Citizen Nades - Adiós a saltar el arma

THE heading in one of the many satirical columns two weeks ago read: The lunatics are at the gates. It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek piece on the blinkered view of at least one self-appointed man of God who had asked for the destruction of all statues of animals in the country.

We all had a laugh at the idiosyncrasies of those who want us to believe that they are personal representatives of the Almighty. Publicly, I have acknowledged that this is freedom of expression that such thoughts and views – however stupid or moronic – should never be prevented from being disseminated.

I have always reasoned that it is for discerning people whether to accept, reject or take such rantings with a pinch of salt. Today's heading means Goodbye to jumping the gun and read seriously into it!

On Sunday evening, I was following the moving events on the social media as I have Facebook and Twitter accounts. I had reason to remark cynically: "Now 'adios' joins the list of forbidden words ... Ban the Western movies. Take away the Filipino and Spanish dramas on TV. What will they think of next? Ban adidas apparel because it sounds similar?"

The rumblings of self-appointed guardians of public morals including politicians from either side indicated a wholesome mire of not understanding the meaning of a Spanish word ie adios. It simply means "goodbye or farewell". The uninitiated, the inspector-general of police (IGP) and his officers who are monitoring cyberspace, just need to Google the meaning of the word.

After being satisfied with its meaning, use Google Image. What will appear are two images with the words "Adios Diana" with the picture of famous princess and her two sons – William and Harry.

Ditto for Nelson Mandela. When the former South African president died, yet another Spanish magazine went to town with its "Adios Nelson Mandela" cover.

So, what is wrong with the words? Judging by these two images, both the Spanish magazines, in their own affectionate way, expressed their farewell to Diana who was described as the "Princess of the People".

On its own, adios is a harmless expression. The other phrase that offence has been taken to: "Let there be peace".

The IGP says the case is being investigated under Section 298 of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony on grounds of religion.

But how have these remarks insulted any religion or prejudiced harmony? They may be considered disrespectful by some, but being so constitutes no offence.

Similarly, what is wrong with this statement?

"Someone who made his career selling air jampi for any illness succumbed to his illness in a modern day hospital in San Francisco."

Where does religion come into the picture? It is a statement made by an individual and its truthfulness is no business of the police or any other law enforcement authority.

Tan Sri IGP, I learnt this while serving on the panel of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission – you can't be charged for stupidity. If someone pays RM1,000 for a screwdriver and received no gratification, or was a first-class idiot. What can he be charged for?

There is no legislation in the world which defines stupidity as a crime. Neither is there one for being disrespectful or talking about holy water.

But what is more worrying is the manner in which the alleged maker of this statement, a former journalist, was treated when the police went to arrest him.

In an immediate response, the IGP argued that under the Communications and Multimedia Act, no warrant is needed to arrest a person, enter or search premises. But lawyers have since pointed out that Section 258 states that upon completion of an investigation, a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission officer is to hand over the information to the police.

"A police officer may, by warrant, arrest a person who may have committed an offence under this Act or its subsidiary legislation," the section reads. They say it is not a seizable offence, hence it is not justified to exercise arrest without a warrant.

But more importantly, was it necessary to jump over the fence to enter into the compound of the house? Where's the courtesy to ring the bell? Were they there to apprehend an escaped convict or a mass murderer?

Can we as journalists be arrested for expressing our views which may be contrary to thoughts and interpretations of certain people? Just because someone is offended by what we write or say, have we committed a crime to be arrested like suspects in murder and robbery cases? Would you throw the book at us for telling the truth, which you may perceive as false?

We try and keep within the law in carrying out our duties as responsible purveyors of news. We are not propagandists and neither do we hold the candle for anyone.

Labels can easily be affixed on us, but our primary function is to tell it as it is which I have carried out for more than 40 years. Tan Sri IGP, this is not unsolicited advice and first-year law students learn in their Public Law lectures the principles of Audi alteram partem

Before a posse of officers descend on my home early tomorrow morning, without understanding the meaning, (as in the case of adios), let me explain.

This is a Latin phrase which means "listen to the other side", or "let the other side be heard as well". It is the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.

This usually applies in a court of law, but because of the series of actions that has been taken, it is still applicable.

In this instance, you have prejudged the issue by first asking one of them to surrender and even described him as "mulut gatal".

So, I have my side of the story. Would you care to tell your side of the story to the public on why all the brouhaha over two posts is causing so much unhappiness among right-minded Malaysians?

R. Nadeswaran makes no bones of taking on bird-brained people who make police reports at the drop of a hat. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com