Archive for June, 2010

29
Jun
10

 

JUSTICE PERVERTED

It is alarming to discover that many of  the investigations on cases of bribery and corruption carried out by the MACC come to nought when prosecution witnesses turn renegade. What this means is that the witnesses who were sympathetic to the prosecution’s case have gone back on their word or even police statements, and now refuse to cooperate. They are declared as hostile or unfavourable witnessess who abort the course of justice being served in and by the courts.

What the public see as a clear case of corruption is thrown out by the judge for lack of evidence and not being proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The hostile witness himself may be charged and tried for perjury, found guilty and served a jail sentence while the real perpetrator of corruption – the “big fish” with money to buy himself anything or out of anything – gets away scot free. The irony is that these turncoat witnesses would most likely have been intimidated, threatened or bribed for them to change their tune – a double jeopardy in the fight for justice!

The call for the MACC to be given prosecution rights will not do much in the fight against corruption, if after their rigorous investigations justice is aborted in the courts when their witnesses turn hostile. Whether prosecution lies with the AG as it now is or with the MACC, what must be looked into immediately is the strict formulation and enforcement of the Witnesses Act. 

Loopholes that allow all and sundry to escape the law and make a mockery of justice must be plugged and a new precedence set. The nation’s lawmakers must be bold and debate at the highest levels the possibility of introducing new clauses that truly protect society against its unscrupulous citizens. For instance, it could be enacted that sworn written statements made at the beginning of an investigation can be used to corroborate evidence given in court. In this way a witness –  prosecution or defense – is held to his word and can be examined and cross-examined on an outstanding piece of evidence. 

Laws are man-made and if there is enough justification to modify them in the interest of society, there must be clear directions in their reformulation. While the argument that it is also the right of the individual citizen to be protected by the law holds water, one must be able to weigh more logically the ramifications of a justice system gone awry or the national anti-corruption agency losing its credibility. 

The argument that witnesses may give evidence to investigating officers under duress and their sworn statements abused by counsel does not really hold water when these same people face worse intimidations by parties serving only their own selfish interests or that of the underworld. When witnesses are bribed and threatened to change their stance, do our honourable lawyers and judges just stand aside to give way to the forces of unlawfulness that are causing untold damage to society?

27
Jun
10

 

JUSTICE ABORTED

I downloaded this simple explanation of what constitutes a “hostile witness” and an “unfavourable witness” – impediments to justice being truly served in/by the courts. Do read the thread of comments that follow:

Unfavourable and Hostile Witnesses

You will, at any early stage in the proceedings, take statements from each of your witnesses. When a witness is giving their evidence through examination-in-chief you would expect them to give answers consistent with their previous statement. However, in some situations a witness does not give the answers expected of them. The witness can then be declared either unfavourable or hostile.

Unfavourable Witnesses: An unfavourable witness is one whose testimony does not advance the case of the party who called him, despite the witness’s best intentions. A witness will be unfavourable if they cannot recall some of the facts about their testimony. If you come across an unfavourable witness you can ask the court for leave for the witness to refresh his memory by reading his previous statement. It is very often the case that cases come to trial many months after the witness has provided a statement. Therefore, it is important that before your witness gives their evidence that they have the opportunity to read their previous statements to refresh their memory so that when they are being asked questions they are familiar with what they said in their original statement. They are then less likely to become an unfavourable witness and will hopefully enhance the strength of your case. If after reading their previous statement the witness still cannot recall the facts then you cannot assist your witness by putting leading questions or prompting them. You should instead try to get the witness out of the witness box as soon as possible.

Hostile Witnesses: A hostile witness is different from an unfavourable one. Whilst an unfavourable witness can be potentially damaging to your case, a more serious situation is having a hostile witness. A witness will be ‘hostile’ if the evidence they give is harmful to the side calling them and it conflicts with the expectations of that side. A hostile witness will have no desire to tell the truth and support the case of the party calling him. An example of a witness being hostile is a witness who has deliberately changed their evidence since they made their original statement. The party calling this witness can ask the Judge to grant leave to treat them as a hostile witness.

