MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Travesty of justice: Jail time for stealing sardine but big sharks escape the net of justice?


“IF you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” is an aphorism that many Malaysians are starting to get disillusioned with these days.

There’s a general sense that – rightly or wrongly – our criminal justice system has two sets of laws: (i) one for the rich and powerful, and another (ii) for the rest of us.

We were reminded yet again about this divide (whether real or imagined) when news broke that Jamaluddin Yusof, 64, from Parit Raja, Johor has bee sentenced to one month’s jail for stealing sardines, mouthwash and coffee powder.

Sure, what the widower did was a crime – and rightly he should pay for it – although the punishment could be tampered with compassion if the misdemeanour was committed out of desperation such as to feed hungry mouths at home.

Whether Jamaluddin’s one-month jail sentence commensurate with his crime is for the courts to decide. But juxtapose his punishment against those rich and powerful and one can sense the depth of Malaysians’ frustration with our criminal justice system.

Just recently, incarcerated former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s legal team is trying to get him to serve the remainder of his six-year jail sentence under house arrest.

They argued there exists a purported addendum to that effect in a Pardons Board decision in January to halve his jail sentence for power abuse from 12 years and fine from RM210 mil to RM50 mil.

Death sentence on Vietnamese woman tycoon

How are Malaysians expected to stomach the disparity between the sentences imposed on Jamaluddin for stealing cheap grocery items and losses amounting to billions of ringgit committed by Najib not to mention the litany of other pending criminal charges that he still faces?

While Jamaluddin pays for his crime serving time in deplorable conditions behind bars, Najib is reportedly accorded “special” treatment in the Kajang prison – separated from robbers, murderers and rapists – and may soon enjoy creature comfort from his sprawling Jalan Langgak Duta bungalow in Kuala Lumpur if his house arrest comes to pass.

And if Jamaluddin is sentenced to one month’s jail for stealing items that may cost less than RM100, then logically those caught with corruption to the tune of billions of ringgit should have their jail sentences proportionate to Jamaluddin’s.

By right, the quantum of Najib’s penalty should be in tandem with the death sentence meted out to Vietnamese tycoon Truong My Lan who was recently found guilty in a US$12.5 bil fraud case – the country’s largest on record.

The 67-year-old chairman of major developer Van Thinh Phat was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violations of banking rules at the end of a trial in Ho Chi Minh City on April 11. Her lawyers were given 15 days to appeal the verdict.

But alas, in Malaysia this is the stuff of pipe dreams! In fact, a top politician facing corruption charges where the prosecutors had already established a prima facie case, had the cases eventually discharged not amounting to acquittal last year.

Given these scenarios, one can’t help but wonder if Malaysia has two sets of laws: one for sardine thieves and another where the sharks can slip past the fishermen’s nets and continue preying on the smaller fry. – Focus Malaysia

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