(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim sent shockwaves through the legal and judical profession, the legal academia as well as the informed citizenry when he brazenly claimed that the book he wrote six years ago, Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia, was “merely an academic study” which should not be held against him for the rest of his life and declared: “I don’t stand by what is studied academically”.
I can agree with Rais that one should not expect a person’s views to remain unchanged for the whole of his life, but any such change of views should be able to stand up to public scrutiny and debate with reasons and arguments and not because of sheer opportunism.
But Rais’ claim that his book Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia
was a “mere academic study” and that he did not have to stand by
it is a most outrageous and preposterous claim.
Rais should explain whether his book Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia was a pure fairy tale which never reflected his views and beliefs and that this is why he need not stand by it?
Rais should be reminded that he did not work on his doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of London in 1994, and which became the basis of the book, as a starry-eyed student but after two decades of political leadership, including over a decade of service in the Cabinet, occupying the posts of Deputy Home Minister and Deputy Law Minister in the seventies, Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar (1978-1982) and as Information Minister (1986-1987) and Foreign Minister (1987-1988) before he went into the political wilderness in the aftermath of the Mahathir/Razaleigh Team A/Team B UMNO power struggle.
Rais should be reminded of the preface which he wrote for his book on
1st March 1995, which said:
“The spur which set me on the road to writing this book was the shocking ease with which the executive government sacked the Malaysian judiciary in 1988. No less have I been bewildered by the lack of fairness in the right to speak; the monopoly by the executive of the nation’s media; the overall absence of accountability in the handling of the rights of the citizenry. I began to ask: For how long and to what extent can the executive continue to render subservient basic rights of the citizen and innate powers of the judiciary that are so important not only in our pursuit of a viable democratic way of life but also in the fairness of government? Is the rule of law to be mere chanting of the past or is it to continue as part and parcel of the future milestone of the Malaysian nation?”
Is Rais suggesting now that these sentiments he had expressed as spurring him to write the book were another fairy tale?
Rais should also explain whether never believed in any single
one of his conclusions about the enroachments of executive power on the
rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the sovereignty of Parliament,
as for instance the following statements in his book:
In the book, Rais lamented the culture of fear and the lack of understanding and appreciation of the rule of law by the Malaysian people when he wrote:
"Equally perplexing has been the seemingly calm and patronising attitude of the Malaysian people in facing and accepting these excesses vis-a-vis their rights. It is as if Malaysians have lost touch with their basic rights in a country that prides itself in being democratic and leading the voice of liberation within the third world countries. Even with the increasing number of the young and well-educated in the country there appears to be little interest in the importance of civil liberties. We have noted how excessive executive powers, omnipresent and far-reaching as they have been, have rendered constitutional freedoms meaningless. And yet there appears to be little or no resistance from the man on the street to counter these inroads. There can be only one explanation to this: the culture of fear has set in. The underlying fear of executive reprisal has slowly but surely reduced Malaysians into being reluctantly submissive in many respects of their daily life."
Is Rais now suggeting that this lament of his about the culture of fear and subservience among Malaysians was pure poetic licence which he did not have an ounce of belief whatsoever?
If so, then Rais had committed a fraud on the Malaysian people when he published his book “Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia”, when it was a pure fairy tale which never reflected his beliefs and he should declare whether he would defray those who had bought the book wrongly believing that it was a serious study on the rule of law and executive power in Malaysia!