Fair, unfair or couldn’t give a damn: How do Malaysians perceive Syed Saddiq’s sentence?

THE unanimous view is that it is too harsh. Most Malaysians, by the way, don’t know or understand what Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s crime is.

The fact that we don’t know or understand what Syed Saddiq’s crime is makes us feel that it can’t be that bad because crime is not difficult to understand.

Malaysians actually have a very sophisticated and nuanced understanding of what activities like stealing, cheating or corruption is all about. Most of us are very capable of reading between the lines – even in complicated and subtle cases – to see where the cheating, stealing or corruption is involved.

The fact that despite being so sophisticated and nuanced a people, that none of us seem to know what is it that Syed Saddiq did to deserve seven years in jail, a fine of RM10 mil and two whips of the rotan makes us unanimously feel that the punishment is too harsh.

Sore points

That Syed Saddiq got such a high sentence after leaving the unity government also leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Of course, none of us can prove that the executive and the judicial branch of the government is colluding with each other but all of us without fail have noticed a disturbing trend in the country where politicians who are aligned with the government of the day tend to have favourable outcomes at the courts even when their case looks like it is difficult to win.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

In contrast, politicians who go against the tide tend to fare very badly at the courts even when their cases don’t look like it is that big a deal.

If the executive and judicial branch of the government are operating independently of each other – as they are supposed to – we don’t understand why we are noticing this trend.

Many Malaysians also are seeing Syed Saddiq’s sentence as a case of Syed Saddiq being “taught a lesson” or coerced to modify his behaviour. The former MUDA head honcho doesn’t have an image or track record of someone who habitually engages in suspect activities.

The punishment he has received, however, is something that we feel should rightfully belong to an inveterate and habitual criminal. From an average person’s point of view, this being his first case – even if he is guilty of what he is charged with – he should have just been given a “yellow card”, not banned from the game for life.

A test of Syed Saddiq’s mettle

That his punishment doesn’t fit the crime makes us feel that the intense punishment he is being inflicted with is a move to twist his arms so that he will be more amenable to bend the knees and kiss someone’s hand.

Despite being sentenced officially, in practice, nothing has changed for Syed Saddiq on a practical basis. Sure, it has caused him to resign on his own volition as the MUDA president but he is still an MP for he is not scheduled for any jail time yet.

As I understand it, he still has two more appeals to reverse his sentence – and if he succeeds in any one of his appeals – this episode of his life will be wiped off his record as if it never happened at all.

Seeing that, we feel that now is the time where we will see what Syed Saddiq is truly made of.

In all frankness, he has been quite fiercely critical of the unity government since he walked out of it following Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s DNAA (discharge not amounting to acquittal) a couple of months ago.

Considering that Syed Saddiq is on appeal, we are wondering whether he is still going to be uncowed in his position against the government or is he going to get the message, toe to line and “learn his lesson”.

As mentioned by Seneca – the Stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome – “Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” This adversity that he faces is going to re-introduce Syed Saddiq to himself and to all of us.

I wish him all the best. I hope that as he becomes more acquainted with who he truly is, he will be proud of himself as we hope that we will be proud of him. – Nov 11, 2023


Nehru Sathiamorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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