Monday, October 6, 2014

The 'Pig' Label

‘Pig’ is a label often associated with the police. I don’t think the latter is fond of the word but whether they like it or not, it is used widely. 

Actually, its use started around the sixteenth century and “pig” began being used in English as a derogatory term for people, whether they are police or not. 

It took about three more centuries, but this particular insult inevitably became a popular nickname for oft-insulted police officers, with the first documented reference to this being in the Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence, published in London in 1811. In it, the pertinent line in question is: “The pigs frisked my panney, and nailed my screws.” Meaning: “The officers searched my house, and seized my picklocks.” 

Unlike so many other nicknames for the police, such as cops and the fuzz, this particular term is meant to convey disrespect, insolence and contempt. And the label stuck. 

In Malaysia, we take words far too seriously. Any word that we utter can be seditious.

The police arrested a car salesperson at midnight on September 25, 2014 and remanded him for three days because he called Malacca police ‘monkey’. 

In a screen capture of the offending Facebook post in Sinar Harian’s report dated September 27 – a photograph of two traffic police officers were shown and accompanied by a comment saying, “Those ‘monkey’ is looking for extra income”. 

It was believed that the person disparaged the police because he was unhappy at being asked to stop during a police check at Taman Melaka Raya in Malacca a couple of days earlier. He had made the ‘monkey’ comment on the same day he was stopped by the police. 

As a result, he is being investigated under Section 500 of the Penal Code, with the punishment for the offense of criminal defamation being “imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years” or a fine or both upon conviction. 

Aren’t the police overreacting? Isn’t this an abuse of their authority? 

Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo said: “It would appear that the intention is to arrest him and place him behind bars and to perhaps intimidate him and make an example of him and to make sure everyone is duly intimidated”. 

Didn't the Inspector-General of Police made a statement that ‘if you insult the police, we will come after you’”? Who does he think he is anyway? Lest he forget, he is a civil servant, period.

Two other civil liberties lawyers – New Sin Yew and Eric Paulsen – described the move by police as abusive. And New added: “The police should stop doing this. It’s not going to help their image; it’s only going to make it worse”. 

Both New and Paulsen said the police should address any negative perception by the public and improve the police force’s image, instead of going after critics. 

“The police should not be policing what the public is saying about them. If you start policing what the public is saying, you create a serious chilling effect on the public’s freedom of expression,” New suggested, adding that the Facebook user’s right to freedom of expression has been violated. 

Paulsen said the police force’s “authority and dignity” does not come from “fear but from public confidence and these would depend on their own conduct and integrity.” 


The case is the latest in which police have gone after individuals over insults made in person or over the Internet. 

On September 15, a Twitter user was charged under the Penal Code today for “deliberately humiliating and provoking” Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar by likening him to Nazi’s Heinrich Himmler. 

Last month, a Penang resident was jailed a week for scribbling an expletive on a traffic summons issued to him by a police officer. 

Have the police become a law unto themselves? 

On Saturday, I was at METEOR House at the Open University Malaysia campus in Kuala Lumpur's Jalan Tun Ismail to attend the OUM Toastmasters meeting. It was a long-overdue visit and anyway, it was a pretty decent meeting. I should be pleased that I was voted both Best Table Topics Speaker and Best Evaluator. In any case, I would score this meeting a 5.5 over 10. 


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