FROM: THE LAW TEACHER

20
Jun
10

 

INTRODUCING KALSOM TAIB

The Shafee Yahya Story

 
 
 
 

 

 

Datin Kalsom Taib dan Dato’ Shafee Yahya

Rakan Taulan Saya – Lama dan Baru

Tuan2 dan Puan2 Yang Saya Hormati Sekelian

 

SALAM SEJAHTERA PADA PETANG YANG MULIA INI, YANG SUNGGUH BERMAKNA KERANA KITA AKAN MENYAKSIKAN PELANCARAN BUKU YANG DITULIS OLEH SEORANG ISTERI BAGI MENGIMBAS LIKU HIDUP SUAMINYA!

PADA SAYA, TIDAK ADA SESUATU YANG LEBIH MULIA DARIPADA KASIH SAYANG, KESETIAAN DAN JASA YANG DIHULURKAN KEPADA IBU BAPA, SUAMI ISTERI  SERTA ANAK CUCU YANG BERKONGSI HIDUP DENGAN KITA.

WHEN KALSOM ASKED IF I WOULD INTRODUCE HER AS THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK DEDICATED TO HER BELOVED SHAFEE, I DID NOT HESITATE AT ALL. I CONSIDER IT AN HONOUR TO SPEAK ABOUT KALSOM – A DAUGHTER, WIFE, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER WHO HAS DONE HER FAMILY PROUD IN DOCUMENTING THEIR LEGACY. 

THE SHAFEE YAHYA STORY IS KALSOM’S THIRD BIOGRAPHY IN 3 YEARS – AFTER TAIB ANDAK: IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN PUBLISHED IN DECEMBER 2008, AND  ZAINAB AHMAD: A TRULY REMARKABLE WOMAN PUBLISHED SIX MONTHS LATER IN MAY 2009.

IF THIS IS NOT PROLIFIC WRITING WHAT IS? HOW DO YOU DO IT KALSOM? YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT THE ACCIDENTAL WRITER YOU CLAIM TO BE!

OF ALL THE LITERARY GENRES, THE BIOGRAPHY IS PERHAPS THE MOST EXHAUSTIVE – AND EXHAUSTING AS KALSOM’S EFFORTS SHOW. THE AMOUNT OF RESEARCH THAT HAS GONE INTO THE BOOKS ON HER FATHER, MOTHER AND NOW HUSBAND IS TREMENDOUS. MINUTE DETAILS ABOUT PEOPLE, PLACES AND EVENTS HAVE BEEN DOGGEDLY UNCOVERED AND DESCRIBED IN ORDER OF CHRONOLOGY OR SIGNIFICANCE.

ALL THIS REQUIRES A DISCIPLINE AND A DILIGENCE PLUS THE WRITING SKILLS WHICH CAN BE NURTURED ONLY IF YOU TRULY BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR SUBJECT MATTER; ONLY IF YOU ARE CONVINCED THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO WILL FIND YOUR WORK INTERESTING OR IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO READ.

FROM MY EXPERIENCE, WRITING A BOOK ESPECIALLY ONE WITH A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE IS NOT AS EASY AS WRITING LETTERS TO THE EDITOR OR A COLUMN IN THE NEWSPAPER. MY CO-WRITER ZAINAB ABDUL MAJID WILL VOUCH FOR THE ENDLESS READING WE HAD TO DO AND REFERENCES WE HAD TO MAKE IN THE TWO YEARS OF RESEARCH; AND THE TEDIOUS ORGANISATION OF MATERIALS, CHECKING AND RECHECKING OF FACTS AND DATA, THE WRITING AND REWRITING, EDITING AND PROOFREADING IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS OF THE PROJECT. ALHAMDULILLAH OUR BOOK IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG WAS PUBLISHED IN 2004 – A LABOUR OF LOVE FROM ZAINAB, A TRUE-BLUE MAMI PULAU PINANG AND ME, AN AFFILIATE MAMI BY VIRTUE OF BEING MARRIED TO ZAIN.

