I am delighted to note that according to Malaysiakini the Malaysian Attorney General has discontinued proceedings against the 12 Indians on trial for alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with immediate effect.In his statement he reveals the poverty of reasoning behind the charges as follows, ” the common thread among all of them was that they simply had photos of slain LTTE leaders such as Velupillai Prabhakaran in their phones or Facebook accounts”, and quite rightly, if belatedly, he acknowledges that “If such conduct can constitute a criminal offence, it would bring the law into disrepute.” He has saved the nation’s legal system from the absurdity that was arising in the context of these charges against Indians for celebrating the cause of Tamil Elam and the defunkt Tamil Tigers! The Attorney General’s full statement is available here and is definitely worth a read!
As an aside, I can not help but speculate on the implications of the timing of this withdrawal of charges against the 12 Indians, which comes on the heels of the announcement of the transfer of the policeman responsible for these arrests, Malaysian counterterrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, to a new position as head the police force in Johor state.
In a post titled Indian Vote: Entha Kabali? made before the Malaysian federal election in 2018, I wrote, . … “Whatever happens in the voting, it looks like it is indeed going to be close and, perhaps, the Indian vote is going to be important.” Further, I asked, ” … does the opposition look like they will treat us any different [from Barisan]? Just look at how they made unholy exaggerations and unfulfillable promises on the Stateless Indians issue … should they not be shown that the Indian vote, just like the vote of the other communities, has to be earned?” While I was skeptical about the outcome for Indians, I did, as indicated in my post titled Kabali Da!, cast my lot with the new Malaysia promised by the Pakatan Harapan opposition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Well, it came to pass that Mahathir and Harapan did win and, in the 2 years since, many have become disillusioned and dissatisfied with New Malaysia for their many unfulfilled promises. One such promise pertains to the Indian statelessness problem. Indeed, in this matter Harapan has been deeply disappointing. They promised a complete solution within 100 days, but their re-branded ‘Indian affairs’ body, the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA) has not solved the this problem as yet. As far as I can ascertain, the last statement issued by the minister responsible states that MITRA was still working “to outline a comprehensive solution to the stateless issue, in line with the PH government’s manifesto promise”.
Since then another issue has arisen to affect the Indian community at an equally deep symbolic level – the spate of LTTE related arrests and charges. I have discussed the apparent pervisity of these arrests and detentions under SOSMA of 12 Indians including 2 government MPs previously in this series (beginning with On Being a Malaysian Tamil 1) and the question I explore here is how one might understand the implications for the Harappan government visa vis the Indian vote. The perceived involvement of government, even if it is misplaced, will surely be detrimental to their ability to garner Indian votes in the next general elections
In principle the police act independently of the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Judiciary and the government is distant from the decisions of all these bodies. While the judiciary is independent by virtue of the separation of powers expected in Malaysia’s Westminster based legal system, the police and the AG’s chambers are extensions of the executive. They too, however, are expected to act independently of executive interference and without improper collusion with one another. If all is running as it should be in our nation’s governance, no blame can be laid at the feet of the Harappan government for these LTTE arrests, detentions, changes and for the eventual judicial outcomes, whatever they might turn out to be. However, the history of the relationships concerned in Malaysia is such that it will be very difficult for the people to believe in the integrity of the system, even if it were true.
There is no question that the majority of Malaysian Tamils, like most of their fellows throughout the world support the Elam struggle, regardless of their misgivings about the terror tactics of the LTTE. Certainly, most of us feel there was an equal amount of state terror being deployed by the Sri Lankan government in this conflict and that the Terrorist organization designation applied to the LTTE, however justified it might be, is ultimately a political assignation. Indeed, the evidence for this suggestion is the fact that the Tigers were not so designated in Malaysia till 2014, years after the war ended and all acts or terror had ceased. Given this fact and the fact that our Malaysian institutions of state are known for being questionably interdependent, it is going to be difficult for Harapan to win the hearts of the Indian community and, of course, this may have a bearing on their votes in the next elections.
The most striking revelation of the recent House of Commons Justice Committee hearings, for me, was not that the Prime Minister’s Office might have applied pressure on the Attorney General in a prosecutorial matter, not even that the top civil servant might have gone beyond the call of duty in effecting the Prime Minister’s will; no both of these scenarios fall, in my estimation, into the grey zone of governance – the realpolitik that belies the purported exemplitude of Euro-American democracy. No, what amazed me the most was the statement by the sitting Privy Council Clerk (the most senior civil servant in the Canadian government) Michael Wernick that, in the run-up to the crisis, he took a phone call and Chairman of the Board at SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch. According to Marie-Danielle Smith’s report on his testimony Mr Wernick said the following, “Mr. Lynch as the chair of the board expressed his frustration that he did not understand why a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) was not being considered and he knew that the board in its trustee relationships for the shareholders in the company was going to have to take some tough decisions in October and November.”
Again, it is not the fact that the purportedly impartial Clerk of the Privy Council took the frustrated call from the Chairman of the SNC-Lavalin Board per se that raised my concern, but the familiarity suggested by the tone and content of what seems to have been said, as well as the fact that the said Chairman, Kevin Lynch, was a former Clerk of the very same Privy Council! What kind of impartiality can we expect from our top civil servants while they serve in government if such powerful corporate positions are theirs for the taking in the wake of their governmental roles? More precisely, the burning question arising from the Lavalin affair is this, ‘What kind of impartiality can we expect from civil servants when their ilk, their peers, these former servants now communicate and advocate on behalf of the most powerful sector of the national polity?’
It seems to me that the parliamentary opposition’s accusations of partiality towards the Liberals directed at Mr. Warnick might be misplaced. Political partisanship does not seem, to me, to the kind of impartiality that is in question. Instead, what we might have been afforded, thanks the clerks own unflinching, unembarrassed, incontrite testimony, is a rare vista on the workings of what might be called the Canadian ‘administrative-industrial complex’ – the imbrication of money (corporations) and power (the civil service) in Canadian governance. There has been a more delicate suggestion that the Clerk’s testimony risks the perception of party bias. To the contrary, I believe that while while, Mr. Wernick may have shown excessive fealty to Justin Trudeau, there is no clear indication that this loyalty has been towards the leader of the Liberals and not to the Prime Minister of Canada. There is however, indication of a more fundamental complicity in the relationship between corporate Canada and, what I shall call the political machinery of Canada. This will only manifest as political bias if we ever elect a party to government that is not, in one way or another, beholden to these corporate interests.