This article was previously published in The Sun on 13 July 2012.
Sometime last week, I attempted to get out of my lane while driving. I turned on my indicator and tried to move to the next lane. The car behind braked suddenly, and the car behind it crashed into it.
Traffic laws would state that it is the fault of the driver that had committed the accident as he was unable to stop in time and ought to have kept a safe distance.
However, after two hours of negotiations, the driver of the last car demanded I pay RM1,000 for damages; I wanted to make a police report but he refused to agree.
I eventually paid RM400, as the driver became more and more verbally aggressive, began hitting his car, and threatened to bang my car (in order to get my car insurance to pay for his damage), as well as get someone to “find” me if I did not pay up.
Throughout the negotiation, I felt intimidated and weak. At some point, I felt guilty and thought that perhaps I should help contribute to the poor man’s repairs.
Perhaps due to his accusatory words. Upon reflection, it should have been brought to the attention of the police.
Surely any number of us would experience something similar on a daily basis, and feel angered whenever justice is not provided under those circumstances.
July 16 marked the third death anniversary of Teoh Beng Hock, former political aide to Selangor state executive councillor Ean Yong. He was interrogated as a witness at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Selangor headquarters on July 15, 2009 and his body was found on the roof of the 5th floor the next morning.
After a coroner’s inquest and a subsequent Royal Commission of Inquiry, the case has come nowhere close to being resolved. On the government’s part at least, it is considered “case closed”, since the inquiry concluded that he was driven to suicide as a result of “relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous” questioning by the MACC officers.
However, the three officers accused of having caused such trauma have not been charged under the Penal Code, and have instead been referred to the MACC’s internal complaints committee to decide on some disciplinary action.
Over the last week or so, many events have taken place in commemoration of Teoh’s death anniversary, including and most uniquely, a play in Malay by a group of young actors from Rumah Anak Teater. A multi-ethnic audience took in the play at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Sentul.
The play attracted a younger crowd that previously may not have been entirely familiar with the Teoh Beng Hock case. It also drove the point home that this was not necessarily a “Chinese” issue, but one that was relevant to all Malaysians.
The riveting scene in which he falls from a height was done superbly in the play. I was curious to see how the director would depict the moment of the “fall” – whether it would concur with the inquiry’s findings of a suicide, or otherwise.
This scene presented three MACC officers crowding around the person acting as the persona of Teoh, and amid some rough-handling and scuffling, he falls to his death. There were three possible options for Teoh’s death from the window of the 14th floor: suicide, intentional pushing, or an accidental “letting go”. The play does an excellent job of leaving the conclusion up to the audience to determine for themselves what truly happened at the end.
There are injustices that surround us in our personal and professional lives, and we scream righteous anger when we are wronged. But things change dramatically when a life is involved. In my car situation, I wanted desperately to turn to the higher authority of the police.
In Teoh’s case he was under the care of a higher authority that ought to have exercised its due care and responsibility over him.
Numerous financial scandals have been brought to light this year. Making accusations for political mileage is to be expected, but should not be the real reason the rest of us must care and be concerned. Neither should we feel disgruntled in order that we too, should get a share of the cake.
In the final analysis, Malaysians should expect conditions, laws, and institutions that provide for a fair and just society.