BUT I’M SURE KALSOM WILL AGREE THAT THE TASK OF DOCUMENTING SHAFEE’S LIFE AND TIMES IS MORE THAN JUST A LABOUR OF LOVE. IT IS CERTAINLY NO LOVE’S LABOUR LOST. IT WAS A LABORIOUS JOURNEY BUT ONE THAT IS WORTH EVERY EFFORT YA KALSOM! FOR A WRITER THERE’S NOTHING MORE FULFILLING THAN SEEING YOUR LINGUISTIC OUTPOURINGS PUBLISHED FOR POSTERITY.    

HOWEVER – A WORD OF WARNING TO SHAFEE AND ALL YOU GUYS OUT THERE! A WIFE DOESN’T WRITE A BOOK ON HER HUSBAND OUT OF SHEER DEVOTION LET ME ASSURE YOU. THERE IS AN UNDERLYING EXPECTATION – OF APPRECIATION IF NOT GRATITUDE, OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT IF NOT RECIPROCITY! SO SHAFEE, GET CRACKING! SHARPEN YOUR WORDPROCESSING SKILLS TO WRITE THAT ONE AMAZING BOOK OR ENDURING POEM ON KALSOM SIMPLY ENTITLED MY LOVE, MY LIFE.

I’VE KNOWN KALSOM A LONG TIME – SINCE THE 70S WHEN I WAS A  RELUCTANT SCHOOL TEACHER AND SHE, A FORMIDABLE CORPORATE EXECUTIVE. I MUST ADMIT THAT AS THE WIFE OF A SHELL MAN WHOSE MAIN ROLE WAS TO BE DEMURE AT COMPANY COCKTAILS,  I WAS IN AWE OF KALSOM’S FORAY INTO THE GIANT MULTINATIONAL, AND LATER THE EASE WITH WHICH SHE MOVED TO MMC AND THEN NESTLE. IN THIS SHE WAS A PIONEER AND A TOWERING MALAY WOMAN!

POST- RETIREMENT, KALSOM ONCE AGAIN SHOWS THAT SHE IS A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE AND TRUE GRIT AS SHE MAKES HER MARK IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD. IT’S EASY ENOUGH TO SLIP INTO ONE’S COMFORT ZONE ON RETIREMENT BUT KALSOM HAS CHOSEN TO CHALLENGE HERSELF IN A NEW AREA – AS AN AUTHOR IN HER OWN RIGHT.

I’M RATHER EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT THAT I HAD ACTUALLY GIVEN KALSOM TIPS ON HOW TO APPROACH HER FATHER’S BIOGRAPHY IN 2008 AS I WAS THEN READY WITH THE RESEARCH AND CHAPTERS OUTLINE OF MY OWN WRITING PROJECT. NOW 3 YEARS ON – AFTER AN ENTHUSIASTIC SPURT OF MEETINGS AND INTERVIEWS I’VE KIND OF REGRESSED. I’M STILL MULLING OVER WHAT PERSPECTIVE I SHOULD TAKE. I STILL WORRY ABOUT BEING TOO BIASED IN INTERPRETING MY FATHER’S LIFE AND TIMES. TUN AHMAD SARJI, TAN SRI ABDULLAH, DATO’ ABDULLAH, DATO’ ZAINAL  – PERHAPS THIS IS JUST MY EXCUSE.

ON PAGE 330 KALSOM ADMITS “ I SEE SHAFEE WITH BIASED EYES, HAVING BEEN MARRIED TO HIM FOR 43 YEARS”. INDEED, MEMOIRS AND BIOGRAPHIES ARE SUBJECTIVE WRITINGS WHICH REPRESENT THE WRITER’S INTERPRETATION OF AND PERSPECTIVE ON THE PROTAGONIST’S PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER, EXPERIENCES, THOUGHTS AND CONVICTIONS. NO TWO WRITERS WILL APPROACH THE SAME SUBJECT IN THE SAME WAY. FOR ONE, THEIR LANGUAGE USE WILL BE DIFFERENT. I’M REMINDED OF A THEORY I STUDIED IN THE 80S – THE THEORY OF RELEVANCE WHICH SAYS THAT THE  HUMAN MIND IS SELECTIVE IN INTERPRETING THE MYRIAD INFORMATION IT HAS ACCESS TO. IT TENDS TO FOREGROUND AND PROCESS INFORMATION THAT IS MOST RELEVANT TO IT.

