The Illegitimate Use Of Violence

By Zairil

In Weberian philosophy, a nation-state is defined by, inter alia, its monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. This is to say that the state retains all rights to the use of force through its legitimised instruments, i.e. the police and military. At the same time, the state, especially a democratic one, is also entrusted to to exercise this right in a manner that upholds the spirit of justice and human liberty.

However, because philosophy has no place in our national education, and perhaps because any Malay translation of Max Weber’s writings would probably have been acquired from Google Translate (as was the case with the translation of Teoh Beng Hock’s ‘suicide note’), it is understandable that those running our country today would fail to understand the intended implications of his seminal thesis.

As comprehensive as the online translator may be, the term ‘legitimate’ has appeared to have escaped the notice of the authorities, resulting in a situation in which state-sponsored violence is meted out in arbitrary fashion, with no regard whatsoever to the principles of justice.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the actions of the Royal Malaysian Police, a law enforcement agency empowered by the state to use force in the preservation of peace and public order.

Yet if we were to take last weekend’s water rally as an example, we have the complete opposite occurring:

Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons on at least 1,000 protesters near the KL Railway Station as they marched to the Istana Negara today to rally against a potential bailout of Selangor water utility companies. Hundreds of protestors sought refuge at the Railway Station to avoid the police action after they started their march from the National Mosque.

Riot police later turned the water cannons on those who had gone back to the National Mosque despite organisers announcing an end to the rally shortly before 3pm.

According to witnesses, police used tear gas and water cannons on the crowd after allowing Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and several state exco members to proceed to the Istana Negara.

In other words, the protest had been incident-free until the police started harassing the people. This is likely to be construed as ironic to every rational being in the free world, but in Malaysia it is the country’s very own police force that was responsible for the injudicious use of violence to disrupt a hitherto peaceful and orderly rally that had been organised to voice the legitimate concerns of the people!

Perhaps the Inspector-General of Police should rely less on Google Translate and instead attempt to reeducate himself and the rest of his officers on the basic principles of justice, human rights and the rule of law that are supposed to be upheld and defended (and not violated and ignored) by the police.

Read more at: