The Sunday Star on 7 May 2006 published an amazing piece of ‘soap box’ rhetoric in their “Your Say” column. This “Morally Upright Citizen” UC) of Kuala Lumpur thought that moral policing was much needed in the parks and recreational areas of the city.
Giving full support to the DBKL’s “proactive” action in “policing our gardens and lakes so that no hanky panky takes place”, the writer suggests that ALL gardens and lakesides (meaning parks) “be closed down so that all those who even dream about hugging and kissing in public will not have any place to go so that they will have to go to hotels and inns which in turn will boost their business”. This is somewhat a fallacy as hotels and inns are also public places, unless this writer is of a more insinuating frame of mind impliedly advocating clandestine affairs in hotel rooms, which are private.
In a tone of apparently righteous indignation the writer goes on to say, “The recalcitrant youngsters who break the so-called ‘decency’ laws now are those who grow up to be criminals, bribe-givers and takers and anti-social elements. Who knows they might also grow up to be terrorists.” Some DBKL ‘mullahs’ might be nodding vigorously in complete agreement at this sweepingly inaccurate statement. In this “holier than thou” trend, MUC goes on to give ‘good’ advice on how to make the youth good citizens by “coming down on them hard and giving them a tough time…” and then continues, “I am sure if you were to interview those rotting in prison for all sorts of reason, they must have started off by hugging and kissing in public. I am sure those who pollute rivers, park indiscriminately and engage in corruption all started with breaking the decency laws. DBKL and other local councils must have learned all this from their overseas (lawatan sambil belajar) trips.”
MUC makes a bit of sense here as there may be a miniscule grain of truth in this bit of rhetoric. From the soap box pulpit MUC outlines proposals for gender segregation and different usage times in public places like restaurants, cinemas, supermarkets and even offices, including government offices. The piece ends with a finale of praise for the “forward thinking and wisdom” of these “enforcers” of the law who show no fear of or favour to the public, and a resounding “bravo”!
This sounds like an “Alice in Wonderland” article where nothing really makes any sense, yet lo and behold, The Star publishes it with flourish, which puts a reader in a dilemma as to whether she can take such a news provider seriously or whether the news published is just a joke and one should merely read the paper for laughs.
To give MUC and The Star, the benefit of the doubt, they have a fundamental human right to free expression, so by all means publish what you want, but the editors of the paper must decide whether they prefer to regards themselves as a serious paper or a gossip tabloid.