Sunday 4 November 2007

Malaysia's Version of "THE VILLAGE IDIOT"

Understanding a "Village Idiot"

  • From Wiktionary:
    "A person widely known in the community for his/her stupidity and ignorant behaviour. "
    From "Urban Dictionary" :
    "The stupidest or most idiotic person in a particular village, as elected by the local populace.

    The kind who would steal all the sugar from an overturned lorry and go door-to-door trying to sell it. A gormless gimp who couldn't find his ass with both hands.

    Prior to the Industrial revolution, before swarms of people migrated from small towns, villages, and farming hamlets to large industrial cities and Metropolises, the people around at the time (i.e their community) were so small, that if one person within that community was feeble of mind, they were designated the Village Idiot."
  • From "The Word Detective":
    "(It) must surely rank as among the most derogatory that can be printed in a family newspaper. "Idiot" has a deceptively civil origin. The Greek "idiotes" meant simply "private individual" (based on "idios," meaning "personal" or "private"). Gradually, however, the connotation of the term shifted to "an ignorant, simple man, a fool." It was in this sense that "idiot" entered English (via Latin and French) in the 13th century.

    While today "idiot" is generally considered synonymous with the equally derogatory "moron" and "imbecile," around 1910 there was an attempt to distinguish these three terms as actual scientific categories of mental retardation. The IQ of a "moron" was decreed to be between 50 and 69, that of an "imbecile" between 20 and 49, and an "idiot" below 20.

    This system of classification has since been replaced by far more sophisticated diagnostic tools, and no mental health professional would dream of using any of those terms. Even the term "idiot savant" (French for "learned idiot"), meaning a person afflicted by autism or another disability who demonstrates extraordinary ability in math or another area, has been replaced by "autistic savant."

    Although one thinks, perhaps, of the Middle Ages when the term "VILLAGE IDIOT" arises, it seems to be of surprisingly recent vintage.

    The earliest known use in print comes in George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara," written in 1907 ("I myself have had a village idiot exhibited to me as something irresistibly funny").

    Underlying the term is the supposition (especially popular among urban sophisticates) that each small country village must have one exceptionally simple resident who serves as the butt of jokes and provides endless amusement for the townsfolk. But, like many stereotypes of rural life, the legend of the lone "Village Idiot" is unfair and inaccurate. Many villages have two or three, and sometimes we even elect them to public office. "
    [ There is a Malay phrase that aptly describes the attitude of a "Village Idiot who gets elected into public office: "BODOH SOMBONG" ]

  • The following interview speaks for itself.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Read here in New Straits Times (28 Oct 2007 -NST) full interview article

    Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who is the de-facto law minister, talks to ANIZA DAMIS (from NST) about the controversial video clip, the judiciary, the Bar Council and bloggers.

    Q: Is there a crisis in the judiciary? Why is there a perception of there being one?

    A: There isn’t a crisis. It’s a FALSE allegation. The perception has been created by some people. When I go back to my constituency, NOBODY talks about it.

    When people do not go to the courts to settle their disputes, that’s when there’s a crisis. But I DON'T see that.

    The few people who are unhappy, make a lot of noise. It is reported, people read, and think there is a crisis.

    Crisis means it involves the whole country but NOBODY talks about it. I even asked my fellow Members of Parliament (MP) but NOBODY talks about it.

    (Reality Check: Read here -speech of Sultan of Perak, former Lord President of the Supreme Court, who said, "Sadly I must acknowledge there has been some disquiet about our judiciary over the past few years and in the more recent past."-Malaysian Unplug)

    So, what crisis are we talking about? The crisis is in the minds of those who created it.
    Q: Some 1,000-2,000 lawyers were involved in the Bar Council walk. Are you saying that that many lawyers have been misled?
    A: Only 1,000 went to the ground. There are 13,000 registered members of the Bar.
    Q: You don’t think 1,000 is enough?

    A: 1,000 of 13,000 — is that a majority? What’s the big deal?

    In a democracy, the minority cannot control the majority. The minority does not speak for the majority.
    Q: Aren’t the views of the minority also important?

    A: But (they are) not (the) majority. If there are any decisions to be made, it has got to be the majority.
    Q: So, if you wanted to be convinced (that there is a crisis), you would need 7,000 lawyers to walk?

