Peguam Rakyat Protest: The Fallout Series – “You got me wrong”

Last week LoyarBurok was abuzz with news about a lawyers’ protest in Bukit Aman on the abuse of power by the police. It culminated in the submission of a memorandum of protest against the police’s handling of lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad. With most things involving lawyers, who can make a pink elephant turn white, the culmination of one matter breathed life to a host of other issues. That’s why lawyers are arguably the great thinkers of nations.

It started with Haris Ibrahim at The People’s Parliament asking whether the event was a Bar or political party protest here. Views and comments from within the legal fraternity on the Rostrum e-group then surfaced at a frenzied pace.

The great thing about Malaysian activist lawyers is that they deeply care about the cause and you can hear it from the way the posts have been written. Truth be told, the raging arguments here have been debated before in various fora and other places of discourse such as Court canteens and pubs – for years on end now.

But they have never been documented in this way. Once again, LoyarBurok asks the Malaysian Bar how far are we prepared to go, nay, demand that the Bar takes it further! As a member once said in the Bar’s general meeting – while introducing a whole new way of pronouncing the word “fork” – do we take the “fork” to the right or the “fork” to the left?

Post-protest may have been a fallout , but it surely was not a washout. We will take the strength of each argument and take activism to a higher level. After minor editing for language, and to put the posts in context, LoyarBurok, with the consent of the writers, presents: “Peguam Rakyat Protest: The Fallout Series

Firstly, it’s indeed amazing how incomplete reading of what I’ve written can really be misunderstood. And how not knowing who I am as a person only adds to further misconstruction.

Secondly, and this worries me, why is it that something that I’ve posted in another State Committee e-group been disseminated to another forum all together. Where is the confidentiality or secrecy? It saddens me that we live in a nation filled with snitches, squealers and rats. And some of them, might even be lawyers.

Now on to my posts. I shall reproduce them here for the sake of clarity.

Regardless of whether there was political influence or not, I wish to say, any attempt by “lawyers” at having a banner, holding it and standing behind it while the press cameras are conveniently clicking away, to me, reeks of being completely full of shit.

It is being completely full of shit because such antics are simply unneeded for lawyers; people who dedicate their lives to reading the law, understanding the Constitution, crafting that priceless argument and changing constitutional history in Court. An honourable lawyer will never need to plant himself in front of a camera, it will be the press who will plant themselves in front of him with a myriad of questions for public digestion. The press will seek him out, never the other way around.

I concede that as Mr Peter wisely said, politicians and the like are bound to attend, nobody can stop them for it is their right to assemble peaceably. I am not against that and have made that very clear in the first line of my post.

Now do note carefully, I have gone to lengths to state that it is the “planting himself in front of a camera” and “press cameras are conveniently clicking away” that I have been concerned about NOT the banner.

How this whole thing became about the banner, I have no clue. I mentioned the banner because that was what I believe was truly “hijacked” by people seeking their few seconds of fame as Mr. Richard Wee himself rightly observed in the posts above. I have no problems with any kind of banner. I don’t even have a problem with public nudity as a sign of expression and in fact vehemently encourage it. I also have no problems with people setting themselves on fire as a sign of defiance as was done by Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in Vietnam is 1963. I also need not a lecture on Article 10, I know what it is and have read it numerous times before.

In response to what I wrote, Syah retorted, most of which he has reproduced here. And he also, I suspect through a cursory reading of the post, had erred in thinking that I was against the banner, to which I further responded:

My point seems to have been misunderstood.

Let me restate: I am not saying that lawyers should not protest. I think when things have reached a critical point where nothing further can be done then there will arise a legitimate need to pursue other alternatives at expressing one’s ideas and opinions.

Nonetheless, that is not what I saw yesterday. What I saw yesterday were professional politicians/lawyers appearing out of nowhere and standing behind the banner just as the cameras started clicking. That to me is a very different matter than marching in the streets of KL for Human Rights Day or marching through Putrajaya for Walk for Justice.

I ended my entire response with a simple conclusion:

My point is: If you want to do something, do it because you believe in it. Do not use the misfortune suffered by an individual as pedestal to catapult yourself. That is just shameful.

Most of my post was a lament on the state of affairs with regards to those whom I found to be conniving and weaselly. What it was not, was an affront to those who are truly passionate about whatever cause they were there for.

It is a call against those with diminished valour and those with an unscrupulous need to want to piggyback on the hard work of a select group of people, in exchange for public affirmation. Who are these conniving people? That I need not mention, they can decide that on their own upon personal reflection.

Over and above that, let me state that I endeavour to steer away from herd mentality; thinking and behaving like the group. I choose to do something because I have evaluated it and believe that it is the right thing to do, not because my peers think it is the right thing to do. I am uninfluenced by them and only act when I have resolved a dilemma on my own. To this, I had written in my posts in that e-group:

I attended the event because a good man and friend like Amer Hamzah, regardless of whether he was a Member of the Bar or a Member of Koperasi Penoreh Getah Kluang, had succumbed to brute, unwarranted and disproportionate police force. There is a need for me, as Aston Paiva,to be present to highlight my disappointment and disapproval. That to me was the crux of the event. What it was not was a press photo opportunity or a pedestal for those intending political leverage within the Bar or worse still a covert attempt at self aggrandizement and advertisement to lure more potential clients.

I had followed it up with:

I once again state, I come not in any kind of official capacity, position or title for I attend because a good man was mistreated. I come as I am.

I understand that some people believe that there is strength in numbers and that they need to have an official “cause”. That I do not agree nor subscribe to. But just because I disagree with such a manner of influencing or campaigning, ought not de-motivate you or render your efforts useless. Your faith in yourself would be weak if that is the effect of hearing a contrary opinion of another. You do what your group thinks is right, I’ll do what I think is right. Freedom of Expression allows me to comment on your opinion and idea just as much as you are able to comment on mine.

I certainly expect that this has made clear, my posts made in another e-group, to those perceived to have been aggrieved by it. If you still feel aggrieved and offended, then that is something you resolve with yourself. Freedom of Expression entails a right for me to offend, shock and disturb you. That is the extent of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness, without which there can be no democratic society.

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Posted on 9 April 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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