Shoot the people

Saw this on the lamp-post outside my flat.

Another chap, Public Works labourer S. Surentiran, 21, has been shot by the police, inadvertently this time on account a stray bullet intended for someone else who had apparently run amok (thanks to my sibling, Patrick, NurKL and others for the alert). The damage to the credibility of the police, however, is the same regardless of who was the intended target.

It is very unfortunate that, on the same day that Surenthiran’s shooting was reported, The Star chose to run a letter urging “parents [to] be more proactive and support the police to restore law and order [what? by shooting people?], and that “the people in general should support the police to go after these felonious characters [i.e. Mat Rempit, or illegal motorcycle racers] in our society.”

Wtf is a felonious character exactly? A “suspicious person” or someone proven by the legal system to be guilty of a crime? I know the judiciary has problems, but the complete absence of public legal consciousness is disturbing because it is a direct argument in favour of a police state (or witch-hunting Salem, if you prefer)  in which mere suspicion of a crime is exactly the same as guilt.

The letter was written in reference to the shooting of Mohd Azizi Aziz, a suspected Rempit, and has received immediate support with the publication of another letter today urging authorities “to take action against irresponsible parents”. It also implies that citizens should not initiate legal action against the police to remedy alleged wrongs on the part of law enforcement. “It is not their intention to shoot anyone, let alone kill,” says the writer, “because killing people has its emotional and mental effect.”

The intention to shoot, or kill, is precisely what needs to be determined by the court in cases of dispute. Killing people also has a legal effect, in cases where it is wrong. The corollary is simple: if you can think of the cases where it is legally permissible to open fire, with or without the intention to kill, then you would by that fact alone have a list of exclusions where shooting someone is wrong.

And what is legal permission? It’s afforded only defensively in cases where use of firearms is an unavoidable measure to protect life:

Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

I did not just make that up. You can read all about it here, if you want. I do wonder why The Star as well as other media agencies (and online ones also) do not put forward arguments grounded in established law enforcement procedures as a counterweight against the rising tendency of public opinion (in the pages of these publications, anyway) towards irrationality and the outright rejection of the rule of law.

I can only guess that they do this to support the beleaguered police. No one’s saying we should disband the force, as some people suggest we’re trying to do. What we are trying to do is provide clear procedures of accountability in law enforcement—the same as those recommended by the UNHCHR and adopted as standards in the same advanced industrial countries we’re trying so hard to emulate.

Is this so difficult to understand and (if so inclined) argue against?

In other news, Dr Teoh Hsien Jin says his statement to The Star that appeared last Thursday was “taken out of context”. Perhaps it was, but he contextualised the matter quite well at the time which made it easy for people to attack his views. He did make a point of saying that his views did not represent his employer, Sunway University College. That’s good, and is something the reporter should have been careful to do in the first place.


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