Racism in Sam Ke Ting’s conviction

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Get ready for more racist policies and rulings from Umno and Barisan Nasional.

Suspiciously, the High Court’s verdict came at a time when the unelected Barisan Nasional government is preparing to call for a snap nationwide general election soon.

Many years ago, during Najib administration, I overheard an interesting story during my coffee break. A young Chinese couple was driving in Johor when their car was suddenly knocked from behind at a traffic light. As the culprit had refused to “settle”, the only option left was to make a police report – a standard operating procedure before an insurance claim can be made.

Here’s the best part – when they tried to make the police report, the first question asked by a police officer was whether the culprit is a Malay. Yes, the Johor policeman did not beat around the bush, but asked a direct question – “Is the driver a Malay?” When the Chinese couple said it was, to their shock, the police officer told them in the face that their accident report cannot be accepted.

The point is this – both corruption and racism are deeply entrenched in the country that it did not escape Johor, supposedly one of the most liberal states. Even Johor Sultan Ibrahim has to combat racism himself occasionally. But the Royal Malaysia Police isn’t the only institution plagued with racism. Another more critical institution infiltrated with racism is the Judicial system.

The stunning reversal of Sam Ke Ting’s acquittal by a High Court in Johor Baru on Wednesday (April 13) over a reckless driving charge has triggered a wave of disbelief and disgust. A petition in “Change.org” to free her reached close to 900,000 signatures in just four days since it was launched. But the injustice is not the first, and will not be the last in the “Bolehland”.

Interestingly, in a 2019 judgement to acquit the 27-year-old clerk, a Magistrate Court in Johor Baru said Sam was not under the influence of alcohol, was not using her phone and has her seatbelt on while driving. What was beyond her control was that it was a dark, hilly and winding road where she would be overwhelmed by an incredible “bicycle gang” at three in the morning.

Sam crashed into the gang of teenagers riding “basikal lajak (modified bicycles)” at 3:20am in 2017, killing eight of them. Despite the fact that she was a responsible driver, as pointed out by the magistrate herself, the High Court reversed the earlier verdict and sent Sam to six years in jail and imposed a RM6,000 fine, as well as a three-year driving ban. The horror part – her bail was rejected.

Exactly why the disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak can be bailed – repeatedly – during his lengthy four-year corruption trial and even after having been convicted by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal for stealing billions of dollars in the infamous 1MDB scandal, but not Sam Ke Ting? That is the first question millions of Malaysians have been asking.

Not only did the Magistrate Court acquit Sam in October 2019, the same court acquitted her again two years later (October 2021) as it found the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. So, the second question is why Sam is suddenly being punished when no actions are taken against the irresponsible parents who allowed their children to roam in the street with modified bicycles?

The question of why a victim who drove responsibly and had followed traffic laws has suddenly become a culprit and sentenced to jail, whereas the culprits who broke every single traffic law by riding illegally on modified bicycles at 3am have suddenly become victims are very simple – racism. Would the High Court make the same decision if it was a Malay driver who had killed eight Chinese teenage cyclists?

Suspiciously, the High Court’s verdict came at a time when the unelected Barisan Nasional government is preparing to call for a snap nationwide general election, most likely after the Hari Raya festival. Najib, comically, said it was wrong to view the case from a racial lens and has accused opposition Pakatan Harapan of politicising the tragedy and promote hateful politics.

Clearly, Najib tries to hide the double standard, where he is granted bail while Sam was denied. Actually, the uproar has nothing to do with the opposition. The ethnic Chinese can see how the unfair ruling is tainted with racism. Najib also lied that the court’s decision had nothing to do with the current government, which is being led by his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

Has Najib forgotten about the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim? After the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition lost in the May 2018 General Election, Adib was being paraded by Najib and UMNO leaders as a Malay victim who suffered from critical injuries caused by ethnic Indians in pre-dawn riots at Seafield Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang Jaya in November 2018.

In truth, the riots were started when more than 50 Malay gangsters, armed with axes and machetes, were paid to attack everyone in the temple. For obvious reason, UMNO and its partner – radical and extremist Islamist party PAS – refused to blame the Malay gangsters, let alone point fingers at the slow response of the inefficient Subang Jaya police force.

The racist and extremist UMNO-PAS also refused to accept the findings that Adib had not been assaulted by Hindu protesters, but could have been hit accidentally when an EMRS (Emergency Medical Rescue Services) van suddenly reversed. But after the return of UMNO as the government, all the hypocrites who had screamed for justice on behalf of Adib are as quiet as a church mouse.