    A: Even then, it’s still not important to us, because the lawyers are not the only people who use the courts. The ordinary people use the court in their disputes.

    It must be a majority of the population who feel that there is a crisis. Otherwise, there is nothing.
    Q: Do you really want that many people marching in the streets?

    A: No. You don’t have to have millions of people marching in the streets.

    Let the people decide, whether there is a crisis or not, through the legal means of sharing your dissent or anger — through the ballot box.

    Then you can say, “Let’s have elections once every three years then.” We have to work within the system that we have.
    Q: So, what you are suggesting is, if people are unhappy with the judiciary, they should vote BN out?

    A: Ya.
    Q: But what if people want a BN government, but they also want you to ensure a clean judiciary?

    A: So then go talk to the judges — why talk to us?

    I’m the Executive
    . How can they ask me to sack the chief justice (CJ)?
    Q: You’re the de-facto Law Minister. And they are not asking for a sacking — they are asking for a more transparent appointment system.

    A: We’re talking about the independence of the judiciary. I don’t speak for the judges. You want to clean up the judiciary, go and speak to the judge.

    (Reality Check: Nazri spoke on behalf of CJ Fairuz, Read here. Malaysian Unplug)

    Then, once the judges decide, we will accommodate the procedures. Lawyers can criticise the judges or judiciary if they want to. But if I, as an MP, criticise, then I am interfering.

    So, the best thing the lawyers can do is speak to the judges — tell them how important it is to clean up the judiciary.

    I’m sure the judges are also concerned about their image. And if they so decide, and say, “Look, it is time that we change", then we will accommodate them — amend the Constitution, or whatever. It has to come through the judiciary — not from me.

    When they (the lawyers) went to the prime minister they are asking him to interfere. Tak boleh (Cannot).

    Twenty years ago, they were very angry with us. The prime minister used the procedure to sack the CJ. Now you are asking us to use the procedure to do the same thing?

    Why is it that 20 years ago we cannot do that, but now we can? Is this at the whims and fancy of the Bar Council members?

    I feel their problem is with the individual; not with the system. There is a Malay saying: Marah nyamuk jangan bakar kelambu. You are upset with one individual, you want to throw away the entire system.

    Later, if you have another system, and you don’t get along with the CJ, do you want to change the system again?
    Q: But if we had a transparent system, perhaps all judicial appointees would be acceptable to the people.

    A: But if you have a royal commission for the appointment and promotion of judges, you might not agree with the decision, too, because members of the royal commission are also human beings.

    Tell me, who appoints the commission? The system is the same. The appointment of the commission will be made by the king, on the advice of the prime minister.

    The commission would be there, but the Bar Council will not be happy, and then you’ll have another system (change).
    Q: Can the commission be appointed by consensus or stakeholders?

    A: Why stakeholders? Stakeholders are people too. Do you want to have an election?
    You know what will happen — people will campaign to become members of the commission and then they’ll be compromised, because they want to be chosen by the people.

    And then the judges will have to kow tim (settle) with them again — it’s the same thing.

    Are we to change just because 1,000 lawyers are unhappy? The Constitution must be amended by two-thirds of MPs; and the two-thirds represent the majority of the people.

    If we MPs are not convinced, how can we amend the Constitution?

    We can’t listen to the views of just 1,000 lawyers. Since when was the view of 1,000 lawyers more important than that of the 11 million who voted for us?

    Lawyers are not the only stakeholders. It is also the people in the streets — they are the ones who go to court.
    Q: You have said the government was happy with the current system of appointments. Why?

    A: We found that the system works for us. We inherited this system (from the British), and for 50 years it has served us well. Something which has not brought us any problem, why should we change?

    If we need to change this system, we would need a clear indication from the judiciary. Even then, before you change you have to go and see the Malay rulers. Out of courtesy, you have to tell them.

    Any slight change, we have to see the Malay rulers FIRST. Once they agree, then you’ve got to get the agreement of the judges also, because this involves them.

    I am only interested in no interference by the Executive. When I became minister in charge of the judiciary, I wanted to make sure that what happened 20 years ago should not happen now. So, please do not ask us to interfere with the judiciary.

    The prime minister is a good man, he respects that, so he doesn’t interfere. That’s why you can see judges now making decisions which may sometimes be negative towards the government. That’s okay.

