Saturday, May 9, 2009

A time for reflection

A time for reflection
10 May, 2009

It is not only the seemingly never-ending engagement that wears me down but also the realisation of the fact that I will be 60 in September next year and I fear I will probably go to my grave without reaching the finishing line of this journey which I started out on back in the 1970s.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Storming the Bastille?

When I first read RPK's article urging people to gather in Ipoh yesterday and to "storm the Bastille", I knew it was a futile attempt. Malaysia is not France a few centuries ago. Although I'm a Perakian and I'm totally disgusted over the illegal power grab in Perak, I was not ready to "storm the Bastille". The most I did was to wear black and to urge those whom I know to do the same.

RPK, for all the following that he has, will not be able to muster one thousand of his readers to his side. This was shown during his detention under the ISA. How many actually attended those candlelight vigils? I'm proud to say I attended but gave up after a few rounds because they were just not creating enough impact with a handful of us and exposed us to the brutality of the police. Most of Malaysia Today's readers are educated middle-class people who are "kiasi" and will not risk it to participate in this kind of activities. They may rant and scream at the Government, but storming the Bastille? You must be joking.

RPK was disappointed with the turnout of PR's supporters yesterday but this morning he wrote another article espousing another perspective. And I think he is right. PR just cannot afford to go head-on with the government right now. Anwar should now better than that. Remember how he mobilised the masses during the height of the Reformasi movement? All they need to do was to go after him and the movement just fizzled out. Look at what they did to Mat Sabu when he tried to call PAS supporters to congregate in Manjoi for morning prayers.

The images of how Sivakumar was dragged out from the State Assembly must surely have won over a number of fence-sitters and made those who were disgusted more disgusted that they will do everything possible to see the demise of the BN-led government in the next GE.

Isn't it better to wait for the Bastille to crumble than to storm it? Yes, go ahead and arrest more people for wearing black or for lighting candles. Please do us the favour.


Fight on RPK!

When RPK decided to starve to death if he was going to get thrown into Kamunting again after losing in the Federal Court, I thought it was a stupid decision. Leaving aside the ethical issue of suicide, I don't see how his death will accomplish anything. He doesn't have enough fanatical following who can organise mass protests to bring down the government. The few who were ready to do the same with him were equally misguided. The BN led government will be elated if they are gone.

So I was happy to know that he has now gone into exile so that they can't put him away for good. Instead of dying, he has decided to fight another day. Continue to be a source of irritation to Najib and his government. Continue to be the conscience of the rakyat. Continue to write on issues that only he dares to write.

RPK, wherever you may be, stay safe. We will eagerly await your return when the BN-led government is no more. Till then, keep on writing.


I sometimes forget that many who are now politically active or politically conscious did not ‘awaken’ until just recently. Some woke up during the BERSIH rally of November 2007. Others during the HINDRAF rally a fortnight or so later. And they demonstrated their awakening a few months later in the March 2008 General Election.

For all intents and purposes, those Malaysians who woke up just woke up. And even though they woke up a year and a half ago, that is still relatively very recent when measured in terms of political dimensions. Time is relative, one might argue. But considering that Malaysia has seen independence for almost 52 years now, a year and a half is a short time in relation to 52 years.

I seriously need to stop measuring people’s responses and actions, or lack of it as the case may be, according to my yardstick. I have been politically active since the late 1970s. That comes to more than 30 years. And, after 30 years in the game, if I may be permitted to call it that although politics is far from a game -- at least for me, although to others it may be just that, a game -- I have grown impatient. I feel 30 years is long enough and it is now time for hard measures to be adopted to bring about change.

The question that lingers on my mind is can politics alone bring about changes in Malaysia? Or will it take more than politics to achieve results? And if more is required what exactly is this ‘more’? I honestly wish I had the answers to these questions but the answers appear to elude me.

My initial exposure to politics was when Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang first came back from the Middle East after graduating from the Medina University. I think he also went to Al Azhar in Cairo but I am not too sure of that. About three or four years later, I went to Mekah where I also met the late Ustaz Fadzil Noor, the then Deputy President of PAS who went on to become its President. That was not long after Anwar Ibrahim left ABIM to join Umno, much to the disgust of most of us.