DATO’ SHAFEE’S LIFE AND TIMES HAVE BEEN COMPREHENSIVELY COLLATED INCLUDING THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES WHO KNEW/ KNOW HIM WELL. THEY ARE FAITHFULLY PRESENTED BY DATIN KALSOM WHO WRITES AS SHE SPEAKS – CLEARLY AND DIRECTLY WITHOUT AFFECTATION. IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO GET THE REACTION OF HER READERS AND REVIEWERS ESPECIALLY ON THE 4 “HOT” CHAPTERS 10-14. WE WON’T BE SURPRISED KALSOM AND SHAFEE IF THERE IS INDEED A FORMAL REBUTTAL!

FINALLY, IT IS GRATIFYING TO SEE APT QUOTATIONS, MALAY PANTUN AND VERSES FROM THE QURAN PRECEDING EACH CHAPTER AND INTERSPERSED IN BETWEEN THE SECTIONS.

THEY SERVE TO REMIND US THAT IN THE END IT IS ALLAH’S TRUTH THAT PREVAILS AS WE PUNY HUMANS GRAPPLE WITH AND STRIVE TO INTEPRET THE “HALF-TRUTHS, HALF-LIES AND WHITE LIES” THAT SURROUND OUR LIVES. THEY REMIND US THAT MAN’S HOPES AND DREAMS ARE BUT INTERPRETATIONS OF GOD’S GREATER VISION.

WABILLAHI TAUFIK WAL HIDAAYAH

WASSALAAMUALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKAATUH

18
Jun
10

 

ENGLISH MORALITY

I’ve always believed that apart from the English language, British rule in Malaya brought with it a host of good in the way of a structured civil service, a sound education curriculum and a credible system of justice.

Being the product of a missionary school, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Seremban, run mainly by English and Irish nuns and supported by a multi-racial, multi-faith staff of lay teachers, I and other people of my generation can vouch for the quality of an English education focussed on the humanities and liberal arts.

The language and literature syllabus each gave us an excellent grounding in the idioms, idiosyncracies and intricacies of the English language, history and culture spanning different eras – Shakespearean, Dickensian, Victorian etc – through the ages, while our history lessons were a comprehensive survey of world history, epochs and eras. Geography provided us with a good understanding of the physical world including the socio-demographic developments of different groups of people. We also covered the traditional maths and science subjects – Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.

The strength of a “Convent education” managed by Catholic sisters was also its emphasis on the ethics, conduct and behaviour underlying traditional Christian morality. At school assemblies and in the Moral classes we were repeatedly told to be honest and truthful and to uphold noble values; we were schooled in proper dress and decorum which emphasised that the “knees were the ugliest part of the human body”. We took part in house and school sports, oratorical contests and school plays; we had PE and Scottish folk-dancing periods which we so enjoyed.

All in all, the education system in pre Merdeka and immediate post Merdeka Malaya was sound and wholesome. It was modelled on the schools in England with expatriate teachers serving in the more established mission and lay schools in the bigger towns. They came from the best schools and universities and were the role models we emulated – especially in their manner of speaking and writing the English language.

Some people now choose to blame the British “Tuan” – for everything that is bad or has turned sour in Malaysia. In fact, even the racial inequity and inequalities are said to be the result of the divide -and-rule policy of the colonial masters to facilitate their exploitation of the natives and the colony’s resources strictly for the benefit of Empire and British supremacy. There was nothing altruistic about colonisation in the past we are told. To me modern colonisation is even more hypocritical because it hides behind the myths of democracy, equality and human rights.