    They are free to make their decisions without interference. The same goes for how judges should be appointed. But if the call for change comes from the judges, it’s okay.
    Q: Is the tenure of the chief justice going to be extended?

    A: I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
    Q: The video-clip issue will not yet be settled at the time of his retirement (scheduled for Thursday). Don’t you think that it’s rather unfortunate for him to retire before this matter is settled?

    A: I don’t know whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate. That is the prerogative of the prime minister.
    Q: Has the prime minister indicated anything to you?

    A: No. As I said, I don’t interfere.

    I only do things which the prime minister asks me to do.

    I never ask about things that I am not supposed to be making decisions or that I am not supposed to know.
    Q: If you just take into account what is printed in the media and what comes out in the blogs, it would appear that there is a crisis in the judiciary.

    A: To me, if there were no newspapers, if there were no blogs, then it’s just mere chit-chat in the coffeeshop. That’s all.
    Q: Coffeeshop chit-chat is not important?

    No. The people are important. This is a government elected by the people, for the people. So, People means the Majority.

    If we didn’t have blogs, if we didn’t have newspapers, who in this world would know about it? But because of technological developments, you are able to chit-chat (about it). It’s just chit-chat.
    Q: But the fear that is felt is genuine.

    A: So what do you want me to do? Ban all these bloggers? Shut down all the newspapers? I don’t think so.

    We must live with the fact that this is now a modern world. Technology has enabled us to get to know each other so news gets moved faster.
    Q: So, you don’t think it’s important to try to address the worries of these people?

    A: No. It’s not important. Why do you put so much importance on bloggers? You know what rubbish has been written in the blogs?

    (Reality Check: What others say on the pervasive influence of Bloggers: Read HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE : Malaysian Unplug)
    Q: Do you read blogs?

    A: I don’t. I don’t waste my time. The few pieces that people print for me are just rubbish.

    I’d rather spend my time to do things that are constructive; that go down directly to the people who are really in need of the help of the government.

    Our bloggers are really not up to standard. When they put up something, it’s not something that they want to discuss in a very intellectual way.

    It’s more because of their anger - the language they use. Why should I read all this rubbish?

    When the standard of our bloggers is upgraded, then probably I will look at what is written. But anyway, they are a MINORITY. My concern is for the majority.
    Q: Indians in Malaysia are a minority. Does that mean that they don’t count?

    A: No, not in that minority sense. I am talking about bloggers.

    When you talk about minority in the sense of perkauman, they are VERY important, because they are our rakyat, a rakyat that needs to be helped.

    Bloggers don’t need to be helped. They are merely throwing rubbish into the blog.

    I have NO concern for and care about bloggers.

    The problems of Indians as a minority is different from the problems of the bloggers. You must appreciate that. I don’t care about the bloggers, but I do care about the minority Indians.

    (Reality Check: Read here on the destruction of Hindu Temples around Malaysia-Malaysian Unplug)

    In my constituency, I take care of them. You can go to my constituency and see what I have done for the Indian minority. I was the one to open the training in Mara for the Indian youths.

    These are my concerns.
    Q: What did you mean when you said that, by walking, the lawyers were behaving like the opposition?

    A: Lawyers have got stature in the eyes of the public. And they are apolitical.

    Also, I have told them that we will work together; never again should the confrontation of 20 years ago be repeated.

    It doesn’t look good when the government is at odds with either the judiciary or the Bar Council.

    So, I opened up the doors, I’ve helped them in many ways, to hasten the Legal Profession Act (Amendment) for instance. I did not close my door to them.

    So, I was SURPRISED when they suddenly decided to walk and demonstrate.

    I feel sad, because these are lawyers — my profession also — and I would rather see them being accorded the respect that should be given to them.

    If the memorandum is from the Bar Council, they would have been given an appointment to see the PM.

    I would have preferred that the memorandum was brought to the PM’s office.

    They would sit down with the PM, discuss for one or two hours, and then hand the memorandum over.

    But by walking, it is like you are already partisan, you have already made up your mind to oppose the government; that you cannot work with the government, that’s bad.
    Q: Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan said the reason they walked was that they felt all their appeals were falling on deaf ears.

    A: It will fall on deafer ears, I can tell you.
    Q: But why would you want to cover your ears?

    A: They should know — they are lawyers. Their profession is adversarial. When they go in to court, there are two sides — the defendant and the plaintiff.

