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Thursday, March 31, 2016

What have you done, Rafizi?


COMMENT You can call him brave and praise him for keeping his word. I would agree. Call him foolish? That, I would not disagree.
Let's meet Rafizi Ramli, the PKR vice-president and Pandan MP. He is a first-term parliamentarian, a young and vibrant politician.
He has done a great job for the opposition, keeping the ruling BN on its toes.
However, you can see a certain amount of political immaturity when he exposed a classified document under Official Secrets Act (OSA) purportedly linking the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) with problematic sovereign fund 1MDB.
The MP alleged that the document proved that LTAT’s ability to pay gratuity to armed forces retirees was compromised by late-payments from 1MDB to the military retirement fund’s subsidiary for an airbase redevelopment and relocation project.
According to Rafizi, he was forced to reveal the OSA information after LTAT refused to answer his queries.
I did say to my colleague: “This fella has threatened to expose it twice. He’d better keep his word.”
He kept his words all right. For that, he can be investigated possibly under Section 8(1) of the OSA, an offence which is punishable with imprisonment for up to seven years, if convicted.
Whether Rafizi knew exactly what he was doing does not really matter now. He did what he did. His fight for the army veterans would certainly win many hearts. But was it a wise move? Did he make a mistake?
For me, the simple rule of thumb is this: If you are a lawmaker (or anyone for that matter), don’t intentionally break the law. However, if you choose to do so, make sure you know the consequences and willing to face it.
At times like this, the question arises whether we should all always obey the law.
St Thomas Aquinas said that human law ought to be obeyed unless it contravened natural law. Something to ponder, but I don’t wish to go into the subject of jurisprudence and argue whether there is a moral duty to obey the law. That’s another topic for another day.
Rafizi is not the first politician to do so and certainly won’t be the last. In history, some had their political careers cut short for breaking the law and others became top leaders, even presidents and prime ministers - after much suffering.
Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar has said the police are checking if the document falls under the OSA. He said if it is proven to be an OSA document, then they would have no choice but to take action based on law.
Will he face the full brunt of the law?
Will Rafizi, who is in his late 30s, face the full brunt of the law? Time will tell.
I was also asked what would happen if the document is declassified. Can Rafizi escape prosecution?
On that, I pointed to the ever powerful words in the federal constitution - Article 145(3) - which gives the attorney-general the discretion to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.
It is fair to say that Rafizi is now at the mercy of AG’s discretionary power (some say absolute), the very power which exonerated Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of wrongdoings.
Rafizi, I am sure you gave a deep thought before you exposed the details of a classified document. But you have to get real.
You are more valuable outside prison than inside, counting bars. We already have one prisoner of conscience in Sungai Buloh.
You must be around to fight another day. Take it from me, there are people who are disappointed with you. These are your supporters.
Having said that, it is good to have politicians like Rafizi in our midst. Like many, he is someone who is known to fight for justice. But unfortunately, justice itself is another subjective matter.
Law and justice - it’s serious stuff, and yet can be funny!
I don’t know whether Rafizi would read this article or agree with some of things I’ve said. It’s just a small piece of advice.
Nobody knows what the future holds for him, something he must be pondering now. But I do hope he can come out of this so that he can continue pursuing his dreams, whatever that may be.
I like Rafizi the politician, although some may say I am not supposed to. Well, he studied in Malay College Kuala Kangsar, and I am a hardcore Old Cliffordian (seriously-rival schools, you see). Now I am being foolish here.
Whatever it is, I still consider Rafizi prime minister material.
I am just afraid he may not be able to contest the next general election.

G JEGATHESAN is a member of Team Malaysiakini.

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