An Open Letter to Datuk Rais Yatim
Dear Datuk Rais
(Forgive me for dropping the "Dr" -- I felt it was only appropriate since you have decided to "desert" your great dissertation --"Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia: A Study of Executive Supremacy". )
It is so strange, Rais, -- the very words you once used to describe the "non-critical society" in Malaysia, seems so apt on you today.
Indeed -- very "...perplexing has been the seemingly calm and patronizing attitude" which you have shown of late, "in facing and accepting (the Executive's) excesses..."
"It is as if" you have "lost touch with...basic rights in a country that prides itself in being democratic and leading the voice of liberation within Third World countries".
"There appears to be no resistance from (you)" -- as compared to "the Malaysian people" whom you had once drawn attention to -- those whom you claimed, have a "lack of understanding and appreciation of the rule of law", remember?.
But rest assured Rais, many of us can comprehend what you are going through. In fact your book has helped many to fathom how Executive Supremacy has "freed" you from your former political and academic convictions.
Alas, when Executive Supremacy has such a hold on you, it is not surprising to hear you declare that the written views you once held were merely an 'academic exercise" and "a person should not be held to his academic work for the rest of his life".
Though merely an "academic exercise" to you, your book gives us an insight to some of the probable reasons for your recently reformed views .
"There can only be one explanation to this: the culture of fear has set in."
Indeed, it must be quite frightening, Rais -- for if you were to stand by your convictions, you risk losing what you had called "the good life", "business opportunities" and "even work opportunities"...and of course the golden opportunity to be the de facto Law Minister in the PM's Department...or the Chief Justice one day? (You will have to contend with Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah of course.)
Then there is also that "underlying fear of executive reprisal " which you wrote so vividly about, and we are often made aware of -- the latest being the ISA "victims" in Kamunting .
How does it feel to be part of that group of Malaysians whom you lamented so passionately about -- they who are "reluctantly submissive in many respects.."?
You were so right when you penned: "If one wants to lead, one has to join the ruling elite" and now that you are so much a part of that Executive Supremacy -- whose "tyranny" -- earned you a doctorate, (remember?) -- you can, in your words, only "look, listen and follow".
You sound so much like the PM nowadays -- the man whom you criticised and condemned, on practically each of your 426-page "academic exercise".
You seem to relish the Executive's "overriding power over the freedom of individuals' and in taking Suhakam, the judiciary and the public for a ride.
You were right on when you declared that "...there has been nothing in the educational system of the country that encourages the inculcation of the rule of the law or the importance of the people's right to question the authorities on matters that affect their lives."
"At least at university level there is a dire need for the students to learn about the rule of law in concept and practice."
And when they do become a part of the Executive one day, they could, after your good example, renounce what they had been imbued with and declare it as purely an "academic exercise"!
Those whom, you had dedicated your book to -- "all who have suffered from the tyranny of executive excesses" -- eagerly wait for your autobiography which should most appropriately be called: "Fetters under Executive Power: A Study of Academic and Political Hypocrisy".
To end on an affirming note, how adept you are in contributing to the "mere chanting of the past" when it comes to the rule of law.
Martin Jalleh ( 10 June 2001)
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