A marketplace of ideas

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., former Associate Justice of US Supreme Court

Being a rationale for freedom of expression, debate and discourse, the marketplace of ideas is a perpetually robust laboratory where mankind’s philosophical and technological expectations are translated into form and substance.

Englishmen John Milton and John Stuart Mill got the ball rolling in the belief and hope that in “a free and open encounter” the truth will inevitably emerge even with restricted freedom of speech in any regime where truth, facts and untruths co-exist often defying logical debate and discourse despite constitutional assurances.

The maturing Malaysian marketplace of ideas is prolific and abundant. The new all-inclusive government should have an ear for Malaysian-made ideas and solutions that will make Malaysia great.

Perhaps the Oath of Office contained in the Federal Constitution’s (FC) Sixth Schedule should be replenished thus: “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I will faithfully and honestly carry out my duties as a public officer and a civil servant in order to uphold, protect and defend the Federal Constitution being that it is the supreme law of the land.”

An Independent Judiciary Act granting power to convene a Constitutional Court, like that in Indonesia, will help Malaysian judges develop the law. A Constitutional Court Police Force Act empowering the judiciary to be solely responsible for judicially mandated investigations free from Executive meddling has far-reaching benefits and advantages.

The English economist John Maynard Keynes observed that “the difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” Malaysians must aspire to find new ground with new leaders. Bold workable ideas should replace and discard the old ones in the business of and for nation-building.

Prevention of and punishment for corruption is weak and ineffective. There should be a loud concerted cry for a permanent deterrent. Our courts need to be better equipped to handle this cancer efficiently based on the investigation of facts, proof, evidence to prevent the persistent occasions when last-minute evidence conveniently surfaces.

Executive intercession in corruption cases involving politicians casts the judiciary into the burning glare of despair jurisprudence already suffocating under the convention of Executive appointed judges that makes for a pliant and pension-conscious dependent judiciary.

Our appellate juridical system desperately needs overhauling to portray balance, consistency, certainty and fairness free from any bias from any source. All convicted felons, bar none, out to remain in prison while awaiting their day in appellate courts.

The constable bungles so the thief goes free is unacceptable for a growing and maturing citizenry. Citizens are reacting with vitriolic comments in social media to deliberately botched and fudged investigations as prosecutors are finding defects in their own investigations.

The rakyat should not be treated like the 1970s New York cop Frank Serpico who faced near death for exposing widespread corruption.

A Peoples’ Wealth Preservation Act will be a strong effort to unite all Malaysians with the twin blessings of equity and equality in obtaining a fair slice of the economic pie which wholly belongs to the rakyat although managed by the government.

New enforcement techniques and strategies, not laws, should be the focus to create an acceptable, favorable and visible quality of life in all facets of social, economic, cultural and political disciplines.

The Kingdom of Bhutan got it right. Its 800,000 citizens have rejected democracy outright in favour of an absolute monarchy where the Gross National Happiness is deemed equally important as the Gross National Product. Bhutan’s King is revered as their God on earth who cares for his people.

It’s difficult to agree with the Chinese sage Lao Tzu who declared that one should be content with what one has; rejoice in the way things are, and when one realises that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to that person.

When there are things lacking, the Gross National Happiness must kick in through reforms and enforcement strategies where an actively stretched mind finds answers, solutions and remedies.

Ranindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winning Indian poet reminded us that “everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.” I believe he directed this edict to the government.

Malaysia’s FC should not be a silent enforcer, nor should it be silenced by political fervour or favour. It is a living Code that should be allowed to govern, glass jaw notwithstanding, to cater to all times as an accommodating imperative.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.