Humble thanks to all who had kind words about my article.
Allow me to once again offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to The Malaysian Insider for being the first ever to host my column – it’s been a great relationship, they’ve been very good to me, and I bring with me many positive memories.
I’m also feeling good about the move to Malaysiakini, and look forward to walking down some meaningful roads together :)
Around the time my article was published, RPK also published what he said was proof of corruption in Selangor. True to RPK style, it contained quite lurid detail.
Since its publication, I’m glad to note that just about all of the accused have stepped up to set the record straight.
Now, I’m all for weeding out corruption, especially in Pakatan held states. But for corruption to be weeded out, first it has to be true :P
I can’t comment much right now on this Johan Taharin matter, as I have never heard of him. I’m not sure what use being Azmin Ali’s brother in law would be though, since Azmin holds no official posts within the Selangor state government structure. Those familiar with PKR politics would probably also doubt his ability to exert undue influence over the current Menteri Besar. If the following accusations are anything to go by, let’s just say it gives plenty of reason to doubt the credibility of the first one.
(ps- I see that Malaysia Today gallantly publishes all sorts of articles and blog posts, even those that are critical of RPK. Great! I wonder if they could also publish my Malaysiakini article and this blog post? No reason not too, right? Thanks!!)
(edit: I have just been kindly informed that the reason this is so is because Malaysia Today cannot run articles by Malaysiakini, which is perfectly understandable. Thanks and apologies!)
Allow me to reproduce the rest of the accusations and responses:
This next case is regarding some scams involving the amount of legal work dished out by the legal department of MBPJ. This work is being given exclusively to a group of lawyers who are all PKR leaders.
This large amount of legal work to these chosen few has caused immense unhappiness amongst the other Pakatan Rakyat council members in MBPJ, who have chosen to remain silent for the sake of ‘party unity’. They feel that if they speak out that may jeopardise Pakatan Rakyat’s chances of retaining Selangor in the next general election.
The principle characters are lawyers Derrick Fernandez and Lateefa Koya, who are also both MBPJ councillors and PKR leaders, the Member of Parliament for Subang, R. Sivarasa, and the newly-minted Vice President of PKR, N. Surendran. Lateefa is also employed by Daim and Gamany, Sivara’s legal firm.
A good chunk of the legal work in MBPJ has been diverted to the firms of Sivarasa, Surendran and Derrick through the influence of Lateefa Koya and Derrick. After all, this is a PKR-controlled council. Is this not corruption, or at least a conflict of interest?
Anwar Ibrahim is fully aware of this but does nothing about it. And Anwar does not need me to provide any figures or documents because the accounts can be procured from the MBPJ.
MBPJ has to be transparent and reveal the exact amount of work given to these three firms and the total fees paid over the few years that Pakatan Rakyat has ruled Selangor.
Daim and Gamany has moved from their humble office in the ‘slum’ Masjid India area to a new swank office near MBPJ. Surendran, on the other hand, is no longer the poor lawyer he used to be. He used to travel around in a beaten-up Proton Saga begging for work. Now, he is chauffer-driven in an expensive continental car. Talk about rags to riches in the blink of an eye.
Let’s start with Derek – not Derrick – Fernandez, who wrote in an SMS, quoted verbatim:
Sallam, raja petra has written in his web site today that i get legal work from mbpj in article on his blog. The statement is a lie and false. Neither I nor my firm have ever done any legal work for mbpj . This can be verified with the mayor or en mutallib the director of the legal department in mbpj. My firm has never ever been on the panel of mbpj. An examination of the list of laywers on the panel will confirm this . Furthermore the is no such firm as derrick fernandez and co . My name is also wrongly spelt. This guy must have his facts wrong . i dont know whats his grouse .frm Derek fernandez ,Cc datuk bandar, mutalib
As for Suren:
“Raja Petra Kamarudin in making that allegation is an absolute and utter liar,” he told reporters at PKR headquarters. “I have never received any kind of legal work from the PJ City Council or Selangor government, or any government department.
