The month-long jail sentence together with the maximum fine of RM1,000 on “Occupy Dataran” student Umar Mohd Azmi has become a national and international cause celebre because it is utterly outrageous as well as a devastating reminder just before the 13th General Elections that despite all the sloganeering about government, economic, educational, social and political transformation programmes, the criminal justice system in Malaysia still sucks even under the four-year premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
I am now in Sydney or I would have visited the protest camp set up by student activists outside the Kajang prison to demonstrate my support, sympathy and solidarity with Umar at the gross injustice of the harsh sentence imposed on him for obstructing a public official from performing his duty.
Why was Umar imposed the harsh penalty of a maximum fine of RM1,000 together with a one-month jail sentence, when the maximum sentence for an offence under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing any public servant in the discharge of his public functions was a maximum jail sentence of three months or with maximum fine of RM1,000 or both?
One powerful reason why there must be change of Federal government in Putrajaya in the forthcoming 13th general elections is that the country is teeming with cases where the criminal justice really sucks like the case of Umar.
The protest camp set up by student activists outside Kajang Prison over Umar’s one-month jail sentence after being meted with the maximum fine of RM1,000 reminds me of the protest action against the 18-month jailing of Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng in August 1998 when he defended the dignity and honour of an under-aged Malay girl, resulting in his disqualification as Member of Parliament and being barred from standing for elective office five years after release from Kajang Prison.
In protest, DAP leaders, supporters and sympathisers staged an 18-day Free Guan Eng Marathon Fast in September 1998 as an expression of the nation-wide dismay, shock, grief and outrage at the great injustice where a conscientious, diligent and courageous MP could be jailed for 18 months for defending the honour, human rights and women’s rights of an underaged girl who was herself detained at one time when seeking justice.
At the time, the 18-day Free Guan Eng Marathon Fast received the support, sympathy and solidarity of justice-loving Malaysians, including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
The stark failure whether under Najib or his predecessor Tun Abdullah to reform, let alone transform, the criminal justice system after the ravages to the justice system caused by the 22-year Mahathir premiership, has been vividly highlighted by the Umar case, when compared to the many unresolved mega-scandals of injustices in the country, whether it be the murder of the Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, the murder of Teoh Beng Hock at MACC premises or the host of mysterious deaths and killings while under official custody, like V. Kugan.
I support the protest camp outside Kajang Prison set up by student activists and it should be visited by all justice-loving Malaysians like during the 18-day Free Guan Eng Marathon Fast 14 years ago in Kajang – and there is a strong case that the protest camp should last as long as Umar is unjustly jailed in Kajang Prison.
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