Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Do Right, Not Just Do Justice!

At the end of the legal drama film, The Winslow Boy, there was a profound dialogue about justice.

Sir Robert: ... I wept today because right had been done.

Catherine: Not justice?

Sir Robert: No. Not justice. Right. It is easy to do justice -- very hard to do right.

The words of Sir Robert appropriately described the reality in the pursuit of justice. Hereon, justice will be written with open and close inverted comma.

"Justice” is merely by-product or incidental from winning cases. In plain language, winning court cases does not necessarily assure “justice” is served. One lawyer’s inability to see a certain aspect of law results in an expensive loss to his or her client and justice is denied with ease.

It's this similar reality that perhaps brought about a cynical remark from Clarence Darrow, an early American civil libertarians, “There is no such thing as justice - in or out of court.” His winning streak against death penalty substantiates the point that he won out of his litigation ability. Was justice served?

One tongue and cheek description of "justice" claims it as the law and the law is men’s feeble attempt to lay down the principles of decency. Judges and lawyers as practitioners of law are attempting nothing more than a feeble attempt to be decent.

Perhaps the television tend to over-romanticised lawyers. LA Law TV series presented lawyers with glitz and glamour. In Law & Order TV Series, prosecutor McCoy is depicted as a man of ideal, persevering in the pursuit of “justice”. Lawyers potray themselves as champion of individual rights, defender of the Constitution, guardian of the oppressed, and advocate for clients’ principles.

Let's snap out of this perception and back to reality. At the practical level, most lawyers are not persons who know the law, but learned in finding the law that fits a given situation and the right angle to read it. Many, if not majority, are mouthpieces for their clients to speak in the foreign language of law. The ultimate sarcasm against lawyers is as hired guns sold to the highest bidder.

Former US Chief Justice Warren Burger had this to say of the legal profession, “... ours is a sick profession marked by incompetence, lack of training, misconduct and bad manners. Ineptness, bungling, malpractice and bad ethics can be observed in court houses all over this country every day ... these incompetents have a seeming unawareness of the fundamental ethics of the profession.”

If that is the condition in the US, frankly ours does not fare any better or even worse. My lawyer did not turn up in court and I end up spending money for appeals. My friend’s wife’s lawyer came to an Industrial Court hearing unprepared. The story of lawyers absconding clients’ money is widespread.

Lawyers refuse clients in order to safeguard their Banking clients’ account. With every other lawyer having Banking clients, what hope is justice served for victims of powerful Bankers? This reminded me of the saga of Dato Idris Tulis and Bank Bumiputera. Back in mid 80s, one is reminded of a practicing lawyer making a RM16 million remittance steal from Bank Negara.

In the early days of this nation, lawyers are positioned at every other post in Government, Corporations and Politics. But, the country only made its quantum leap under the decisiveness and surgical precision of a doctor. Beyond the realm of law, there are those that feel the legal profession is over-rated.

Its difficult to do right, but easier to shout.

Nevertheless, last Thursday’s march by the Bar Council and lawyers at the Putrajaya deserve every shout for it demonstrate the right of people to an assembly esssential in a democratic process. The dismissal and denial of citizens’ right to gather and demonstrate with manipulative use of media and administrative limitation as excuses is unconstitutional.

The march should be supported not to give high regards for the Bar Council. The Bar Council has not met expectations to upgrade its professionalism in the profession, improve practices & procedure, discipline its errant members, and give much consideration to the legal consumers. Its own house is yet but in order and AGMs is infamous for quorum deficient. Sadly, the march itself is not representative of all Malaysian lawyers. Is there unclear and disunity in purpose? Lets hope the march does not represent certain interest groups.

The march should be supported for it should be symbolically interpreted as the people giving the system of “justice” the high esteem it deserve as a branch of government. All citizens, who believe in the need for a fair system of “justice”, to compliment the role of Parliament, and executive as branches of Government in our system of Constitutional Monarchy, should support any effort to do so.

The wrong done by other branches of Government could be corrected by a system of “justice”. For it pains, to see properties and assets of the common people acquired for the interest of faceless corporations. With ECER and NCER to come on stream, can the right of the Malay Reserve land owners safeguarded from the interest of the Might?

“Justice” should not be exclusive to judges, lawyers and intellectuals but to all Malaysian. This fight for “justice” should be free from unstated personal interest or for the benefit of any related genus. It certainly should not be hijacked for the interest of certain quarters of the legal fraternity. Nor should it be merely to serve the interest of minority interest and fringe groups at the expense of the right of the majority.

The fight for "justice" should not be padded with ulterior purpose to sway decisions in any way. Right should remain permanent. The fight for "justice" in the practise of religious freedom should not be at the expense of the right of Muslim majority, its institutions and aspirations. The rights of individual should not supercede the right of many, nor should the converse.

Let's just see right is done.

For that, lets not be lost in verbiages of slogan in this pursuit for the better. There is no need for anything new. Too much meaningless slogan for new has been let allowed - Melayu Baru and New Labor, to think of a few. Reform is just a dramatic slogan for new. Paradigm shift is seeking for something new out of the box, which seldom is.

Do not allow the discontinuation and uprooting of our history and tradition. For there, lies the closest to right. Beware! For every revolution, there lay deep hidden hands providing money in exchange for principal and interest.

If right could be achieved by something new, do so within the perimeters of evolution. Reform as slogan could be tolerable as long as right is done. Paradigm shift is fine if it could achieve more moves towards right. Perhaps, a paradigm shift for a Malaysian Law based on the spirit of the Rukunegara. Perhaps, a law that is clear on right and wrong which is embedded ethics and morality inherited to us by our cultural tradition, religion and history.

As time passes, the norms change together. Nothing should instill fear in us more than the morality of our forefathers compromised by time and changing norms. When gay and lesbian union and unmarried live in become common, will that be the basis of our law, supposedly written words of decency?

Decency and courtesy within our culture and psyche should be of paramount consideration in our pursuit for that elusive "justice". Wild accusation is wrong and ascribing guilt on those other than the responsible ones should be stopped. Until proven guilty, everyone is innocent. Being bold and righteous, does not mean compromise of ones courtesy and respect for others.

In the Court of Men, the Constitution is supreme but it should be taken as whole and not selective. The spirit in an article of law should be upheld together with the withstanding exceptions. Deep embedded within our constitution lies treaties, agreement and contracts that binds our past to the future. Its the continuity of our tradition as a free nation. And, its our solemn duty as Malaysians to uphold.

March on!

Do right, not just do justice!


Maverick SM said...

This is a fantastic essay and research on the subject.

Hope you will write more about this topic.

Mat Salo said...

Brilliant piece, Bro! Like maverick said, well researched and very well written. And might I add --about time too.

Damn right 'bro, EASY to dispense justice, but SO difficult to do what is RIGHT.

Great article!

A Voice said...

Tks fellow bloggers.

I am being called in MT as some UMNO p***putera trying to spin it in the Malay and Islam interest favour. Honestly that was not what it was intended. I said the word "converse". I am also very careful not to divulge specific as to not disturb the social movement

WHatever comment, most people read the main piece. It is the appreciation of fellow bloggers like Maverick and Mat Salos that is most rewarding.

THanks guys.

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