“In fact, since I took up public activism in 1998, I have never received a single sen for any kind of legal work, political work or activist work that I’ve done in 13 years.”
“It’s very indicative of the kind of person Raja Petra is that he’s capable of repeating these kinds of complete lies in a public manner,” Surendran said.
Referring to one of the blogger’s allegations, he said he did not receive an “intercontinental car” after becoming a PKR vice-president, but had bought one with his own money before he entered public activism.
Now, calling someone a liar is quite a strong thing. In the event that someone has said something that is untrue however, regardless of all the other true things he may or may not have said, the term must be said to be technically correct.
I think I can personally vouch for Suren’s fervent dedication to very pure ideas about activism and keeping one’s hands clean. (In fact, I was amazed he took up the vice presidency – clearly proving he’s one willing to make sacrifices for the bigger picture I was going on about)
As for Daim & Gamany?
This firm helped me out a bit after my arrest in 2007. If I recall correctly, I went to their office then, which was quite stylish (and not, to my recollection, anywhere near the Masjid India area). I’ve also recently seen where they’ve moved to currently – which RPK rightly pointed out, is not too far from MBPJ, and is very close to my favourite chicken rice shop (Satellite) on Jalan Gasing.
This is what it looks like:
You can try to fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
In case you’re interested, here’s my debut MK article:
“But it was my integrity that was important… It sells for so little, but it’s all we have left in this place. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free… An inch. It’s small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away.”
That inch is the final measure of a man or woman. Honour it, and you go to your grave without a single regret; dishonour it, and you risk making everything you’ve ever done meaningless. Which category are you in?
(Let me say at the outset that I have no interest in pursuing some personal feud with RPK or anyone else. As my father says, friends are friends, business is business. I’m not interested in seeing who can shout the loudest or with the most bravado; only in separating sound and fury from tried and true values.)
Malaysia is home to a great number of politicians, activists and commentators that have ‘switched sides’ any number of times.
Examples include Ibrahim Ali, the frog we most like to point to; the three Perak assemblymen who toppled their state government; KS Nallakarupan who went from MIC to PKR to whatever obscure place he is now (not unlike Zaid Ibrahim I suppose).
The record for political promiscuity might be held by Lim Boo Chang who went from Gerakan to MCA to PKR and now wants to go back to Gerakan.
From past observation, I think my conclusion is: the people with the most credibility are the ones who never change sides.
In second place are the ones who change sides only once. Anyone who changes more than that is basically a joke. The question we will all eventually be asked is: which category are you in?
People tend to be unforgiving of flip-flops and people who fail to stay the course. I think individuals like Hasan Ali are currently learning this lesson the hard way.
After all, one cannot credibly implicate a man in a brutal murder one day and the next happily offer him advice on how to reform his party.
We note as well the honey trap comments and subtle instigations by RPK (right) and Zaid which imply that Anwar’s homosexuality is a given, and deviously try to shift the currently irrelevant discourse as to whether Malaysia is ready for a gay PM.
The simple test is to see whether someone changes their positions based on principle, or based on expediency – the latter of which comes in many forms: money, power, and perhaps most underrated of all, ego. The former demonstrates itself through consistency, objectivity and genuine independence. Which category are you in?
The Ezam syndrome
There is a phenomenon quite common in Malaysia that I like to describe as the Ezam syndrome.
I believe that aspiring politicians in Malaysia should take great care in pursuing a parallel profession or source of income.
Failure to do so essentially compromises one’s own financial independence, and stakes his or her entire relevance on their political career.
The problem with this of course is that should you ever have a political fallout with the powers that be, most people would find themselves pretty much screwed out of options.
A great many who have met such a fate found themselves grasping at straws (BN) to maintain their public relevance and/or their livelihoods.