    Even the two counsel cannot agree on how the law should be interpreted. So, you need the judge.

    So, they fight. But at the end of the day, they respect the decision made by the judge. They go out, shake hands, that’s it.

    In giving their views on the judiciary, they must understand that there are two sides to the argument. And theirs may not be the right one. So they must accept the decision. As lawyers, they should.

    They cannot expect that whatever memorandum they give to us, we must agree.

    Why couldn’t they have called to make an appointment? I’m sure the PM would have met them.
    Q: Maybe walking just says that they are partisan towards justice?

    A: I wasn’t complaining about their memorandum. It was the way they did it — demonstrating on the street. The Opposition was there.

    When you go on the street, how are you going to stop the opposition from coming in?

    In a meeting with the PM, those who are the opposition — who are NOT genuine lawyers — cannot go in.

    You should be apolitical. You are an NGO, you are not an opposition party. You have stature, you’ve got a position in public, people look at you with respect.

    But the moment you take to the street, who is going to respect you? They’ll laugh at you. There are people who are laughing at you — but they don’t write in the papers Bodoh punya kerja! (fool’s errand).
    Q: Is there anything wrong in walking for your beliefs?

    A: No. But that is the way of the opposition. If you are a political party, we can understand. But if you are a respectable society, that’s not an honourable way to do it — not when the government accords you respect.

    How can you bring yourself so low? The moment you do that, we don’t respect you.

    If I say to you, “M****r*****r you!", can you say, “Eh, let us sit down, we’ll talk about it.” No!

    You are lawyers, man! People respect you. So, do it in an honourable way.

    When the president of the Bar Council wants an appointment with the PM, she or he gets it. That’s how it is. That’s what I wanted, and I would have accommodated that.
    But they didn’t contact me. I was waiting. Ambiga knows my doors are open.
    Q: If, for instance, the Bar Council wants to take that avenue now, can they still take it?

    A: They can. I have already told them, go and engage with the judges. But if they ask me to do what they want me to do towards the judiciary, I won’t do it because I am the Executive.
    Q: The Bar Council claims that they have never been able to get an appointment with the CJ.

    A: He’s retiring anyway.I told them, “Fairuz is also a human being. Kalau you criticise, criticise, criticise dia — dia mana mau layan you.” (If you keep criticising him, he won’t entertain you).

    I can get a lot of things out of you if I talk to you nicely, but if I start shouting at you, do you think you will accommodate me? No way!
    Q: But you are more than an ordinary person. You are also the de facto Law Minister.

    A: But you cannot divorce me from the fact that I am also a human being.
    Q: That’s very irresponsible.
    A: Human beings, there are ways, how you do it. You want something, you talk. You don’t shout, and then expect to get something, no way.
    Q: Why didn’t the government empower the panel to compel witnesses?

    A: Because we have to first determine the authenticity of the video clip, to make it into a formal and genuine complaint
    Q: What if the video clip is genuine, but the person doesn’t want to come forward?
    A: That’s not OUR problem. We have already set up the panel, it’s for them.
    As I’ve said, if I was the one who made the complaint, I would be very happy, I’d come (forward) and co-operate. There’s nothing to fear.

    (Opposition MP Lim) Kit Siang said to me this morning (Wednesday) the problem is not that they are afraid of the public taking action against them; but they are afraid of the government.

    I think that’s no excuse.
    Q: Why can’t you set up something that can compel a person to come forward?

    A: Then you are forcing people. We want it to be voluntary. When you make a complaint to the police, are you being forced to make the complaint, or do you genuinely want to complain?

    You see, that is the problem (with the current situation). You have to come to us.

    Even if you don’t trust us with the tape, then we can always tell that fellow to come, show the tape, then we see, and you can take back the tape.

    But even then they don’t want to come forward. And their reason is that they are scared of the government. That’s not a reason.
    Q: What happens, if, by the closing of office hours on Nov 7, no one has come forward (to the Independent Panel)?

    A: Then, I think you, too, can conclude that there’s nothing to discuss.

    It’s (the video clip) NOT genuine. That’s all.
    Q: So, the conclusion is that there is no issue?

    A: No issue.
    Q: But at the same time, a video clip has been released, there’s been a walk, there’s been concern?

    A: Much ado over nothing.

    Q: So, the government’s not going to do anything?

