Power comes with responsibility

Source_Star: Power comes with responsibility PUTIK LADA BY JOACHIM LEONG

  1. Power should never be exercised in a vacuum.
  2. There must always be a balance or a system of check and balance.

AS a little boy, I was an introvert who loved comic books. The appeal of these graphic novels (as they are now known) was not just how the story unfolded in pictures but the characters themselves.

One common feature was how these characters possessed some sort of superpower or special ability that distinguished them from the rest.

Serving the public: The police are empowered to_
  1. search,
  2. arrest
  3. and detain suspects
  4. but a check and balance system must also be provided
  5. to ensure credibility and integrity.

The possibilities that arose from such powers were limitless.

Yet, behind these colourful costumed characters, there was always a lesson to impart, as clichéd as it might have been.

One such lesson has stuck with me: With great power comes great responsibility.

While in real life there may be no one in fanciful costumes, capes or tights, this saying rings very true.

Let’s examine the idea of power in society.

We hold annual general meetings or elections to vote for people whom we think will lead the organisation or country well.

This way, we give our power by way of the ballot box and entrust to these elected people a great responsibility – leadership.

With this leadership comes the great power to make decisions to steer the course of the organisation or country.

What we give we can take away, therefore, creating a balance of power.

This is where the saying – with great power comes great responsibility – comes into play.

I would like to examine another type of power where we have the opposite – with great responsibility comes great power.

Let us take the professionals in society.

They undergo years of study and then face a qualification process by their respective professional bodies.

Only then can

  1. doctors diagnose diseases and prescribe medication accordingly;
  2. lawyers have the power to appear in court to argue on behalf of clients;
  3. architects can approve variation works, and so on.

If any of them were to be negligent or dishonest, you can sue them as well as lodge a complaint with their respective professional bodies.

Another group of people who are bestowed with responsibility, and in turn have great power in their hands, are civil servants.

After all, is it not the case that teachers who are responsible for educating our children – the future generation of Malaysia – have the power to influence their thinking and perception of matters in the world?

As another example, court staff who are part of the administration of justice have the power to speed it up or slow it down.

Also, our property sector would come to a standstill if land offices chose not to process land titles.

I now turn to a special branch of civil servants who are provided with a neat, tidy dark blue uniform, armed with pistols and automatic rifles and equipped with vehicles.

Not only do we equip the police force with weapons to fight crime, we also empower them with laws to search, arrest and detain suspects.

All this is done so that they are able to protect and serve the public.

Against this background, I invite you to consider a scenario.

Whatever the case may be, can you imagine being detained without your family knowing where you are, what you were accused of, and without legal representation?

Power should never be exercised in a vacuum. There always must be a system of check and balance.

Why, in the first place, did we allow these people to exercise their powers arbitrarily?

Rather, the circumstances which we currently live in do not give us any avenue to air our complaints about the police force.

The current public perception is that powers given have been abused for personal gain.

As the Malay saying goes: Padi harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi.” (The padi relies on the fence but the fence eats the padi.)

Let us stop this descent in public perception by setting up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission – to provide the check and balance that is much needed for a force which is perceived to be lacking in credibility and integrity.

While our men in blue may not have superhuman powers, they do have great power – and with that comes great responsibility.

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society.

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