Sunday, February 23, 2014

Telling the truth is a crime in Malaysia

Telling the truth is a crime in Malaysia

Mariam Mokhtar

If more Malaysians were prepared to tell the truth and support others
who told the truth, our country would not be in the mess it is today.

If more people were prepared to step forward, instead of covering up
for those who commit serious crimes, the deaths of A Kugan, Aminulrasyid
Amzah, Ahmad Sarbini and Teoh Beng Hock could have been avoided.
Silence is akin to complicity in these crimes.

The guilty people roam freely among us, safe in the knowledge that
their secrets will be protected. Someone must have seen something, heard
something or known something, but preferred to keep their suspicions to
themselves. You may think these people lack a conscience, but what
about the ones who receive money and position in exchange for their

Death may have been a release for some who were tortured or betrayed,
but hundreds if not thousands of Malaysians and foreigners face an
insufferable future, being beaten or deprived of medicine. They languish
in prisons throughout the nation, and we, on the outside, must continue
to speak for them.

A week before the rest of the country took part in the 13th general
election (GE13), the armed forces went to the polls, as is the normal
practice in Malaysia. One man, 45-year-old RMAF pilot Major Zaidi Ahmad,
noticed that the indelible ink that was used to prevent people from
casting their votes multiple times, washed off two hours after he had
voted. He considered it his public and moral duty to lodge a police
report about the ink.

Instead of the Election Commission (EC) and the supplier of the ink
being investigated, Zaidi found that he was portrayed as the villain.

He was removed from flying duties, relieved of his role as commanding
officer of 12 Squadron, transferred from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur
with immediate effect, relegated to a desk job, and he will be court
martialled. If convicted, he will lose his pension and be imprisoned for
at least two years. That is the penalty for telling the truth, in

There is a reason for punishing Zaidi. Last November, Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kasim said that
Malaysia had 1,132,450, civil servants, excluding the policemen.

On April 30, 2013, a total of 235,826 security forces personnel and
their spouses voted early. The combined total of civil servants,
security forces personnel and their spouses is about 1.4 million. This
is around 5% of the total population, a significant figure which could
make or break a party’s success in the elections.

Zaidi had to be punished to act as a deterrent to other civil
servants and members of the armed forces. The move to punish Zaidi is a
calculated political gambit.

Other civil servants who have allegedly been manipulated and
intimidated by their superiors are teachers and council workers. Some
allege that their voting papers are marked and that they cannot vote

Men and women who are prepared to lodge a police report when the
system is abused are exceptionally brave. Many risk their careers, their
prospects and financial stability. Zaidi faces all these consequences.

People like Zaidi would have weighed carefully their decision to tackle head-on the abuses of the system.

Zaidi found that the EC failed to do its job to ensure that the
democratic process runs smoothly. Initially, he may have wondered if a
genuine mistake had been made.

After voting, Zaidi found that other people also found that the ink
faded within a few hours. He realised that his was not an isolated case.
He was prepared to make a police report.

He subsequently found that he was under investigation because he
failed to lodge the report to the military police. The organisation
started a train of events to shun and humiliate him. He ended up as a
target drone.

Then came the character assassination; Zaidi’s superiors relieved him
of his responsibilities ignoring 25 years of training. They allegedly
also accused him of sending seditious text messages.

The air force isolated him by sending him to KL, and bound him to a
desk in an effort to break his spirit. Others with a weaker resolution
would probably have become depressed or fallen ill.

Fortunately for Zaidi, the NGO Pahlawan, which represents former
army, police and security forces veterans, extended their moral support.

Upright, principled citizens like Zaidi are prepared to uphold the
truth, whereas most other people would have taken the easy way out.

Zaidi and his family have sacrificed a lot, so that we and our
children may lead a better life. The irony is that the people who should
have protected them are the ones who are doing the attacking.

We must ask ourselves: is this the Malaysia we want to leave to our
children? Our children cannot be led astray by leaders who are
fraudsters, who claim to represent the electorate, but in truth, cheat
so that they may continue their stranglehold on us.

After the presentation of overwhelming evidence, the EC finally
admitted that the ink was not indelible. Their list of excuses was as
long as the paper trail leading to the crony who supplied Malaysia with
very expensive food colourant. The irony is that the EC has escaped
scot-free, but Zaidi may lose everything.

Mariam Mokhtar is "a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth."

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