The new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Commissioner Latheefa Koya must be applauded for taking a firm step to stop the (mis)use of the ‘notorious’ orange T-shirt routine for so long.
The reason is obvious:an accused is considered innocent before being proven guilty! Period.
No compromise if justice is to be served and seen to be served.
I took the same stance when I was a member of the MACC Advisory Board for the very same reason. And more.
Unfortunately, I was not successful because it was said then that we should follow the SOP (standard operating procedure),echoing the police’s usage of the purple T-shirt!
Plus it was also intended to deter the ‘suspect’ from ‘escaping’ since the brightly coloured T-shirts, with the word lokap (lock- up) imprinted on them,could be spotted easily.While this may be true,it cannot be applied in blanket fashion routinely.
That was the rub. No one-size-fits-all (pun intended)!
Indeed,every so often we have seen in the media how ‘suspects’ were escorted by rather burly men keeping a close watch on them. What is more is that they were also handcuffed (how about that?) most of the time.
Again the SOP was cited. It appears an ‘overkill’ of sorts, not just to the physique so to speak, but equally the ‘psyche’ and ‘emotions’, including ‘mental wellbeing’ as well. All three-in-one! The total impact, however, goes beyond the individual concerned. It often ripples through to the family connections, even to the next-of-kin.
For sure,the beloved spouse and immediate family ties intimately share the consequences and the inevitable anguish.
After all, they are only human ‘a word that is increasingly missed in the search for ‘progress’ today.
This further paralyses the relationships between families (which is perhaps intended), when the converse should have been the case, in facing a potentially rough time. Some of those affected were probably too young to understand and thus could easily breed an ‘uncomfortable’ feeling, extending to ‘hatred’ for the authorities in embarrassing the family in full view of the public by heaping such burden of shame (aib) onto them.
The feeling is, by all measures, devastating especially to the innocent ones having to face their peers who do not know any better, ending up in speculation and suspicion that could sour a once perfect relationship over time. In short, the whole episode can be so toxic just because of the misunderstood function of a T-shirt that could be worn selectively in terms of timing and/or appropriateness.
The irony is that some were somehow exempted. Usually the high and mighty who can afford to smile (grin?) and wave to whoever were there as though to conceal an even bigger humiliation.
The question is, why the exemption? What does the SOP say on this? Or it is a double standard that some get to adorn their best suits to show off, day in and day out in front of the media.
In this sense, Latheefa had triggered a great equaliser. Kudos. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, what about the media that metaphorically acts like the orange T-shirt by ‘engulfing’ the accused person - physique and psyche - electronically as it were. In fact it is worse, taking into account how suspects occassionally try hard to ‘escape’ from the prying lenses coming from all directions. They often have to twist and turn to avoid a full frontal with the prying cameras, or adopt all manner of ways to conceal their identities.
Remember they are still ‘innocent’ but the aib is already in full swing. With the handcuffs on, there is only so much that they can do to save their dignity against the ‘insensitive’ and ‘inhumane’ media persons who virtually harass the suspects who want no part of it.The overall impact is no less tragic and humiliating, if not unjustly such that the media coverage is extensive and unapologetic.
Whatever it is, it is a blatant injustice no doubt. And dehumanising to subject fellow human beings in that away.
The Quran reminds us that if anyone exposes the aib of others for whatever reason, including political and societal gains, rest assured that the same will come around to those who have wickedly embarrassed others for some selfish reasons best known to themselves and their merry (wo)men.
Could there be other ways to prevent such acts once and for all? Better still offer apologies to those were unjustly treated before it is too late? Only then would justice be truly served.
The argument for this is that anyone who has been unjustly treated must have their dignity restored like all human beings deserve,in keeping with the dictum of being innocent before one is found guilty in a court of law.
For them, we need Latheefa’s wisdom once again to bring back the civilised behaviour that we badly need in new Malaysia. Looking forward, madam.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector