Malaysiakini commenters have been much enraged by the contention that Khir Toyo is not a public servant and therefore should not have been convicted of corruption, in the case involving his mansion allegedly valued at RM24mil. (He was sentenced to a year’s jail and has appealed.)
Saturday’s headline at Malaysiakini, based on comments
Do the angry commenters have a point?
Khir Toyo was menteri besar of Selangor at the time he bought the house, and as MB he was concurrently chairman of PKNS, the state development corporation. Doesn’t that make him a public servant? Not so, says his lawyer Shafee Abdullah. “At best an MB is the executive of government of the state but that does not make him a public servant,” Malaysiakini quotes him as saying.
Cue the howls of outrage from Pakatan supporters.
“This is drivel,” says commenter Hang Babeuf. “This defies common sense. Then what kind of servant is Mohd Khir Toyo?” says Kee Thuan Chye. “Cut out the semantics,” he adds. And commenter Survivor says: “Any elected representative in the government is in the civil service,” before adding the customary opposition insult: “Shafee is just another government dog, unleashed and barking with his own sets of rules”. » More of what they said
It would be tempting to join in and sing along to the Pakatan chorus — except that Shafee has a valid point, if you put your emotions aside.
It’s not about how you or I or your grandmother’s aunt define the words “public servant”, it’s about what the law says, and how the law defines the term. Shafee’s argument is based on exactly that: what the law says, or doesn’t say.
No matter what Pakatan supporters may believe about Shafee (quite a lot of negative views, in fact), he’s still a lawyer doing what all lawyers must do: they must provide clients with the best possible case under the law. Anything less would be unethical and tantamount to professional misconduct.
Amazing as it may seem to the general public, lawyering is not about serving justice according to the standards of Pakatan supporters. It’s about serving justice through a clash of contentions by duelling lawyers before a judge who must reach a decision based on the arguments and evidence presented. Poor argument or poor evidence, and out goes the case.
Like it or not, that’s the system we have.
If Pakatan supporters don’t believe justice is served that way — that every person is entitled to be held innocent until proven guilty, and equally, that every accused person is entitled to the best possible defence under the law — then they’ll just have to wait for a change of government to change the system.
They can then throw out the whole common law system we have used for a couple of hundred years (coincidentally, Mahathir Mohamad also doesn’t like the common law system) and perhaps adopt the inquisitorial system used in France and other Napoleonic Code countries where magistrates investigate and prosecute, and where at one time and perhaps still so, the accused was presumed guilty until proven innocent.
But what if it was not Khir Toyo in the dock but you?
Would you prefer to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, or would you prefer to have a magistrate who was both investigator, prosecutor and judge all rolled into one?
Ask your nearest Pakatan-friendly lawyer. I’m just a old newspaperman. What would I know?