Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Law and Justice in Malaysia

New Straits Times's Kalimullah Hassan wrote Law was upheld, but whither justice?
AHMAD Harizal Ahmad Fauzie and Mangal Bahadur Gurung will probably never meet each other or even know of each other's existence. One is from an impoverished broken family in Perlis, and the other a Nepalese who came to Malaysia to earn enough money for a better future for his family.

Harizal broke the law; Mangal did not.

Both their stories touched the hearts of Malaysians because they were both jailed, one because the law says so and the other because the system showed its flaws.

Harizal was a National Service defaulter because of economic hardship. He had stopped schooling after Form 2 to help his mother, who was making barely RM150, to support his family. When the courts sentenced him to to pay a RM600 fine or face two weeks jail, the public outpour to help him pay off the fine was nothing short of overwhelming. But he had to spend the night in the slammer anyway because he wasn't able to raise that money by the end of the day of the sentencing.

Mangal, the Nepalese, had to bear the brunt of a stroke of the ratan and 40 days jail time because he couldn't speak enough Bahasa Malaysia to tell the immigration authorities that his employer had not only kept 10 months of his wages, but also his original work permit and travel documents. The Malaysian Immigration Chief actually said it was Mangal's fault that he didn't tell his immigration folks the truth and that his people were only doing their job.

IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer) - since the judge had kindly given Harizal until the end of the day to settle the fine, would it be too much to ask for a 24 hour time limit from sentencing to settle the fine or face jail time? The generous people in Malaysia would have raised the money for him easily.

In Mangal's case, I still can't believe the Immigration Chief said what he said. Good way of passing the blame bucket around I guess. But I just wonder, in such cases of injustice, is there no compensation for the aggrieved aside from a simple apology? How do you compensate 40 days jail time and a stroke of the ratan?
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