Sunday, 22 January 2017

VK Rajah: A Freedom Fighter.

While the papers today describe VK Rajah as a "reluctant A-G", declining the offer to take up the appointment twice in 2007 and 2013, I think he is more a freedom fighter who takes every life and sentence seriously.

His idea of justice is simple. It's about discrimination, that is, every case is different and can be differentiated. No two actions and intentions are alike, and every criminal act deserves a second, even a third, look.

One example is the case where the banker father (Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart), then 42, had killed his five year old son last year. The charge was reduced from murder to culpable homicide as the father was suffering from a major depressive disorder arising from a custody fight.

VK Rajah said, "Where homicide takes place as a result of mental issues, it's unpremeditated, where there is momentary loss of control, we appraise the facts differently."

Mind you, it made a difference to the life of the father, who was sentenced to 5 years, instead of death or life.

Of course, when you do the crime, you do the time. But it has to be the right time for the right duration and reasons.

Considering the suffering of the victims and his/her loved ones, justice must also be tempered with compassion. And crimes that are committed by a mindless folly of the heart has to be distinguished from one committed by a heartless act of the mind.

So, in his role as the head prosecutor, to the best of his ability, he prosecuted with a human face. Imagine that, a freedom denier to a freedom fighter.

Another example is when the DPP himself appealed against a jail sentence of eight weeks for a 35-year-old who knocked over an elderly pedestrian while cycling on the pavement. The DPP argued that the sentence was not proportionate to his culpability in view of the fact that he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

It reports that "Mr Rajah said his "obsessiveness for looking at things granularly" boiled down to a need to exercise the power of the prosecution carefully. Not all were on board at first with the decisions he made, including the move to appeal to have the cyclist's sentence reduced."

"My operating ethos in every ... office that I held is to ensure fairness. And fairness includes, apart from due process, proportionality. It's in no one's interest for individuals to be punished harshly," so said the retired A-G.

Lesson? Just one.

I always struggle with this question: How do you make the biggest difference in the smallest way?

Mother Teresa once said that we can't all do great things, but we can do small things with great love. I guess in VK Rajah's case, it is with compelling dedication and compassion that he makes the biggest difference. And mind you, it takes a lifetime most times to transform lives.

For a husband, it is about protecting the marital oath at all cost and for life. For a parent, it is about being there for your child in good or bad times. For a friend, it is about enduring friendships that don't change through time and circumstances. For a leader, it is about integrity, sacrifice and faithfulness to one's calling. And for a flawed human being, a truly repentant heart.

I always believe that the mother of all virtues is keeping at it day in and day out, over the years and decades. Things around you may change, temptations may rise up against you, and you may be fighting at it alone, but change does not come in one big ostentatious splash - it comes with consistent effort and passion.

In fact, a big watch-me-dive splash takes more water out than put in. However, it is the unfailing tiny drops over the years that add to the pool. It is the faithfulness of the unseen acts, the unfelt deeds and the unpublished commitment that make the lasting, deepest and biggest difference.

Let me end with this: "A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with huge noise. Destruction is loud but creation is silent." Cheerz.

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