Not right for local council to sue the public

Koh Tat Meng’s attempt to help a dog in distress has ended with an unconscionable and pathetic response from the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ). It is suing Koh for defamation over the incident, which occurred in October last year.

MPSJ is foolish to allow this dangerous precedent to be set, as it is a waste of the rakyat’s money and time.

In these straitened economic times, the council should make better use of their resources. The money spent on lawyers, and researchers to prepare for this case, could be better used on improving services to the community, and education for its officers about animal rights and cruelty to animals.

Can’t common sense prevail? Can the MP for this area not sit the councillors and Koh together, to engage with one another and have a mature dialogue so that they can come to a compromise?

Why did the councillors allow this incident to escalate out of control?

The council will be seen as Little Napoleons exercising their arrogance behind a badge. Maybe they want to deter members of the public from complaining about them.

If members of the public are sued by the local council, they will be less inclined to complain about shoddy services, rude behaviour, arrogance and allegations of corruption. Is this legal suit an attempt to silence the people?

So, is Koh a victim of his own compassion? Is MPSJ making an example of him, to deter the public from interfering in its affairs and from reporting any indiscretions?

One’s normal instincts when seeing an animal being hounded and in distress is to help it.

One man’s offer of help is another’s idea of intrusion – a busybody. One man’s attempt to plead for mercy is seen as a sign of weakness by another.

When print shop owner Koh and his wife saw a dog being chased, noosed and thrown into the back of a pick-up truck by dog catchers from the MPSJ, they were alarmed.

Koh tried to persuade the officers to exercise some restraint and be less violent. The officers said he was obstructing them in their duties.

The dog catchers ignored him, so Koh put himself between the animal and the officers, while pleading with them. He said that in Islam, the prophet would have wanted humans to act with compassion.

A few of the officers took umbrage and claimed that he insulted Islam. One of them pinned him against a car and shouted expletives at him.

Is this how the council officers treat the public, who pay their wages? Was this officer reprimanded and punished for being rude in public?

The video of Koh trying to plead with the officers went viral and caused an outpouring of anger from the public. It also prompted an apology from Selangor Local Government, Public Transportation and New Village Development Committee chairman Ng Sze Han for the officers’ arrogance and crudity.

The Tuanku Permaisuri of Selangor, who is the royal patron of the Stay Free Selangor (SFS) campaign, also criticised the council workers for their inhumane treatment of the dog.

How did the council react? MPSJ charged Koh under Section 186 of the Penal Code with obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his public function. If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to two years, or fined RM10,000, or both.

Koh pleaded not guilty and filed a civil suit against the council.

Instead of suing for defamation, MPSJ should engage with Koh, rather than expose its arrogance and superiority.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.