Thursday, August 16, 2007

Malaysian Student Apologizes

Wee Meng Chee, a Malaysian student currently attending college in Taiwan, apologized for making and posting a rap video on YouTube that featured the Malaysian national anthem Negaraku as background music.

The entire episode raises questions in Malaysia about the issues of creativity and expression versus the government’s “national interest” regulations.

Using a strategy of evasion of responsibility based on good intentions, Meng Chee stated that the controversy has taught him “a lesson about the spirit of nationalism and race relations.” He added, “As a Malaysian, I did not intend to shame the country or ridicule any religion.”

Meng Chee also announced that he is taking corrective action to help end the controversy: “I will remove the video clip from my blog and I hope other bloggers will stop distributing the video clip.”

The Malaysian Information Minister, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin, urged Malaysians to accept Meng Chee’s apology. Cabinet Minister Nazri, however, argues that Meng Chee “committed an offence against the nation and no one, not the Cabinet or political parties, are in the position to forgive him.”

Instead, the matter will be turned over to the Attorney General to determine if Meng Wee should be charged under the Sedition Act for insulting a symbol of the nation.

“In Britain, you can insult the Queen or the flag, I don’t care, but in this country we have laws and we cannot create a precedent where you commit an offence, apologize and get away with it,” said Nazri.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Anti-Apartheid Activists Call for Apology

Thirteen former anti-Apartheid activists sought an apology today for their unjust imprisonment by returning to the same South African courtroom where they were tried and sentenced twenty years ago.

In the early 1990s, Apartheid was finally dismantled--and the dream of democracy became a reality for anti-Apartheid activists throughout South Africa with the elections of 1994. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established a year later to record crimes against human rights and, in some cases, grant amnesty to the perpetrators of those crimes.

In the twelve years since the TRC’s establishment, however, no judges have made submissions to the commission. Instead, law experts have attempted to transcend the specific details of complaints by appealing to the abstract value of enforcing laws as they are written at the time of sentencing. According to this reasoning, judges who presided over cases during Apartheid had the responsibility to interpret and enforce the law as it stood then.

Such an account gets to the heart of the activists’ call, which is not only an apology from a court authority, but more importantly an acknowledgement of pain, suffering, and wrongdoing by a now democratic system that claims to value reconciliation for past injustices.

As Quentin Michels, one of the activists who was sentenced to 12 years, said: "It would mean that for all those times and troubles that we've gone through it was something that we can say it was worthwhile."