Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ignorance Of The Law

A young Murut man had recently ventured out from his village in the interior part of Tenom to seek job opportunities in the hope of improving his family's life. He had very little education—as a boy he went to school irregularly in his village, but he dropped out when he was in primary 4. Education did not seem to be that important for people who lived in the interior.

Now in Tenom, he has found a job as a manual labourer, i.e. every day he's occupied in loading and unloading stuff from delivery trucks at a supermarket. After a few months, he found a girlfriend, and to make the long story short, he ended up having sex with her. Little did he know that that girl was just 15 years old, and he has landed in hot soup and charged for the crime of statutory rape. It came as a shock to him because he did not even realise that consensual sex was a crime on account of age. As far as he was concerned he had committed no crime whatsoever.

Imagine what would happen if people could be let off the hook on grounds of ignorance of the law. Anyone of us can then commit a crime, and then pleads ignorance of the law. We can just kill someone we dislike because he has an ugly hairstyle, and then use the excuse that we're not even aware that murder is a crime in Malaysia.

The fact is that pleading ignorance of the law is never a good defense. It is an excuse that can't stand in court. In fact, it is not even a good way to try to mitigate one's alleged wrong-doing. That is why I find the statement by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob—that he wasn't aware of the law that prohibits the possession and consumption of turtle eggs in Sabah—rather laughable. One has to wonder why he made that statement at all. If it was meant to soften the blow, then I would say it does nothing of the such. In fact, it gives a negative impression of a minister who's not so well-versed of the law of his own country; a law that is quite common to many ordinary Malaysians.

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