The New Straits Times (NST) should be commended for adopting a firm stand on behalf of justice and the rule of law in the fight against hardcore criminals. In editorials on August 4 and 6 2013 it argued that “fear of crime should not justify resorting to unjust means of dealing with alleged criminals ... Yes, hardcore criminals should be put behind bars, but only through due process.” The newspaper went further to emphasise that, “This country has a real opportunity to set a course for itself that upholds the substantive rule of law, and we should choose to tread that path.”
It is more than a question of ensuring justice and upholding the rule of law. The evidence before us offers convincing proof that even when the Emergence Ordinance (EO) 1969 was in force we had brutal crimes. Criminals such as Botak Chin were household names. Escalating crime was already a major issue in the 2008 General Election.
Within the context of the current scenario, how would restoring the EO, abrogated in 2011, help to stem the flow of firearms into the country? The easy availability of firearms is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why violent crimes have multiplied in recent months. Isn’t it more important therefore to smash gun-smuggling syndicates and to eradicate the malpractices within border enforcement agencies that may have contributed towards the increased flow of firearms?
These are the tasks we should be focussing upon --- apart from improving intelligence gathering, monitoring, surveillance and other such functions of the Police. The public should also play a bigger role in protecting the community through neighbourhood committees and crime watch panels.
Even with all these measures, it is conceded that there may still be the need for a new law that will enhance our effectiveness in the war against crime. But a new law, it should be reiterated, should not deny a fair trial to the alleged criminal, though protocols and procedures may be modified to protect witnesses and the intelligence gathering process. What cannot be compromised is the principle that the evidence against the alleged criminal is examined and adjudicated by an independent tribunal.
To set aside these prerequisites of the rule of law would be a travesty of justice.