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'Insanity' in temple incident can't be circumstantial

COMMENT When it comes to acts that are potentially inflammatory, is there a tendency on the part of the law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, to describe such as acts as “madness” as opposed to those that are considered rational?

Is “insanity” or “madness” being invoked as a short-term measure to prevent the fallout from the problems arising from racial and religious polarisation in Malaysia?

Is the use of the concept “insanity” or “mentally unsound” a convenient method for the law enforcement agencies to seek short-term solutions rather than long-term ones?

Are the Malaysian police shying away from sensitive and potentially explosive problems that have been created and sustained by politicians who continuously harp on race and religion?

Whether an act of criminality was performed by a madman or rational person is not the concern of the police. It is the paramount duty of the police to arrest the criminal and bring him before the court of law.

The police have no right in saying that the criminal is mentally unsound. It falls on the court to determine this after hearing the testimony of expert witnesses.

Under normal circumstances, it will be the duty of the defence lawyers to defend their clients and even to the extent of asking them to plead “insanity” for the purpose of mitigation.

In a recent incident, a 29-year- old medical doctor, whom the police described as “mentally unsound”, destroyed some deities in a Hindu temple in Ipoh. He was arrested and confined to a hospital for further examination.

Similarly there was an incident in Penang two years ago where an individual slashed a number of statues in a temple. He was described as “mentally unsound”.

Why would the police want to describe such dastardly acts as the work of “insane” persons, when it was not even known at the early stage that these persons were indeed “insane”?

Public wants the truth

In the case of the person who destroyed the deities in the temple, he was no ordinary person but a medical doctor.

He came to the temple about 5pm, shouted some religious slogans and then went on to attack the deities. He left in a car carrying two flags that are associated with a particular extremist religious group.

Why didn’t the police obtain expert advice to ascertain whether he was indeed an insane person? What was the necessity to put the cart before the horse?

Well, if he had been an insane person, why would he want to attack a particular temple? If it were “madness” that was driving him, he would have attacked any place in the vicinity. Why would he want to attack a Hindu temple when nobody was around?

On closer examination, the facts on the grounds do not allow us to say that he was indeed insane, or mentally unsound, as the police would want to render him to be so.

But never mind, let the public hear from what experts have to say about this person when the matter is brought before the court of law.

It is understandable that the police have an unenviable job to do. Maintaining law and order is not a simple matter and what more, preventing racial and religious disorder.

But unfortunately the police must be careful in what they say and do. Simply rendering an extremely insensitive act to be the work of a “madman” is not going to do anybody any good.

The poeple want the truth, nothing but the truth.

We are fully appreciative of the concerns of the police to contain any undesirable developments arising from the destruction of the deities.

But then, in the long run, hiding things from the public might not be good for the police or for the larger public.

The police must be transparent and accountable to the public, their paymasters.

A spade must be called a spade, immaterial of its colour or weight!

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the DAP state assemblyperson for Perai.

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