.

I refer to a Malaysiakini report on 29th Nov that the media advisor to Tun pointed out to a Minister …. “Remember, you were not chosen by the people… Please, don’t embarrass the King and our prime minister. If you are dissatisfied, air your comments on this blog,” he added….. Kadir, who is also the prime minister’s media and communication advisor, said that just because he mentioned two names, it does not mean other ministers are doing great work…….It is just not your turn yet (to be criticised). Think of me as an old teacher who is visiting and is seated in the back of the class observing their (the ministers’) actions and behaviour,” he added.”

Tun, your media adviser is better assigned to tasks to get to the bottom of contentious claims in the media which are shaking our nation. We are just beginning the journey into the realm of the rule of law. In my opinion, this is really how we must use such veteran resources. The bully boy way is no the way to build rule of law.

What is happening today under your new watch is showing clear tendencies of the system going the other way. It is still early days. We need to challenge the received wisdom that the truth is the monopoly of the powerful. Social media plays a significant role in keeping the rich and powerful honest. The absolute truth of all contentious and significant claims must be established. Social media helps in that pursuit. Instead of trying to muzzle it, these innovations must be made use of more creatively to prevent the rich, the powerful and the miscreants from keeping the truth away and perpetuating a rotten system.

True democracy empowers people. With the involvement of the rakyat we do not really need to spend millions on more measures to get to the bottom of misdeeds. The powerful miscreants in society who create the shaking and shoving will effectively be kept in check. Approving another thousand MACC officers will not stop the rich and powerful from corrupting members of the state to slant or execute policies in their favor. But empowered people can and will enable a check on these dangerous tendencies that are endemic to our society. Civil society must be engaged to keep the system straight.

Tun, I challenge you to answer my questions and concerns. We, from civil society also want to contribute to a robust Malaysia, just like you. It is teamwork, is it not Tun? This is our contribution to keep the system from drifting back into the corrupt and thieving period that we all are just emerging from!

by N Ganesan, Chaiperson of  FREEDOM NGO.

The view expressed by the writer is his own and does not reflect those of Malaysiaindru