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Self-selection bias

Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.  – Roald Dahl, British author

Malaysians are reportedly outraged at the recent Pardons Board decision to reduce the prison sentence and the fines imposed upon a former prime minister. In the first place, voters chose their government in GE-15, and now they are aghast at an agonising display of their self-inflicted self-selection bias.

Whether reduction of a prison sentence and judicially imposed fines constitute a pardon in the strict sense of the word has escalated public discourse, discussion, derision and division in social media.  Parliament and courts of law are seen to be quiet on this issue.

Strictly speaking, the Pardons Board deals with concepts of mercy that contemplate a pardon, and not esoteric doctrines of jurisprudence. There is no mystery as it is clearly enumerated in Article 42 Federal Constitution, and section 43 Prisons Act 1995 (Act 537), that grants power to remit, suspend or commute sentences as an act of pardon, reprieve and respite.

Assuming there was no political intervention, the Pardons Board broke no known laws. The supreme law of the land, and the federal law governing prisoners were strictly adhered to. However, there may be justification for the public to demand full disclosure, but no law mandates it.

Self-selection bias, when pivoted upon constitutional supremacy, could impel our YDPA-17 to take issue with the Pardons Board for overruling nine judges that the public fears has shredded the rule of law. He could use Article 182 Federal Constitution to empanel such an inquiry without causing discontent amongst stakeholders.

Post-Merdeka lawmakers are roundly guilty of self-selection bias that utterly failed to prevent corruption, theft of public funds, money-laundering, and abuse of power. The exercise of legislative “power” is clearly enumerated in Article 66, Federal Constitution that may, or may not, impel furtive politics to gain traction. “Power” is mercurial at best, and toxic at worst.

The intent and purpose of the constitutionally mandated pardon should not be confused with whether it has to evolve in its applicability depending on the identity of the convicted individual. The Federal Constitution and the Prisons Act should not discriminate, and if they do, then the court of public opinion will be unhesitatingly activated.

A former MP’s statement was recently recorded by Bukit Aman for slamming the Pardons Board in a FB post. If he handles this with an abundance of caution, section 3 of the Sedition Act 1948 offers him an exit strategy. Social media is still loudly abuzz with unabated discontent.

Maybe the government may see fit to invoke Article 159 Federal Constitution to make necessary, needful and proper amendments to curtail and restrict the powers of the Pardons Board, and other legislation so that pardons, reprieves and respites depend strictly on the severity of the crime.  

Government should not cause discomfort and disaffection by asking the public to cool it with the pardon issue which will remain a hot-button talking point. It must encourage constructive criticism and debate to put the issue to permanent rest.

Many natural leaders who refuse to dabble in politics must appreciate Plato’s admonition that “one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. That advice, now 2000 years old, puts a critical analysis of self-selection bias. Malaysians are ready for fresh blood in politics.

Jose Marti invoked an awakening: “The first duty of a man is to think for himself.” Self-selection bias must compel voters to ask whether voting is an emotional or intellectual exercise, or a combination of both, to yield the rare secret to finding, selecting and electing the best-qualified leaders. Reborn, renewed, rebranded and recycled politicians excluded, of course.

US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described the perfection of self-selection bias thus: “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill is that of private citizen.” Article 153 Federal Constitution creates this particular office for the discerning private citizen as does other constitutionally guaranteed fundamental liberties.

Difficult times require bold choices. The private sector literally supports and sustains the nation’s economic health. Actors in the public sector may not be adequately trained or experienced in socioeconomic disciplines like their counterparts in the private sector.

Therefore, self-selection bias must play a major role by encouraging the unelectedprivate sector to get involved and engaged in, at least, partial governance. GLCs and GLICs should be discontinued. Renewed thinking for the betterment and advancement of the nation needs novel private sector participation in affairs of state.

One could argue that an unelected private sector would be undemocratic. Well, truth be told, our judges and local governments are unelected too. Self-selection bias needs to be revisited concerning unelected entities engaged in government matters.

Arguably, you cannot punish someone who has committed suicide. But fresh leadership could undo the damage, unlearn the mess wrought by the ailing, wailing and failing education system, and unleash meaningful constitutional amendments without altering the original intent, content, extent, purpose and meaning of the 1957 Federal Constitution.

If we are to accept democracy as the best possible solution, Harry Emerson Fosdick’s rationale must resonate with Malaysians: “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.” Obviously, we don’t have to be in leadership positions to bell the cat.


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