Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

The Rule of Convenience, Not the Rule of Law

Written by johnleemk on 12:44:59 am Mar 16, 2007.
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The government rules and UMNO reigns, no doubt. Whatever the Rukunegara may say, there is no "kedaulatan undang-undang" (rule of law) in this country. Here, your legal position is never on an equal footing with others.

Earlier, I recounted the story of the Bandar Bukit Puchong UMNO branch, who had illegally decided to appropriate a public park for their purposes. They wilfully trespassed on public property, and set up an office in a cabin they had moved there.

When ordered to leave the property by the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), their response was to erect 30 flagpoles. The council then ordered them to remove these flagpoles and get lost.

A couple of days ago, at a private meeting, the MPSJ decided not to evict the Bandar Bukit Puchong UMNO branch — or any of the other political parties and organisations that have been trespassing public land. Instead, they resolved to issue temporary licences to use the land, with a view to facilitating these organisations' applications for a permanent right to trespass.

No thought has been given to the stakeholders — the rakyat to whom in theory all public land in this country belongs to. What are the residents of the area surrounding the park to do? When they initially complained about the cabin to the local UMNO members, they were met with threats of physical violence and told to get lost.

Then they thought they might be able to obtain some recourse from the council. When I first heard the tale, I myself was cautiously optimistic about the chances of the rule of law prevailing, especially after MPSJ ordered the Bandar Bukit Puchong UMNO members to themselves get lost.

Apparently, one can never be too pessimistic about how the rule of law has fallen at the hands of the rule of convenience for the politically connected. The council has effectively said, "Don't worry about breaking the law — twist our arm enough and we'll let you get away with it."

According to an editorial in the Sun today, the council does not even have the authority to issue any temporary licences. It is administrating the public land on behalf of the state, which is the real owner of the land, and so it has to be the state government which issues any such licences.

I don't know about that — but what I do know is that this singular incident is just one of many examples of how corroded our institutions and our legal system are.

This incident has also contributed two examples of the utter disrespect our politicians have for their constituents. The first is the UMNO state assemblyman and Subang Jaya Municipal Councillor who angrily asked the other councillors why they had interfered in an UMNO matter. I think his words were along the lines of "What right do you have to order UMNO to take down its flagpoles?"

Those words speak volumes about how much this "wakil rakyat" actually cares about the rakyat. Another statement that speaks volumes is Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew's (Liu is a top honcho in the opposition Democratic Action Party). Liu said that if it was proven that UMNO and other ruling political parties such as the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) can get away with this, the DAP too would erect its own cabins on public property and apply for licences to occupy the land.

I hope Liu was being sarcastic — but if he is not, it suggests that even the opposition parties can't be depended upon to serve the rakyat. In this country, it's not the rule of law that prevails. It's the rule of convenience.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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