In the saga of the six accused men who were unable to post bail, and the bail counter staff who denied closing the counter early, who was telling the truth?
Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim announced on April 18 that he would grant an unscheduled public holiday either for Friday April 21 or Monday April 24 depending on the actual date of Hari Raya.
So, did the bail counter staff take it upon themselves to take advantage of the extra holiday and have a few hours headstart in the mad rush to “balik kampung”?
Last week, lawyer Alvin Tan alleged that the bail counter at Kuala Lumpur court complex had closed early on Thursday April 20 despite a notice stating that office hours were until 4.30 pm.
As they were unable to post bail, six men who faced charges of criminal conspiracy with the intention to cheat, were forced to spend the long weekend in Sungai Buloh prison. Two of them were ill.
Tan alleged that the counter had closed early at 2.53 pm, and despite the appeals of the men’s families to open, their requests fell on deaf ears.
The issue of the unscheduled early closing was highlighted by a former deputy minister in the prime minister’s department (parliament and law) Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, and Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.
The early closing caused an uproar on social media and prompted the chief registrar’s office to deny the allegations.
Instead, the chief registrar alleged that the bailors for the six men were absent.
However, his reasoning did not explain why the counter closed early.
So, who was right?
Did the counter staff tell the chief registrar an untruth about closing early to avoid getting into trouble?
So, why did the counter open on Monday, a public holiday, to accommodate the six men? Was this remorse for closing early the previous Thursday?
Did the staff have a guilty complex? Or was opening on public holiday to appease an angry public?
There are more conflicting stories that have arisen from this saga.
We were told that the closing time during Ramadan was 4 pm.
So, why did the notice at the counter state that the closing time was 4.30 pm? Why was the notice/sign not updated?
For decades, our civil servants have provided services in a slipshod manner. When will they learn to improve their performance?
Lawyer Tan told a news portal that when the families of the accused had appealed to the counter staff to reopen and effect payment, the staff alleged that they had received instruction from the Kuala Lumpur court management to close early.
Were the staff blaming the management for the early closure?
If the families had asked to see the directive from the management about early closing, it is probable that these men would have been at the receiving end of the counter staff when they next reopen.
One Malaysian said, “We are at the mercy of the Little Napoleons in government and there is little we can do about it.
“Complain, and our files are placed at the bottom of the pile, or are hidden away in an obscure drawer to gather dust because we dared to question them.”
Many Malaysians who have the experience of the dismissive attitude and arrogance of civil servants in government departments know how to keep quiet rather than to demand professionalism and a bit of common courtesy.
My own experience with civil servants in Ipoh stems from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
Government departments may have signs that state they close at 4.15 pm on a normal working day, but in my experience they are usually shut by 3.45 pm.
We would have asked the boss to leave our work early to settle our personal business at the government department, only to find that we have to return another day and take more time off.
In the past, despite making appointments to meet various officials at government departments, we would probably find that the officials had no respect for our time, and would keep us waiting, sometimes for hours.
We would be told that the official was in a meeting, but the security guard would have hinted that he was on an extended breakfast break.
At other times, when we arrived for our appointment, the official would keep us waiting while he and his friends scanned the business pages of the newspaper to check the performance of their shares.
This was often done in full view of the people waiting patiently in the room.
Phoning up in advance to ascertain which documents were required to process an application could be a waste of time.
At the counter, the staff would ask for a different set of documents they had not disclosed over the phone. The trip was wasted but none of them cared.
In the past, some of us would refuse to have any government dealings on a Friday.
From bitter experiences, we discover that Friday closing of the counters is up to the whims and fancies of the Little Napoleons.
Few of us dare complain because we fear the repercussions, like delays or our applications being rejected.
In the scandal of the bail counter closing early, who do you think the ordinary Malaysian rakyat would believe?
The six accused men, or the counter staff?
- Bernama: PKPMP deny claims that bail counter closed early, forcing six accused to remain in prison
- Malaysiakini: Unacceptable to close bail counter earlier than usual: Hanipa
- Malaysiakini: MP not satisfied, demands CCTV footage for bail counter
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)