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LETTER | In 399 BCE Greek and Athenian philosopher Socrates was found by an Athenian jury guilty of impiety and corrupting the morals of the youth.

The jury condemned him to death.

According to Socrates’ student Plato’s account, Socrates’ friends arranged his escape.

Still, he chose to stay and drink the fatal hemlock, arguing that to defy the judgment against him would be to break his “agreements and commitments” and to “mistreat” his friends, his country, and the laws of Athens. (See Crito, a dialogue written by Plato, depicting a conversation between Socrates Crito of Alopece regarding justice, injustice, and the appropriate response to injustice after Socrates’ imprisonment)

From the above emerges theories of political obligation in the two and a half millennia since Socrates’ death.

Simply put, political obligation is the people's moral duty to follow the law.

Philosophers have given many arguments for the moral duty to obey the law.

Expressing disrespect

Disobedience to the law is wrong because it “violates political obligation, undermines the rule of law, and destabilises society through example, by signalling to others that anyone can disobey if they feel the urge, and in principle, by expressing disrespect for law’s authority.”

It is also wrong because of its anti-democratic nature.

The person who violates the outcomes of democratic decision-making processes because he disapproves of them puts himself above the law and threatens the legal and democratic order.

Some see it as a violation of reciprocity, a kind of political “blackmail” and a sign of “moral self-indulgence” and arrogance.

It’s like a minority whose views do not prevail disregards democratic processes and imposes on the majority its own view of the good and just. (See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2023 - Civil Disobedience)

So, it is curious that former Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin should urge the government to refrain from taking legal action against the ‘Save Malaysia’ rally.

If there are breaches of the law, let the law take its course.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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