If the law is bad, break it

Posted on April 27, 2012


I got a call from a reporter a little while ago to ask my thoughts on the court order obtained by the authorities, banning the Duduk Bantah Bersih 3.0 taking place at Dataran Merdeka.

To explain my point to her, I shared this little episode that took place whilst in I was in London in the 80’s.

Following the Falklands war, information had leaked out that greatly embarrassed the Thatcher administration.

The leaked information was finally traced back to a member of the British civil service, one Clive Ponting.

Ponting was charged with an offence under the Official Secrets Act.

At the end of the trial, the judge DIRECTED the jury, that on the evidence, they must enter a finding of guilt.

I repeat.

The judge DIRECTED the jury to enter a finding of guilt.

What did the jury do?

They found Clive Ponting not guilty of the charge.

And as best as I can recall, no one has since been charged in the UK under the Official Secrets Act again.

What that jury did was to pour scorn on the AG’s decision to prosecute a man for exposing the wrongdoing of Thatcher’s government, the judge for directing a conviction, and the very essence of the Official Secrets Act.

History bears testimony to great leaders who have led men and women to break laws that were unjust.

Rosa Parks broke the law by riding in the front of the bus.

Martin Luther King.

Gandhi broke the British laws that kept the Indians enslaved.

Jesus defied the laws of the day and taught in the synagogues.

Muhammad smashed the idols in Mecca, defying the religious order of the day.

If the law is bad, break it.

If an order or directive, be it of a judge or otherwise, violates our very essence as human beings, defy it.

The tagline of this blog says we are not law-breakers, but we are here to become law makers.

True, but before we can make good laws, we must first be rid of those that serve to subjugate us.