    A: What can we do? We already set up the panel, if people don’t want to come, what do you expect us to do?

    There’s nothing we can do. It’s NOT our problem.

    Those people who are supposed to be informers or witnesses should come forward.

    If they don’t come forward, what can we do?

    You’re going to be angry with whom? With thin air? Close-shop, habis (it’s over).
    Q: Would you be sad, if no one came forward?

    A: Ya. I feel that if I make a complaint, and the government sets up a panel, I would be very pleased to co-operate.

    But when the government responded, by setting up the panel, it’s really sad, because we could have looked into the REAL issue.

    But because this is a video clip whose authenticity has not been verified, then no further action can be taken.
    Q: The third party that brought forward the video clip says they are not going to talk to the panel; it is only going to talk to a royal commission.

    A: We cannot be dictated to. Before we set up the royal commission and go to the next step, we have to verify first.

    This is a complaint against the judiciary. You have to verify the authenticity of the video clip first.
    Q: If people come forward and give their statements to the panel, and the authenticity of the video clip is verified, what would the next step be?

    A: If it was verified to be true, the next step would be to investigate the judiciary, the person there.
    Q: Using what?

    A: MAYBE a royal commission.
    Q: Why not just set it up from the beginning?

    A: No, you can’t. If you set up a royal commission over something that is false, it’s a waste of time. It is important to verify the authenticity. The video clip is like a surat-layang (poison pen letter).

    For every surat layang that comes along, should we set up a royal commission? There must be a genuine complaint before we set up a royal commission.

    For as long as we cannot verify the authenticity, equate the video clip to a surat layang.

    A royal commission is a serious matter. So, the allegation must be serious.

    It has to be a genuine concern. It cannot be a surat layang, or a false video clip. Malu kita nanti. (Or it would be embarrassing.)

    (Reality Check: Read here "Video clip is NOT surat layang"- Malaysian Unplug)
    Q: There is less than two weeks for people to come forward with what they have. Are you hoping that they will?

    A: I hope so. We set up the panel to investigate the authenticity of the tape.

    Come forward, lah. Apa nak takut? Takkan kita nak bantai orang kita! (What’s there to be afraid of? We won’t beat up our own people!)

    Every five years, we put ourselves up as candidates for election. If we do something wrong, do you think that people will let you go just like that? No way!
    Q: Maybe the informants’ concern is not so much the government, but that the parties in the video clip might take action against them.

    A: But that is something beyond us. Even for us, if we do something, the lawyer can also take action against us.

    It is not only the informant who will be left unprotected, the government can also be sued by the lawyer.

    But that’s how it is. We can only do certain things. Beyond what we can do, we can’t promise. Even the panel can be sued.
    Q: So how is anyone supposed to do their work, if they are not protected?

    A: If you tell the truth, what is there to fear?

    If you write something about a person, and the person sues you for libel, you can plead fair comment, and you can get away.

    If someone sues us, it does not mean that we are guilty, we have a defence — fair comment, doing our duty — you have to go to court, lah.

    The only thing that we cannot guarantee is that you will not be sued by anyone. But when you go to court, you have all these defences. What should you be afraid of?

    Let them take us to court — bukan kita bersalah (we are not at fault). In court we will fight it.
    Q: Where is the Witness Protection bill now?

    A: At the moment, it is at various ministries and agencies for their comments.

    When the cabinet approves it, the bill will be sent to parliament.
    Q: You have said that even without a Witness Protection Act, the government can still protect witnesses.

    A: There are specific acts which provide protection for informants. If the government decides that it wants to protect informants, like in the case of the video clip, that is something which we can do.

    (Reality Check: Bar Council says there is NO such legislation or a Witness Protection Act. Read here : Malaysian Unplug)

    Q: So, why do we need a Witness Protection bill?

    A: At the moment, the various protection (clauses) are in various acts, so it would be better if we could compile them into one singular act.

    At the moment this is berterabur (all over).

    So, we want to protect the informers in general, so we should have one specific act.
    Q: If someone were to come forward now, on the video clip, how much protection could you offer?

    A: We can offer any protection, for as long as it is not against the Constitution or against any laws.
    Q: But that requires the person to come forward first. This is no guarantee of protection.

    A: He can always communicate (his protection requirements) through a third person. Whatever we can do, we’ll do.

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