I like the majority of Malaysians yearning desperately for reforms and a better Malaysia are extremely sadden by RPK’s (Raja Petra Kamarudin) interview with the UMNO owned wastepaper NST and the UMNO controlled TVs but have not the aptitude to write a proper rebuttal of RPK’s comments. However, I find S Thayaparan’s take on the issues published by Malaysiakini and republished here with Steven Gan’s permission to be a fit rebuttal to RPK’s damaging comments and if you are hard pressed for time to read this long article, I have highlighted in bold red below that I considered deserving of highlighting:
In response to Raja Petra's interview
11:12AM Jan 4, 2012
COMMENT It would seem that Raja Petra Kamarudin’s New Sunday Times interview has caused a great deal of concern amongst ardent supporters of Pakatan Rakyat.
I have been inundated with messages of wild conspiracy theories and impassioned statements of deep disappointment from rebellious middle class voters.
Needless to say, I have been greatly amused that the article has reached its intended demographic.
But what exactly is there to be concerned about? The mandarins at Media Prima sent Ahmad Fairuz Othman to do a job and Raja Petra provided the hatchet.
Understand now, that I have never accepted the contents of Raja Petra’s blog as the Gospel truth but have delighted in his ease at slaying Malaysian sacred cows.
What people who feel disappointed or angry should do is apply some much needed common sense to what they read.
They should understand that the leading questions posed by Ahmad Fairuz and RPK’s polemical replies are intended to rattle the cages of those who conflate principle and personality.
They should accept that RPK or Pet as is fondly known is right when he claims that Anwar Ibrahim(left) is slowly sliding into irrelevancy but they should understand that their hero worship of this most vocal of Cassandras is irrelevant when it comes to the political destiny of this country.
Of course RPK would be scathing of Pakatan Rakyat’s performance after their historic 2008 tsunami. At this moment he is an influential figure in a nascent ambiguous political entity that hopes to be the “third force” in upcoming election.
Both Barisan National and Pakatan are competitors in the market place of eligible voters.
His vitriol against Anwar and by extension Pakatan is valuable to both BN (for obvious reasons) and his own political group mainly because the opposition at this point in time is the more credible contender to the throne in Putrajaya. Or at least that’s the perception.
My disappointment with Raja Petra stems from reasons totally unrelated to his messianic role. Under the putrid headlines of opposition “tearing itself apart”, this talented purveyor of political spin wallows in the same old Umno canards that we are used to reading in this nation’s propaganda organs.
Ahmad Fairuz may have led the horse to water but what I was hoping for was that the horse would spew out a geyser of undisguised contempt for his past comrades in arms, instead of the rather cliched sound bites that we are all familiar with.
Everything about the interview is designed to create angst in the minds of those who fervently believe that RPK is the lone voice of freedom in the media, forgetting the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of loyal Malaysians of every ethnic group who work tirelessly on the ground level hoping to create a Malaysia that the slogans from Umno have been unable to do.
These people of course go unnoticed. Let us, like RPK reminds us, separate principle from personality, in this case the personality of Raja Petra, and discover in this interview the moral bankruptcy of what Pet espouses.
On Anwar and his sodomy trial
RPK makes the rather disingenuous claim that Anwar’s trial is a criminal one rather than a political one.
Fair enough, but where are the thousands of other sodomites who have never been prosecuted?
And why have they never been prosecuted? Where are the other BN political figures engaged in homosexual acts, hinted at in the Wikileaks expose that have never been investigated?
Without resorting to conspiracy theories prima facie it can be established that Anwar’s prosecution is politically motivated.
And did Anwar get the trial he wanted or is he unwillingly participating in a trial he has no choice but to accept?
While RPK may dismiss these questions as “another issue”, this strikes to the heart of a biased judicial system in this country. A biased judicial system that Pet has written extensively about with regards to his legal problems.
This perjuangan (struggle) should not be about Anwar, but Anwar’s trial is the most overt example of a judicial system plagued by executive interference.
And what is the perjuangan if it does not encompass the rehabilitation of this most vital of institutions? If we are tired of sodomy it is because we are tired of a system that uses the courts to silence voices of dissent.
If we are tired with the trial, it is because we are tired of the way how the executive prosecutes those who it sees as a threat to its power. Threats like Dr Jeyakumar who was briefly threatened with the charge of waging war against the Agong.
And yes, Ahmad Fairuz, I am not forgetting the victim, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan(right). I am not forgetting that this victim had access to the prime minister of this country.
I am not forgetting that this is a victim who had an affair with one of the deputy prosecutors (something that RPK exposed before anyone else).
And I am not forgetting that this is the victim that the presiding judge in the case called “truthful” at the end of the case for the prosecution without hearing the arguments of the defence. If only all victims could be as fortunate as Saiful.
On Anwar and the Selangor administration
For years now, supporters of RPK have accepted his word based solely on anecdotal evidence and undisclosed sources.
So it should come as no surprise that Pet uses the same rhetoric when describing the state of Selangor and the supposed discontent of its poor frustrated inhabitants.
The question people should ask, is Pakatan solely to blame for the level of corruption that still exist in the state today? Does federal influence and an entrenched hostile civil service play a part in the mess Pakatan finds itself enmeshed in Selangor?
Time and again the state government has had to withstand assaults by an aggrieved federal government and found itself on the losing end of protracted political power plays.
Add to this certain members who have gone independent or remained as recalcitrant troublemakers and you have a state-run government plagued by both external threats and internal sabotage.
But what is the alternative? To run back to BN, who ran the state in an exemplary fashion?
