Week 489 – Sunday, 2007-01-07: Perception and Reality
The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 489
When Dato Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi was inaugurated as Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2003, he pointed to the important role of perceptions held by the public – which may or may not conform to reality, but are nevertheless extremely important for the political situation of a country. He took up the same concern for perceptions – also as chairperson of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, a group of 57 countries – in a speech in October 2004 at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, in relation to corruption: “Corruption is another major problem in the Muslim world. We fare extremely poorly in Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Of the 133 countries surveyed in 2003, the Muslim country with the best record could only rank 26th. Four Muslim countries occupied the last ten rankings.”
He accepts the need for self criticism in searching for the reasons for such perceptions – he said he is willing to engage in self-criticism, “but that must be tempered with identifying what I feel are wanton violations of human dignity, natural justice, human rights and international law that have directly affected the Muslim world. Yes, we have ourselves to blame, but that does not absolve policies that continue to oppress, obliterate and vilify millions of Muslims around the world.”
Dato Seri Syed Hamid Albar, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, took up the role of perceptions during a Meeting of the the Commission of Eminent Persons of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in January 2005. He observed: “World-wide, the image of Islam and Muslims has suffered, primarily as a result of the perception of association with terrorism and poverty. These negative developments do not contribute to creating a climate of confidence in the world, which is vitally necessary for all of us, regardless of different faiths and beliefs, to live in peace and harmony.”
Not only reality, but also its perception – right or wrong – has serious consequences.
This week, we mirrored some perceptions about the detailed circumstances of the quick repatriation of Heng Pov to Cambodia, before the normal process of law was exhausted in Malaysia. The website of the Malaysian Bar Assiciation – which promotes “…upholding the cause of justice without regard to its own interest and without fear or favour” – says that the speed of the repatriation upset the High Court of Malaysia.
The Mirror was created to mirror the press – and therefore also public perceptions. Although media should be responsible to report facts and not lies, it is not the task of the media to find out whether the violations of law that are alleged really did happen or not – the media can report the fact that an allegation was made. Determining the truth of allegations is the task of the courts.
The fact that Heng Pov was repatriated so quickly, and with an expensive, specially chartered jet plane has raised questions. Why was he not simply handcuffed and accompanied by one or two police enforcement officers on a normal flight as is the general practice in such cases – especially since he is an amputee who could not run fast? To clarify the background of these perceptions will surely be a contribution – using the words of the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs – “to creating a climate of confidence in the world, which is vitally necessary for all of us, regardless of different faiths and beliefs, to live in peace and harmony,” also in Cambodia.