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Bedroom antics and public outrage


What principles are being defended on Elizabeth Wong’s behalf?

OVER the past few weeks of intense political developments from Perak to Selangor, and the resulting flurry of news-making, one thing remains clear.

We are a nation of leaders short on principles.

Whether upcoming or high-ranking, whether from the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional, whether women or men, the kind of rhetoric we’ve been hearing about a host of issues has been disappointing.

Specifically, in two cases that have jostled for the headlines recently, I am convinced that as a nation, we sorely need principled leadership.

In my previous column, the principle of democracy and the rakyat’s right to choose were raised in response to the numerous demands for the Sultan of Perak’s decision to be respected and unchallenged. The way I see it as a citizen, cries of treason, sedition, banishment, incarceration, and murder are too easy a cover for a lack of respect for the democratic principles our nation was founded on.

The sidelining of other important principles has also been evident in the recent furore over the exposure of intimate photos of Elizabeth Wong.

What if Wong consented?

The minute it was publicly known that intimate photos of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) politician Wong were making their rounds, the outrage was instant.

Both the political and public indignation at the distribution of the Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson and Selangor executive councillor (exco)’s private photos were necessary and vital.

But, what exactly were the principles being defended on Wong’s behalf?


Teresa Kok: Wong’s situation no different from being a victim of a peeping Tom

DAP’s Teresa Kok, who is also Wong’s colleague in the Selangor exco, fumed that Wong’s situation was no different from having a peeping Tom install a camera in one’s bathroom to take one’s pictures in the nude.

PAS spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat echoed Kok’s defence of Wong, saying he did not see any justification for Wong to resign as an elected representative. “From what I understand from press reports, the pictures were taken by an intruder who had entered her house. So it is not her fault but the intruder’s.”

Even the MCA came out strongly in support of Wong. MCA Wanita national chairperson Chew Mei Fun condemned what happened to Wong because the photographing of “bodily parts without (a person’s) consent or knowledge is against the law and punishable under the Penal Code”.

Perhaps these political leaders were framing their defence based on what Wong herself explained to the media. Nevertheless, defending Wong solely on the premise that the photos were taken without her consent is narrow-minded and tenuous.

Are we saying that Wong is only worth defending if the photos were taken without her consent? What if Wong fully consented to having her photos, some of which have yet to emerge, taken? What if new photos and potentially a video, show Wong as an active and willing participant in the recording of intimate acts with her partner or partners? 
 
Would she still be worth defending?

See, the principle of the matter should be that Wong has every right to engage in whatever bedroom antics she wants to as an adult.

The principle that needs defending isn’t just an individual’s right to privacy from peeping Toms. It should and must be about an individual’s right to the privacy to do whatever she chooses to in her bedroom with another consenting adult.

If we understood what that right meant, we would also acknowledge that our Penal Code is a mockery in that it outlaws sodomy and oral sex even between consenting adults.

That no move has been made to amend our Penal Code demonstrates just how little respect the national leadership places on the right of consenting adults to engage in whatever bedroom activities they so choose.

Indeed, even MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has clearly alluded to action being taken against his deputy, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, for having had oral sex

PKR’s position troubling

But it’s not just the lack of principled leadership from the Barisan Nasional government. No less than Wong’s own party, PKR, is demonstrating that they lack a firm grasp of the principle at stake.


Quotes by Azmin Ali and Syed Husin Ali

In an immediate response to the issue, PKR vice-president Azmin Ali was nothing less than judgemental of his party colleague. He was quoted as saying: “We don’t want to know if these are old or new nude pictures. She must explain to us and if she is really guilty of having posed or was involved in the taking of these pictures, we will not hesitate to take action.”

He added that the party would not compromise on disciplinary action. “We will leave it to the menteri besar to decide if she is guilty or not as he is the head of the state,” he said.

Azmin subsequently softened his stand, but his default reaction reveals a particular disrespect for an individual’s right to a life of her choice. It also demonstrates a stringent set of moral standards and acceptable sexual behaviours that the party seems set to impose on its members.

Even PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali has said that the party’s continued support of Wong will depend on the content of any new photographs which may surface.

How exactly Wong’s case will finally play out within her party and the larger political landscape is left to be seen. For now, the support of her political peers is shaky at best unless it is evident that Wong herself conforms to the standards of sexual morality being espoused in her defence.

Exemplary exco

One must also question the way support for Wong from Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and from a swathe of citizens who have initiated signature campaigns has been expressed.

It would seem that both the MB and outraged citizens have come to Wong’s defence because she is an “exemplary exco” and has a good performance record as an elected representative. Most often cited is her passion for protecting the environment.

But if the principle involved is to defend Wong because she does her job well, what if she didn’t? What if Wong was a lazy and incompetent elected representative?


Under different circumstances, would the petition have as many signatures?

Would PKR and the MB have accepted her resignation instead of asking her to reconsider her decision? Would the rakyat still distribute and deliver signed memorandums in her support?

Somehow, I suspect that the responses would not be the same. And if my sense is right, then that would be a tragedy.

Because it would really nail the coffin for me in that our society would find it expedient to defend an individual only if he or she were a “victim” and were likeable.

And that, for me, would be a sad indictment of how little principles matter to us as a nation.