Admittedly there must have been some among the British Residents and Advisers and their administrative staff who were condescending towards the local people. They must have patronised the Malay “natives” who practised their traditional kampung way of life, and the Chinese and Indian migrants they brought in to work the mines and estates. There must have been slip-ups in British principles and standards of integrity as they sought to manage the Malay chieftains and Malay Rulers in the Malay States. There must have been corrupted officials who persuaded and bribed the  Malay istana hand, Chinese towkay and Indian mandor and who received bribes in return. Expediency was perhaps the order of yesterday as it often still is today.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, therefore, to be greeted by two huge cases of corruption when I stepped on English soil. The first was the admission by the Treasury Chief Secretary David Law that he had claimed 40,000 pounds to pay house rent for the property owned by his young gay lover. The rent was of course his public entitlement  as was the homosexual relationship his private prerogative, but the combination of the two was strictly unethical according to the standards of official British morality. Besides, David Law’s parents are practising Catholics. The Chief Secretary was forced to resign amidst confusing statements from the Prime Minister David Cameron who patted him on the back for being an honourable man with great integrity??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

British wit, humour, sarcasm at its best! Or was it sheer stupidity – the same dumb statements politicians everywhere make!

The second was a right royal matter!  Sara Ferguson the ex-wife of Prince Andrew , a possible contender for the English throne, was caught on video demanding payment for promising to arrange business meetings with her ex-husband. It was appalling to see the former daughter in law of the Queen, a mother of two teenage daughters seated on a sofa and looking up to a man with palms outstretched tapping the table as she made her monetary demands. On the table were glasses and what looked like an alcohol bottle.

Unlike David Law who apologised for his bad behaviour and poor conduct, Sara Ferguson did nothing of the sort. Instead she trotted off to the US as the patron of a charity presumably to raise more money for it. Adverse American public opinion compelled her to appear on the Oprah show to explain her bad behaviour and poor conduct, where she did not have the courtesy to apologise but instead, blamed it on the fact that she was under the influence of alcohol. The bad, bad English girl could not help but reveal her poor, poor upper crust upbringing which no amount of royal etiquette could influence.

I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed by the poor showing in English morality! The nation which prides itself in its manners and etiquette is suffering the same human tragedy viz when greed and avarice set in, the “noblest” of men and women can succumb to it.  

As a linguist I’m disappointed that concepts like “bribery”, “corruption”, “honour” and “integrity” are so ill-understood even by the English themselves. What more by the people in the country they once lorded over!

12
Jun
10

 

ENGLISH SOJOURN

Hi! I’m back after a glorious fortnight in England! My England – the England of my childhood dreams, my adult fancies and fantasies! It was a homecoming of sorts as my sister Tik and I retraced our arching steps and aching memories to the England that we’ve known all this lifetime.

For me it has been an Anglophiled and England-filled lifetime indeed – from the childhood Noddy stories, Famous Five and Secret Seven to the romanticism of Wordsworth and Keats right through to Bacon and Shakespeare; Dickens, Hardy,  and the Bronte sisters; the hardcore English linguists Quirk, Kempson and Wilson; The Guardian, The Times and The Sun. Forever it has been English language and linguistics – Semantics and Pragmatics; Syntax and Morphology; Phonetics and Phonology in Leeds and more of the principles and theories  in London.

Amidst English housekeeping in Twickenham, grammar school in Kingston and boarding school in Caterham there was time for leisurely ambles into meadows and parks; farmlands and gardens; cobbled paths and thatched cottages and of course the glorious rides around the  crags and cliffs of the Lake District and Cumbria ; the lochs of Scotland.

Onward the family marched to the University of Nottingham, Hull and LSE and of course London and SOAS; in the day the endless shopping for food at Tesco and Sainsbury, shopping and more shopping for clothes and shoes and bags in Oxford Street;  at night the plays and Christmas pantomimes and Westend musicals. And cooking and cooking and cooking family meals singlehanded! Mowing the backyard and cleaning clogged drains singlehanded!

England is stamped in our hearts and in our minds never to be forgotten, only to be relived when the opportunity presents itself each leaving a mark unique in itself. It’s no wonder then that every time I land at Heathrow  airport it feels like a homecoming! Pulang!

