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Throw the book at lecherous politicians

 | February 10, 2011

The law must redeem itself and take holders of public office who rob women of their dignity to task.

COMMENT

Power and impunity are being abused to cover up wrongdoings, especially those that involve sexual violation against women by senior politicians of this country. Be it extramarital affair or sexual harassment or rape cases, senior ministers have found all the time to commit them.

And by their “personal first and public later” attitude, these politicians through their deviant behaviour have proved that sex, and not public welfare, is first and foremost on their mind, which is most unfortunate because these politician-ministers have shown no respect to the very people who chose them as leaders.

Take former health minister Dr Chua Soi Lek. He was involved in an extramarital affair with a woman he claimed was a “personal friend” until their rendezvous was exposed in December 2007.

On Jan 2, 2008, Chua, the then health minister and vice-president of MCA and also the Member of Parliament for Labis, resigned from all his posts. A day earlier he had admitted he was the person featured in a sex DVD that was widely circulated in Johor.

To save face, Chua claimed that his downfall was due to his dedication to his work as health minister and MCA vice-president, both of which caused his rivals to grow suspicious of him. But having given up his medical practice for full-time politics, Chua was not one to give up.

Despite the sex scandal, he returned to politics in March 2010 and contested the MCA president’s post, edging out incumbent Ong Tee Keat and former president Ong Ka Ting.

The year 2010 came to an end amidst news that Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim had in 2007 raped his domestic helper, an allegation which Rais took two weeks to refute.

And like Chua, the 69-year-old Rais said the allegation was to tarnish his name and his efforts in promoting the Barisan Nasional policies,particularly Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept.

Rais added that the rape accusation was to divert attention from the bigger crimes involving opposition leaders, such as sodomy.

Intense pressure

Rais, the Jelebu MP, asked that the public not speculate on this allegation pending the outcome of the on-going investigation. However, the PKR-linked group, Malaysian Youth Solidarity, had lodged a police report over the allegation.

Two days after Rais denied the allegation, Najib, after intense pressure, broke his silence only to question the timing of this accusation. A sad day for Malaysia when its prime minister, instead of being troubled by such a serious allegation, chose to be nonchalant, questioning why was the issue raised only now.

But then Najib’s reaction leaves little room for surprise. Was he himself not the man besieged with accusations of having had an affair with a Mongolian translator, Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was later gunned down and her body blown to bits in a jungle at Puncak Alam in Shah Alam in October 2006?

A private detective in his statutory declaration alleged that Najib had “passed” Altantuya to his best friend Abdul Razak Baginda because the former knew he would become prime minister and wanted to avoid shame.

But shame it is because although there were numerous witnesses and evidence connecting Najib to the affair, he was never questioned or put on the witness stand. And like all good wives, Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor too remained cool as a cucumber throughout the ordeal surrounding Najib and Altantuya.

Travesty of justice

Back in 1994, the then chief minister of Malacca, Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, was reported to have raped a 15-year-old schoolgirl (under Malaysian law, sex with a minor constitutes statutory rape). Lim Guan Eng, currently the chief minister of Penang and the then MP for Kota Melaka, spoke out against the rape of a minor after the girl’s grandmother-cum-guardian, who was also Lim’s constituent, turned to him for help.

However, far from deserving justice, both Lim and the schoolgirl received their “dues”. Lim was jailed for three years for speaking up against the rape while the girl was given three years “protective custody”. As for Rahim, because of the rape and pending corruption charges, he was forced to resign, after a 12-year stint as Malacca’s chief minister.

But the judiciary saw Rahim escape punishment for a crime committed; this came about after the public prosecutor withdrew the charge citing lack of evidence. The corruption charges against Rahim were also dropped.

The travesty of justice is such that on Feb 28, 1995, Lim was thrown into jail after he was charged under the Sedition Act for prompting “disaffection with the administration of Malaysia”.

On March 17 the same year, he was slapped with another charge under the Printing Presses and Publications Act for “maliciously printing” a pamphlet containing “false information”, specifically that Lim had used the term “imprisoned victim” to describe the schoolgirl who was raped.

As a result of his trying to seek justice for the rape survivor, Lim was barred from holding public office for five years, making him ineligible to contest in the 2004 general election.

As for the underage rape survivor, she was initially detained for 10 years without parental consent. She was subsequently sentenced to three years “protective custody” in a house for “wayward girls”. During Lim’s trial, the girl gave evidence that she had sex with a minister.

With such lecherous politicians in our midst, the safety of girls and women – be they our sisters, daughters, mothers and foreign female workers – is at risk. There is no telling which politician is waiting to sexually assault the girls and women in this country. What is annoying is the fact that the crime is easily dismissed by threatening and buying the silence of the victim.

In Rais’ case, if the rape had never taken place as he claimed, then what made his domestic helper of eight years to suddenly pack her bags and leave for home in Indonesia? If he has been such a kind and generous man as his former domestic helper claimed when retracting her allegation of rape, the question of her quitting her job would not arise. There is no doubt something is amiss here, no matter how much Rais denies it.

In the case of Rahim, he was never convicted and continues to enjoy life while Lim spent three years in jail and the the rape survivor was sentenced to three years in a house for “wayward girls”. What wrong did the girl do to end up in a house for wayward girls while the perpetrator, Rahim, walked a free man? Where was justice when it was desperately needed?

Respect women

Politicians must learn to respect women. Be they mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and women in general, they must be accorded the respect worthy of a human being. And any abuse of that right must never be viewed lightly, what more, dismissed.

The wives of Malaysian politicians are women with a big heart. Chua’s wife never openly cried her heart out nor did Rais’ wife Maznah opt to lead a separate life after learning about the rape allegation involving her husband. It is perhaps that these women are a forgiving lot or that they dared not go against their respective husbands.

And just as shameful is to see the silence from the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil in defending the domestic helper who was allegedly raped by Rais. The ever playing-safe Shahrizat decided it was best to safeguard her political career rather than to jeopardise it by speaking up against her colleague.

Likewise, Shahrizat decided to keep quiet when another colleague, Jamaluddin Jarjis, was accused of sexual harassment by a female worker at a restaurant in a five-star hotel in 2008. Within hours, the worker retracted her complaint, saying she was used to Jamaluddin’s “rough” ways and jokes. What a misfortune it is for Malaysia that Jamaluddin who has stooped so low has been despatched to the United States to serve as the Malaysian ambassador.

Also, whatever happened to the narcissistic Dr Mahathir Mohamad who, after his retirement from politics, has decided to so-call champion the rakyat’s rights? Did he too have nothing to say about the lecherous politicians masquerading in the Malaysian political arena and who have given the country a bad name?

The silence from the “powers that be” when politicians sexually assault women speaks of the indifferent attitude adopted by the country’s government in according respect to its women, who are both taxpayers and voters. And it is also evident that the abuse of power succeeded in silencing the injustice done by such unscrupulous politicians. Such abuse must no longer be tolerated. It is time for the law to redeem itself and take such people to task.


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