Friday Jottings: The flight of pigeons, vultures and turkeys

ONE common criticism towards the “whistle-blower” who tweeted about the privileged treatment for a convicted VIP was that he or she should have been more sensitive in his choice of words.

In particular was his codenaming the VIP as merpati, meaningful pigeon or dove in English, which to his critics is a malign on a bird that symbolises peace — beautiful and adored by a large cross-section of humanity.

Some were of the opinion that the codename should have been more reflective of the VIP’s crime, with some angrily suggesting that burung nasar or vulture is most apt.

Others simply felt that turkey would have been more appropriate.

But a simple Google search revealed that one particular bird comes truly close to the label and nature of the crime committed by the ex-VIP.

The titmouse, a small bird common in North America, is labelled as a kleptotrichy, a combination of Greek words — klepto which is “to steal” and trich which is “hair”.

Such is the skill of the titmouse that it was recorded to have stolen 20 beaks full of raccoon hair without waking up the sleeping mammal.

In many ways than not, such skill is very much inherent and neither is it much different from that of a kleptocrat — meaning a leader/Government who steals from the people — somebody Malaysians should by now be quite familiar with.

By any standards, the Malaysian kleptocrat is more skilled than the titmouse. If the latter stole hair off mammals while they were sleeping, the kleptocrat plundered the nation blind while the victims were wide awake.

Be that as it may, the titmouse would have been a good choice for a replacement codename.

Unluckily, being non-migratory and found mostly only in the Northern Hemisphere, a Malay equivalent is probably non-existent, making it not a choice for any whistle-blower tweeting their expose in Malay.

Some have dismissed discussions on the codename as trivial and of no consequence.

But the interest on the issue obviously did not stem merely from the codename, which is a by-product of a more intense discussion pertaining to the alleged double-standards, abuse of power, disregard of law and order and a mockery, if not contempt towards the judicial process.

Ultimately, it is an insult to the citizenry, whose family members and friends who had been incarcerated would never dream of enjoying such privileges and perks as alleged.

These are not trivial matters.

No matter how much the family of the ex-VIP tries to tug on the heartstrings of the public for sympathy, a man incarcerated after going through the whole process of law should be subjected to the same treatment as others.

After all, other convicts are also a father, a brother or a grandfather of someone and their pain, sadness, yearnings and emptiness are not less than that felt by the family of the VIP convict.

In fact, truth be told, their sufferings would easily be worse simply because, when a breadwinner is incarcerated, chances are the family will struggle to make ends meet apart from having to deal with public contempt and stigma.

And this is unlike what the family of the convicted VIP have to go through. It is doubtful that there will come a day that their table will be barren or that they would have to settle for a common man breakfast and drinks in place of their preferred crafted coffee and such.

It is rare that others would still have a coterie of sympathisers and supporters to declare their innocence or being selectively persecuted.

Then, there is the demand and expecting an early pardon.

Again, it is an insult to the rest of the citizenry whose family and relatives, especially whose crimes involved thievery of negligible amounts, having to remain behind bars for a few years to serve time, while a thief who threatened the nation’s economy, gets pardoned in record time.

These pursuits for privileged treatment will impact the nation’s psyche in the long run.

Opinions that when committing a crime, one should make sure that it is by the billions, for only then can a plunderer be deemed a saviour, would surely be incorporated into value system of the present and future generations.

With that, no matter how much an upright leader such as Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah attempts to remind the nation that corruption is at a critical level and that the disease is worsening, it will not be heeded.

Why should it be heeded when crime does pay especially in matters related to corruption, a feat proven by the VIP convict as even after being caught with his hands in the cookie jars, a pardon is expected and the wealth amassed remains untouched.

Prior to that, the system had also discharged, not amounting to acquittal, a few who were charged for financial shenanigans after agreeing to return a portion of the loot again.

It gives credence to the idea that crime does pay and when caught return a portion and then move on and enjoy what remains and what remains is substantial enough to last a life time.

If these are still insufficient to undermine a value system that places honesty, integrity and trustworthiness as pillar of the society, those dismissed for abetting the criminal gets compensated handsomely.

Sultan Nazrin’s concern is only too real as the crime has corrupted all levels of the value system that the legal process seems to struggle if not incapable of rising above it unless there is a firm resolute.

And someone should catch that pigeon, now.

  • Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.