Lest we forget, it was under the aegis of BN that Selangor got the reputation of being the most corrupt state in the federation.
It was under the leadership of a BN chief minister who is now appealing a one-year prison sentence for corruption and is a proponent of Malay rights; he doesn’t display any intelligence to grasp the concepts of “rights”, that the state gained such a reputation.
Are these the people Pet thinks the inhabitants of Selangor will run back to? Who knows? But what I do know in a purely anecdotal way (much like Pet) is that if Selangor does go back to BN, it could be because of the way new voters, not to mention citizens, have been discovered in the great state of Selangor.
No doubt Anwar has stumbled in the running of the state in his capacity as economic advisor and there is clear evidence that the coalition seems to be functioning without his leadership.
However, I argue that the former is nowhere near as calamitous as the way that BN ran the state and the latter merely evidence of a functional alternative front.
Will Anwar fade away?
It would be pointless to debate the parliamentary seat numbers game with anyone.
RPK’s theory is as sound as anything else I have read. But readers should view this game in the proper context, especially when it comes to Sabah and Sarawak.
Any numbers game should take into account the historical gerrymandering, the contemporary money politics and the creation of constitutional Malays imported from Indonesia and the Philippines under Project M (which ironically Anwar was involved in). Life is strange, isn’t it?
However, this does not necessarily mean that Anwar will fade away. Pundits have been proclaiming his political demise for years, but like a bad penny he keeps resurfacing.
By continuing this tactic of trying to silence him, the BN makes it impossible for him to become irrelevant either by his own doing or theirs.
If RPK is against personality politics as personified by Anwar, why is he so concerned that someone should “lead” the opposition?
Perhaps, we should take Pet’s advice and not worry too much about personalities. I would rather examine the working relationship between personalities like Mat Sabu and Lim Guan Eng rather than bemoan the fact that someone like Zaid Ibrahim has left the alliance.
Perhaps it was true at one time, the time RPK used to be a rabid supporter of Anwar, that he was indispensable to the party, but the reality is, because Anwar has been bogged down by the internal politics of his own party and his legal troubles, various elements from all three parties have had to work together and find solutions to the problems affecting them.
Unlike Pet, I don’t see the leadership issue as something of a major stumbling block. People vote the opposition because they have lost faith in the BN. They don’t vote for the opposition because they have faith in Anwar.
The leadership issue is a straw man created by BN in the hope of confusing people that the opposition alliance is unstable, and is further subtle indoctrination by them that only with a strong personality can the political party function.
Well, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (left) has shown that he has been ineffectual in controlling the nastier elements of his party and has so far been unable to transform Umno and BN into an alliance which the people can trust or carry out his nation building policies without opposition from racist pressure groups.
Are we to worry of the transition of leadership within the BN? I’m sure many are terrified to see who will replace Najib.
Lessons from Egypt
Pet’s contention that there could never be a Tahrir style revolution in this country goes against conventional wisdom and his own past writings on the subject.
There is no doubt that the Malay community is divided on the issue of who should govern this country.
Add to this Umno’s Sunni (Shafi'e) interpretation of Islam and the fact that everyday more and more foreigners are granted constitutional Malay status, you get an explosive clash of racial and religious identities within one community vying for control of said community’s destiny.
And never forget that the inspiration for this will come from the thousands of “Malay” students sent to the Middle East to expand their knowledge of Islam amongst other ventures.
Non-Malay participation in this would be negligible since although the Chinese community is extremely influential in the economic sphere, their interest have always been subservient to whoever is or is likely to be in power.
If I recall correctly it was RPK himself who said that the non-Malays should stay out of this coming clash and leave it to the Malays to settle it for themselves.
Of course, in those days he proclaimed that it would be Pakatan “Malays” who would protect the non-Malays.
Since when as Malaysian did we become intolerant of infighting between political alliances? And why is it these voters who complain to RPK that they are sick of all the Pakatan infighting would rather vote for BN, which is currently involved in massive infighting of their own but which is never covered by the mainstream media?
Why is it these voters who talk to Pet are extremely angry at the way how the opposition-controlled states are run (even though the Auditor-General has said that Penang is the best-run in the country) and wish to return the BN fold when they seem totally oblivious to the major financial scandals - NFC, Perkim, etc - that have rocked the ruling alliance they so desperately want to return to?
Who are these ignorant voters that keep complaining to Pet about their problems with Pakatan?
I have no idea who these voters are but my advice to them and indeed anyone who is troubled by the revelations made by RPK is to vote according to their conscience and not be taken in by the personalities involved.
What we as a society should do is understand that the evolutionary change that RPK talks about should be about changing our mindset, that only BN can run the country but instead that it is possible that the opposition could run the country too.
We must abandon this shackle that has been indoctrinated in us that only an alliance that has ruled since independence knows what’s good for us.
We must embrace the concept of a two-party system or in this case a two-party alliance not because it is the best method but because for the time being it is the best method for us.
The choice here is either to embrace what is comforting even though we know the corruption that exist within or take a chance and embrace the unfamiliar, a new ruling coalition made up of divergent interests (which is what this country is made up of, anyway).
If the new government made up of Pakatan reps fails us for some reason than we may turn to RPK’s third force and abandon the concept of a two-party alliance system.
But we do this only when we have tried a system which is unknown to us. Whatever your views on the opposition is, they have put in the time and effort and have gone unacknowledged for years.
In a sense they never abandon us, but we abandoned them when it was convenient to do so. I hope we don’t make the same mistake again.
S THAYAPARAN is commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.