          Tiap kali aku menapak bumimu England

          Sekejap rasa pulang…

It was so sekejap , all 13 days spent in London with a weekend in Dorset and skirmishes in Oxfordshire, Devonshire Close and Albemarle Street, London.

 Ah! To see the woody gardens and sprawling farmlands again,  multi-hued with the colours of late Spring.  As we drove past the canary-yellow rape seed farms and passed the monumental Stonehenge into familiar Sherbonne country roads my heart missed several beats as it recounted the earlier sojourns  and hearty pub lunches with dear, loved ones!

Ah! To see my old neighbours in Poulett Gardens, Twickenham and the look of utter surprise on their faces as they opened their front door to 3 Malaysians (me, Tik and AB). And then the ongoing prattle of who’s married and who has how many children, who has been ill and who has passed on in the 20 years since the Yusufs left the neighbourhood. It was a joy to chat with Bob and Barbara face to face and with Bilge on the phone.

The Youngmans – John and Naomi – offered us delightful hospitality at the lovely Holbrook Hotel. We accompanied them to the Sherbonne Old Boys luncheon and then to Judy’s for tea in her quaint home, a converted barn in the village of Lye. We rubbed shoulders and exchanged formalities with John’s classmates and teachers of half a century ago as we listened to English wit and humour in the three speeches. All the while in the marquee we heard the shouts of the cricket teams playing on the school field. We trotted around the village, stopping by at the Chapel where John said his prayers as a schoolboy and his school house where we peeked into his old dormitory, now a double room presumably for the seniors.  Things which seemed enormous and awesome to him as a schoolboy must look quite small and ordinary now.

Dinner at the newly refurbished mews home of the Youngmans near Regents Park was a sumptious Italian meal cooked by Naomi – asparagus and risotto  and osco bucco and tiramisu. After dinner there was a unanimous decision  to watch the 1980s group ShaKaTak play at a jazz club in Soho. We clapped and tapped to the upbeat rhythm of the group and remembered our teen and early adult years when entertainment was more pure and clean, and to be gay was fun not fashionable.

The biggest surprise was in Bicester village when out of the teeming Bank holiday shoppers I spotted Soraya Tremayne who, like me, was a bored Shell wife in Kuala Lumpur in the 80s but found our bearing in academic pursuits. What an utter joy to see Soraya and to be persuaded to return home with her to say hello to Bruce. So off we trundled to The Old Rectory in Charlton-on-Otmoor, a charming 19th century English house set in a sprawling 2 hectare estate.

On arrival there was dear Bruce, now a gentleman farmer, proud to show us his fruitful gardening efforts. How I still imagine that in a previous life and in a previous world a horse carriage would have trotted up the cobbled path and stopped by the formidable front door and Bruce would emerge in his finery. He would have been the aristocratic owner before the house was sold to the parish.

Ah! The English tea and sympathy! Bruce and Soraya – so calming in their laid- back  life and so genuine! So different from frenzied Kuala Lumpur with its artificialities and affectations!

And then there was Charlie my Facebook friend, a popular English hairdresser at MichaelJohns by profession and an Eastern philosopher cum counsellor by inclination. Charlie had plenty of charm and style and joie de vivre as we tucked into crab linguini and decadent desserts at Dolados a few quick steps away from his salon  in Albemarle. If there is madness there is indeed method in Charlie’s Sarawak Malaysian hospitality. 

I must not forget our lovely accomodation in East Acton, 6 bus stops away from Shepherd’s Bush Station. It was in the apartment that Tik and I relaxed in our oldest housecoat and soaked in long-lost English TV news and breakfast chat shows. Ah yes! We were glued to the weather forecast which would determine what clothes and accessories we would wear to scour the shops in Westfield or Oxford Street. Shop we did but not till we dropped! Restraint was the order of the holiday as we reminded ourselves that the shops in KL are paradise and the prices heavenly!

So, it was a joy to come home to our roots and our senses after the fun and gay abandon and anonymity that we were privileged to enjoy for a while in England!

Malaysia My Malaysia! With all thy faults I love thee still!

    




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