I spent about three weeks in Mekah and Medina together with Ustaz Fadzil, Ustaz Hadi, Mustapha Ali, Wan Mutallib Embong, and a few others. The three weeks travelling together and sleeping in the same dormitory allowed me to understand the PAS leaders better. Their public image and their ‘private character’ appeared to be a world apart. They were not at all the extremist Muslim fundamentalists the impression the mainstream media gave us.

From that day on I became a hardcore PAS supporter although I never became a party member. The party leaders convinced me that this was a party that was sincere in its agenda and put justice and fair play at the top of its priority list.

The trouble with this though was that in their sincerity they were sometimes too honest and did not understand that in politics it is all about perception -- and to create the right perception you must not say and do things which the mainstream media can use to spin in a negative manner and which will be uncomplimentary to you. In short, sometimes you must play to the gallery and say and do things according to what people expect to see and hear even if that may not be quite honest or the real you.

Anyway, that is another issue altogether and can probably be a subject for another article. Today, I want to talk about other matters.

Once in a while we need to conduct a reality check and get brought back down to earth. When we are too engrossed or submerged in the issue we tend to look at things from ground zero without receiving the benefit of a helicopter view of things. And ground zero and the helicopter view could be two very different scenarios.

My way of engagement is to face the government head-on with total defiance. As far back as the early 1980s, soon after my trip to Mekah and Medina which I mentioned above, I had already run foul of the establishment. The KCK (Ketua Cawangan Khas) for Terengganu was tasked with the job of dealing with me. I had become too involved with PAS and was fast becoming a headache for Umno Terengganu.

They discussed the possibility of detaining me under the Internal Security Act but Justice Sulaiman cautioned them against that. My Emak Sepupu (Aunty, in English) was the then Tengku Ampuan Terengganu (she is sister to the late Agong and Aunty to the present Selangor Sultan) and that would probably trigger a conflict with the palace. But then that was just before the Constitutional Crisis or else they would not have bothered much what the palace thought of my detention.

I was summoned by one of the Umno Exco Members, Haji Mutallib, and told that I had to meet the Menteri Besar at 7.00am the following morning. The following morning, he brought me to the Menteri Besar’s residence where I was briefed about my precarious ‘status’ and told that I was one step away from detention without trial.

I must admit that that put the fear of God in me. After that, I toned down a lot and did not continue too aggressively with my political activities. Whatever support I continued giving PAS I did so mainly in monetary terms. But I stayed away from any public events. It would be better that I remained hidden and just gave the opposition money, leaving them to carry all the risks in opposing the government.

It was not until the early-1990s that I began to surface again -- after a decade of remaining ‘underground’ -- and openly expressed my views, which were of course anti-establishment. The Internet had just made its debut in Malaysia and I found it a very convenient platform to express myself. About five years or so later, Reformasi ‘exploded’ and I found myself being somehow dragged into the movement. I don’t know how that happened but I have never looked back since.

The 30-year journey I embarked upon was a very long journey indeed. And I am now feeling very weary. It is not only the seemingly never-ending engagement that wears me down but also the realisation of the fact that I will be 60 in September next year and I fear I will probably go to my grave without reaching the finishing line of this journey which I started out on back in the 1970s. And probably how I write and what I write about reveals this impatience and desperation in me.

Yes, I am frustrated. And I take my frustrations out on Malaysians who I view as not living up to what they say. When it comes to talking, what they say can excite you to the point of giving you an orgasm. But when it comes to walking the talk, as what titthoughts said in the posting above, please do not depend on Malaysians. Those who walk the talk are very few.

I was an idealist once, maybe 30 years or so ago. I would like to believe I am now a realist and no longer an idealist. But maybe I am not yet enough of a realist and still have that idealist streak in me. Or maybe I swing between being a realist one day and an idealist the next. I really don’t know.

Whatever it may be, though, I have to stop expecting others to keep to my tempo. I have travelled along this road for more than 30 years now. Others are just beginning that same journey. But what took me 30 years will probably take others lesser than that because of the power of today’s media and communications, which was non-existent back in the 1970s.

Anyway, I will stop here for now. Tomorrow, I will write about where I expect to go from here and what I think awaits me in the road ahead. No doubt this is about me. But I would like to believe that what I have to say also concerns the thoughts, aspirations and dreams of most Malaysians.

Till later and take care.

VIDEO: The Great DUN Perak fiasco (

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