A new standard for double standards

pic by BERNAMA

IT IS sad if not scary, when the current government, which is struggling to find its footing and in need of recognition, has allowed itself to be defined by self-indulging personalities who do not necessarily represent them.

As it is, the hash tag #antaraduadarjat, which is somewhat of an expression of abhorrence for the existence of castes or classes, perceived or otherwise between the citizenry, is slowly catching up the imagination of the general populace.

It was sparked over a court’s decision to hand down an RM800 fine on Datuk Nurulhidayah (picture), the daughter of Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO). Her spouse, who was charged for a similar offence, was also handed down a similar fine.

The decision was immediately juxtaposed in social media platforms with a decision by the courts on a single mother who was sentenced to a month’s jail, though later reduced to eight days following an appeal, with the RM1,000 maximum fine upheld.

When the single mother, Lisa Christina, questioned the double standards, it was then widely perceived that she was a victim of an injustice, compounding the people’s anger and displeasure further.

The displeasure mounted, leading to the launch of a signature campaign urging the attorney-general to appeal against the light sentence on Nurulhidayah.

Nurulhidayah further added to the acrimony when on the day her case was being heard, she posted on her social media account the words “binti Ahmad Zahid” — simply translated as daughter of Ahmad Zahid — interpreted by critics as an attempt to remind all and sundry of who she is.

She has denied such intentions, clarifying that she had merely put up those words because she had been too frequently referred to as Zahid’s daughter, but never putting her alongside.

For context, prior to her case, the dissatisfaction towards decisions made with regards over MCO violations was already bubbling when the deputy health minister and a Perak state exco were fined RM1,000 each, but spared the jail sentences unlike other “ordinary” citizens.

While that was brewing, there were claims that the magistrate court had barred the press from covering Nurulhidayah’s case.

Even though the Chief Registrar’s Office denied it, the National Union of Journalists and its peers insisted that the accusations were true.

By now, despite the denials and explanations, the perception of the press being barred has already taken root.

For supporters of the current government, taking issue with these cases are critics splitting hairs and making a mountain out of a molehill. Indeed, if taken without context or affection for justice and fair play.

But for this government, which is being questioned for its legitimacy, these acts are beginning to define it. For one, it is perceived as a government which will treat the wealthy and powerful with a different set of rules and punishments.

Any moves to charge the wealthy and powerful are merely window dressings or a lip service without any sincere concern on upholding justice or observances for fair play.

The barring of the press, true or perceived, is taken as the government’s intolerance of a free media or one that believes in cover ups. But surely, it can be argued, that a few cases do not conjure so much negative vibes.

The problem is that Nurulhidayah, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak Exco Razman Zakaria serve as a reminder of a not too distant past and what they represent.

Lest the supporters and detractors alike forgot, prior to the 2018 general election, apart from the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) infamy, the rejection of the then ruling party was also perpetuated by disgust over the warlord-like mannerisms of the leaders.

They were rejected because of their arrogance, sense of superiority and being above the law. They may refuse to admit it, but the semblance of such mannerisms is already showing within the two months since they return to get a share of the ruling power.

And that is even before they are fully restored.

While a segment of the society may feel that these leaders are entitled to such behaviour, it only reflects the inability of the society to sever the feudal conditioning that the nation had been subjected to in the past.

It is also a social conditioning that serves the ordinary people’s own sense of entitlement, that since they had accorded the leaders the right of being above them, they too are entitled to be protected and provided for, deserving or not and very much in the patron-client concept.

The fear of the return to the old ways is quite real as the players of today are the players of yesterday. However, the proponents of the current government would dismiss such concerns as an exaggeration, but the developments state otherwise.

In many ways than not, all the efforts to redefine Malaysia, breaking it from the chains of somewhat feudal dominations, seem to be going into reverse.

But for someone saying that darkness has engulfed the nation is definitely an exaggeration, at least not just yet. But the bitter aftertaste does linger.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.