See also:

Let’s talk about sex
The cost of invading privacy


Jacqueline Ann Surin believes that whatever consenting adults get up to in their bedrooms is their business. She also believes that if our leaders were guided by principles, it would make for a better, kinder and safer Malaysia.

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9 Responses to “Bedroom antics and public outrage”

  1. Francis says:

    If was she comptetent and lazy, then should have resigned. As simple as that. Laziness itself is immoral. That said, your points are unclear. You seem to be playing politics here. You are talking about principles, bla bla but you state no principles. Anyway, Elizabeth has been vindicated by the people and all those who cherish human good and the latest was the sultan. She ain’t resigning or leaving. Stop this Wong nonsense. We are moving on.

  2. Johnlim says:

    Looks like the Surin is contradicting herself here and I agree that she is playing politics.

    The question I would like to pose to Surin is whether she had seen the photos for her to make such comments ? Making assumptions and coming to conclusions is not principled either.

    What is so wrong with MCA and DAP officials for making conclusions based on Elizabeth’s side of the story unless one has another side to it ?

    In the absence of any new evidence, it can be said that her case is a clear-cut one of the invasion of one’s privacy. Simple as that.

    When you are in your lingerie or sarong and taking a nap and someone wants to take an intimate pose of yourself without your consent and distribute the photos, can you blame the victim ?

    Alternatively, when one is in the toilet and someone takes a picture without your permission, can you say that one is to be blamed ?

  3. U-Jean says:

    “We don’t want to know if these are old or new nude pictures. She must explain to us and if she is really guilty of having posed or was involved in the taking of these pictures, we will not hesitate to take action.”

    Why does posing in intimate pictures make her guilty of any offence?

    If I have pictures of myself with anyone in any position, it is no one’s but my own business. Should someone distribute them without my consent, then that would be a violation of my privacy.

    PKR promises to make Malaysia a truly constitutional state for all but ensuring the rule of law and an independent judiciary as well as guaranteeing basic human rights and rejecting all forms of racially divisive politics should they be elected to power.

    This is the first part of their manifesto for the 2008 elections. How are they responding to the invasion of an individual’s privacy, a basic human right?

    Memperkukuhkan kedudukan wanita dalam masyarakat, menyemai dan melindungi hak-hak dan kepentingan mereka dan menjamin yang mereka dapat menikmati status sama rata dan tidak menjadi mangsa diskriminasi dan eksploitasi is one of PKR’s 17 matlamat dan asas perjuangan politik.

    If PKR can’t firmly speak up for one of their members, can I still expect them to stand up and speak for me?

  4. Hafiz Ismail says:

    Oh my. You really are one of a kind. Thanks for this Ms Surin. To argue it this way, from the angle of basic human rights, is really rare here in Malaysia. I particularly like it when you point out that even among the better “enlightened” of us, we find it necessary that we see it as a deliberate victimisation and the victim herself somehow worth defending.

    The fact that this whole episode is somehow framed as a matter of morality, and that Ms Wong felt that she should tender her resignation, is beyond me.

  5. Sham says:

    If the photos were not taken for the purpose of exhibition, then drastic action has to be taken. An unmarried woman’s private life with a man whom she is supposedly to get married, failed due to political differences and bought over by political enemies is not the fault of Elizabeth Wong. She should not be blamed. She is not prostituting around. It’s like a spouse exposing nude photos. It’s definitely intrusion into one’s private life.

    Perpetrators should be charged. Wong is free to do her normal business.

  6. yen says:

    Frances, you are the one who is unclear. The author’s principles are made perfectly clear in that as an adult, we have the right to decide on how to express our sexuality as it is an individual freedom. She even goes on to say that our Penal Code requires review as under the Penal Code, oral and anal sex are considered unnatural acts and therefore, illegal and punishable, notwithstanding that it is between two consenting adults.

    I agree with the author. In the deluge of comments made by the masses, many have granted support to Elizabeth Wong by including the remark that “she did not do it intentionally” or “it’s not as if she posed for it”. That worries me a little as what if she was aware the she was being photographed or video-recorded? Would the public then withdraw their support for her simply because she had posed for it?

    That would be a peculiar stand; she is not immoral to engage in sex or be nude, but she is immoral if she engages in sex or be nude AND willingly records the same via photographs/videos for her own personal use? Think about it.

  7. ambrose says:

    Sharp writing. Principles are all that matter.

  8. rin says:

    Laziness itself is immoral? So if a student decide to sleep all day not doing any homework, he/she is immoral? Sitting around watching tv whole day is immoral too?
    Laziness is not encourageble, but it is definitely not a crime, and I wouldn’t say it is immoral.

    And Jac’s principle was clearly stated in her article: “The principle that needs defending isn’t just an individual’s right to privacy from peeping Toms. It should and must be about an individual’s right to the privacy to do whatever she chooses to in her bedroom with another consenting adult.”

    And as stated in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, NO ONE shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his PRIVACY, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. EVERYONE has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    So regardless of your gender (women or not), age, occupation (politician or not), ethnicity (Chinese or not), personality (competent, lazy or otherwise), you have a right to privacy and nobody should be allowed to invade that.

  9. Amir Hafizi says:

    All for Eli.

    Unless it was done by her to get some political mileage. Everything remains to be seen.


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