Last month, the unelected government of Barisan Nasional finally admitted the family of firefighter Adib has been paid RM1.5 million ex-gratia compensation. Adib’s family no longer cried for justice. Likewise, all the Malay politicians are not as anxious in seeking justice for the Malay fireman. Will there be any compensation at all if the fireman was an Indian and it was a mosque that had been terrorized?

In the case of Adib, no one can be charged because the culprits who started the riots were Malays and the death was caused by a fellow Malay driver, who panicked and accidentally reversed the EMRS van. In the case of Sam, the irresponsible parents cannot be charged because they are Malays. However, the death can be easily blamed on Sam, despite her innocence because she is a Chinese.

It’s hilarious to say a High Court judge is always correct and wiser than a Magistrate, let alone to assume that a judge is never racist or corrupt. The country has a living proof that even a (former) Chief Justice can be racist to the core. Has Najib forgotten Abdul Hamid Mohamad, his hardcore supporter who had, two days before the 2018 election, condemned Mahathir for trying to topple Najib’s Malay government?

Abdul Hamid was the same former Chief Justice who infamously wrote his extremely racist and bias judgement in the Court of Appeal in 1996 in a case where a bank had sued two business partners – a Malay and an Indian – which saw him accepting a claim by the Malay defendant (but not the Indian’s) because Abdul agreed that “a Malay Muslim would not tell lies”.

Conveniently, Najib has ordered his hotshot lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, to defend Sam free of charge after the case sparked anger among the Chinese community. Make no mistake. Shafee was despatched because Najib and UMNO fear the case could explode into a racial or religious issue at a critical time when the Chinese voters appear to be returning to Barisan Nasional.

More importantly, the High Court’s decision was so ridiculous and unfair that even some right-thinking Malays have expressed their displeasure over the court’s ruling. In his judgement, Abu Bakar Katar appeared to have ignored the fact that Sam’s car had turned turtle, which means she could have been killed because some stray kids thought it was cool to perform some daredevil stunts on the highway at 3am.

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Generally, the Malays and the Chinese have a very different way of raising children. Majority of the Malay parents tend to leave their kids do whatever they like. They depend on the government to provide everything, from cradle to grave, including handouts and education. In the same breath, they also rely on God to keep their kids safe. When things go south, it’s easier to say it’s God’s destiny.

So, had High Court Judge Abu Bakar considered that it was God’s decision that the eight Malay teenagers were killed, and it was not Sam’s fault whatsoever? As a Muslim, does not Abu Bakar believe in Allah (God)? Or does he think God’s destiny only kicks in when both the driver and the cyclists are Malays, otherwise it’s automatically the non-Muslims’ fault?

Here are the indisputable facts – Sam is the legitimate user of the highway, not the kids. Sam paid road tax and car insurance, the kids did not. The road was built for vehicles, certainly not for heavily modified bicycles that resemble missiles without a guidance system. The speed limit was designed for cars, bus and trucks, not for bicycles. Obviously, the teenagers were the intruders, not Sam.

If Sam lived in the US, she would have sued the parents of the eight teenagers, the road operator, the architect of the road, the electricity utility, the state government, the transport ministry and the federal government for endangering motorists. True, it was a tragedy or an accident – till the High Court focused on the deaths of eight Malay teenagers, rather than from the perspective of how the accident can be avoided in the first place.

If it was not Sam, it would have been other drivers who killed those teen daredevils. The government and the judges should be grateful that it was not an express bus or a 10-ton lorry that had travelled on that road during the incident. The casualties would have been more devastating. The court has to prove that other drivers can avoid ramming into the bicycle gang.

To blame Sam instead of the “junior Mat Rempit” or their parents is like blaming Malaysia Airlines MH17 for flying over conflict-hit Ukraine on July 17, 2014 and getting hit by a Russian-made BUK missile. To blame Sam instead of the bicycle gang is like blaming a house owner for beating the crap out of a gang of strangers who had intruded into the home at 3am.

Coincidentally, but unsurprisingly, both Adib and Sam cases occurred at a time when UMNO was at a crossroad for power. In the Adib episode, UMNO had lost power and desperately needed to rally the Malays for power. Sam’s episode, on the other hand, saw unelected UMNO returned to power through the backdoor, and it desperately needing to rally Malays for power in the coming election.

The minority Chinese and Indian can expect more similar racist incidents or policies if Barisan Nasional Malay-supremacy thugs win the next election. There are tons of past examples – the movement of “Red Shirt” supremacists, the body snatching, the unilateral conversion of kids to Muslim, the waving of “Keris (Malay dagger)”, the endless demand for stakes in Chinese companies and the list goes on. – Finance Twitter