‘Saya Nak You’: Judicially Defined

The Malaysian High Court in Bakri Mohamad Ali v PP [2010] 1 CLJ 610 finally judicially defines a phrase that has vexed Malaysians for some time. Let us now rejoice and use it with new found confidence and variations.

Bakri Mohamad Ali was charged on two counts of corruption under the Anti Corruption Act 1997.

The first charge was for the solicitation of sexual favours from Cik Noor Hayati bt. Yusop, a director of Tulin Meranti Sdn Bhd (TMSB), as a bribe to expedite its application in respect of the project known as ‘Lembaga Air Mentauliah Paip-Paip Polyethylene Bergaris Pusat 225 mm dan 355 mm serta Kerja-Kerja yang berkaitan dari Taman Parit Jaya ke Jambatan Nordin, dari Loji Lama Parit ke Batu 3 dari Simpang Bota/Gelung Pepuyu ke Kg. Tersusun Gelung Pepuyu’ (‘the Project’). The second is irrelevant for the purposes of this article.

After the trial, he was convicted of the second charge but acquitted of the first charge without his defence being called by the Sessions Court Judge. Let us now consider the facts as recorded in the written judgment.

TMSB was awarded the Project by Lembaga Air Perak (‘the Water Board’). They were supposed to take possession of the worksite on 13 September 1999 and complete their work by 10 September 2000. TMSB was unable to complete the work in time. On 15 December 2000, the Water Board issued a certificate of non-completion to TMSB and gave notice to terminate its contract.

As a result of this Cik Noor Hayati, the site supervisor of TMSB, met with the General Manager (GM) of the Water Board to discuss the notice of termination. He advised her to formally appeal the matter to them. This TMSB did by its letter dated 20 August 2001 explaining why they were delayed in completing the project and requested for an extension of time to do so. After the GM received the letter he passed the letter of appeal to Encik Bakri Mohamad Ali, a senior engineer in charge of development for the Water Board, for his advice. The GM did this because the Project was under the immediate supervision of Encik Bakri.

Cik Noor Hayati was subsequently informed by the GM that the appeal was left to Encik Bakri. Soon after, on 28 August 2001, Encik Bakri called her up to discuss the appeal and told her that ‘aku nak you’. She was so distressed that she even sought help from the Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR; the Anti-Corruption Agency). An officer there had the sense to advise her to change the sexual request to money. When Encik Bakri called subsequently agreed to accepting money for his favours. However, on 5 September 2001 he demanded that he meet her. When Cik Noor Hayati managed to squirm her way out of it, he asked that a measly RM 5,000.00 be paid to him the next day. She managed to postpone the payment to the next week and informed the BPR officer about it.

On 11 September 2001, she called Encik Bakri. This time he was bolder. He demanded the money and her as well. He asked to meet her at the Heritage Hotel the next day and asked her to book a room for which he would pay. I thought it awfully sweet that Encik Bakri at least offered to pay for the room. Regrettably all that was caught on tape by BPR.

When he met with her on 12 September 2001 at the Heritage Hotel, Encik Bakri was arrested after they had lunch and after he had settled both the lunch and room charges. He was arrested as he was going into the lift.

Now why did the Sessions Court Judge acquit Encik Bakri of the first charge? Justice Balia Yusof Wahi explains:

Perusing the grounds of judgment of the learned SCJ [‘Sessions Court Judge’], it is crystal clear that he had not given any emphasis on the tape recording evidence in finding the appellant guilty on the second charge because there are other overwhelming evidence produced by the prosecution. The tape recording evidence is not pivotal to the precaution’s case. However, he did rely on the tape recording evidence in coming to his finding that the words “saya nak you” does not have sexual connotation and does not have the effect of soliciting for sexual favours.

In short, the Sessions Court Judge acquitted Encik Bakri because he made a finding of fact that ‘saya nak you’ does not amount to a solicitation for sexual favours. Roight. Thankfully, the experience and wisdom of Justice Balia prevailed whereupon he opined the following:

This appeal is against the order of acquitted and discharge of the appellant without his defence being called on the first charge of soliciting for sexual favours. The crux of the appeal is on the ground of the learned trial judge’s narrow and erroneous view of the meaning of the words “saya nak you”. In his grounds of judgment, the learned SCJ stated:

… SP3 also agreed that it was her understanding that the words “saya nak you” meant sexual favors.

… Hence, by just basing on the words of SP3 and her own narrow view of the words “saya nak you” without any corroboration of any kind, it is my considered view that the prosecution had not proven its case against the accused on the first charge.

[26] In my view the learned SCJ has clearly misunderstood the meaning of the words “saya nak you”. Those words can never mean anything else but as understood by the witness SP3. Any reasonable man would have taken those words to be sexually flavoured. Furthermore the learned SCJ has also failed to consider the evidence on its entirety, not only from the evidence of SP3 but also the tape recording evidence and the evidence of SP4 which under the circumstances would be sufficient corroboration of SP3 evidence. Lest the learned SCJ has forgotten, the appellant did also in the subsequent telephone conversation with SP3 suggest her to book a room and when asked by SP3 what he meant by “nak you”, the appellant replied “entertain sikit-sikit dan tidur dengan dia.”(p. 19 appeal record). No doubt not a single word about sex was uffered, … but those words taken in the context of the whole case, means sexual favours and is a solicitation for sex. You need not be a student of Malay literature to understand the meaning of these words. It is always typical of a Malay to speak in that manner, avoiding using crude words or phrases but preferring to use indirect and subtle meaning words. But the words ‘saya nak you’ are under the circumstances of the case, not really that subtle after all. SP3 understood it well and understood it perfectly. That is why she had no qualm about reporting the matter to the BPR and telling the BPR what she thought about those words which she repeated in her evidence in court.

And I would agree emphatically with the learned Judge, the High Court of course. How on earth the phrase ‘Saya Nak You’ can be construed as anything other than overt expression of sexual request is astounding. A serious review of the Sessions Court Judge’s ability in the Malay language should be undertaken immediately and he should be temporarily suspended from hearing any cases with sexual elements present until he has mastered the finer nuances of sexual engagement, orally, sorry. I meant, verbally.

Though the issue of law is of some amusement, the implications of such an error are not. The court’s, prosecution’s and tax payers money are wasted on such appeals when judges make such blatantly obvious mistakes. Even I, almost illiterate in Malay, could have figured that one out, more so in the context of the surrounding circumstances. What corroboration did the learned Sessions Court Judge need except common sense (which regrettably is never common enough)?

This is one of those many instances that demonstrate the need for judges to possess more than just the ability to listen and dispose of cases. As this case has demonstrated, a good command of not just Malay but English is also required.

After all the word ‘You’ is used. And a good command in both languages by those on the Bench is not just an admirable quality but would save our hard earned tax money from being wasted on poorly decided cases. I should hope that the meaning of that expression would apply if not extend with equal force to ‘Saya mau you’, ‘Saya mau main you’ and ‘You saya nak’, so as to avoid any further such frivolous acquittals.

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Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it for him. He has little taste in writing about himself in third person. He feels weird doing it. But the part he finds most tedious is having to pad up the lack of his accomplishments, or share some interesting facts about his rather uneventful life, as if there were some who found that oh-so-interesting; as if he were some famous person, like Michael Jackson. When he writes these biographies, the thought, 'Wei, Jangan Perasaan- ah!' lights up in his head. So he usually just lists what he got involved with, positions he held and blah, blah. But this time. Right here. Right this very moment. Uhuh. This one. This one right here. He's finally telling it like it is.

Posted on 27 January 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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