When people enter this unhappy stage, you’ll begin to observe them becoming the epitome of self-contradiction, where everything they once fought for starts coming undone at their own hands.
While they make tire screeching U-turns and reverse all their positions, they’ll protest with Mahathiresque reality distortion fields (to borrow from Steve Jobs) that they are in fact sticking to the same principles they have stuck to all along.
It’s a sad thing to observe – the lack of anchoring principles as the greats succumb to sacrificing their last inch to stay afloat and relevant.
This phenomenon is observable not only in politicians, alas, but also sometimes in political observers.
RPK has, as he rightly points out, always been critical. I’m just not sure he’s always been constructive. People talk of his being bought over, but I wouldn’t presume to drawing conclusions without proof.
By my reckoning though, the motivations of his most recent comments seem at best to be fueled by the ego of a man who believes he is always right, a man who likes to be seen as someone who says whatever he damn well pleases, whenever he damn well pleases.
That’s great for chest thumping, but I’m uncertain how much it helps the nation.
Notably, not everyone who falls out with their bosses or allies end up this way. PKR itself is a good example of a great many people who have left out of disillusionment with Anwar and the party leadership, but did so relatively gracefully – no tantrums, no trying to wash dirty linen in public.
Names such as Rahman Othman or Marina Yusuff may not mean much (as say, Chandra Muzaffar) to most of us, given how they chose to fade somewhat into obscurity after leaving the party.
They may be out of the limelight now, but if ever they return, I daresay there’s a good chance they’ll do so with their integrity intact. I can’t help thinking though, that the same cannot be said of others. Which category are you in?
Political parties: Warts and all
When I was working for PKR around 2007-2008, I liked to joke about how critics of the party were so angry about what was often misinformation; I always said, if only they really knew all the truths that the party insiders did, then they’d have a lot more to get much, much angrier about.
The odd thing was though, that those insiders – many of them being some of the most honourable, principled people I have every had the privilege to meet – chose to stick with the movement, warts and all.
It doesn’t sit easy with me when people with half those principles try to suggest that those who stay on do so out of fanatic devotion to any one person or some misguided loyalty to blind partisanship. I believe they stayed because they kept their focus on the bigger picture.
I know RPK cares little for Anwar, and the way things are run in PKR. That’s certainly his right, and if he feels that Anwar’s loyal lieutenants should be removed from the party leadership, there’s a way for doing so that he may have heard of: it’s called elections.
The world looks a little different to people who’ve actually put themselves out there and contested an election.
We also note with ironic interest RPK’s vague comments regarding alleged corruption in Selangor, given that by far the greatest disgruntlement against Khalid Ibrahim’s administration (who, I should disclose, I work for), is that Selangor is now run so cleanly that the contracts that used to feed the political machinery and sycophants alike are no longer up for grabs. I guess that’s the sort of thing that would frustrate people.
There is an entire universe of things I would really, really like to change within PKR if I could. Not everything RPK says about the party and its internal dynamics is baseless – not by a long shot.
Ideology plays second fiddle to personality in almost every single Malaysian political party, a sad reflection of our political maturity.
Many BN party factions are divided internally along the interests of different sets of cronies, where discernible policy differences are manufactured to be justifications of factional divisions, instead of being the root of them. PKR, DAP and to a slightly lesser extent PAS suffer similar symptoms.
In PKR, alongside some of the most sincere, principled, hardworking people I know, there are fanatic Anwaristas, people out to make a quick buck, and people who just manage to be vexing on an amazing number of levels.
The funny thing though, is that the final nature of any organisation is determined in the end by the people inside it, not the people outside it.
I don’t harbour any delusions of grandeur as to how big a role someone like me can play in such an organisation here and now.
I will also freely admit (and borrow from Aragon when I say) that a day may come when the courage of PKR fails, when they forsake friends and break all bonds of fellowship and principle.
On such a day, I too may part ways with the party, but it is not this day.
I know too many people within that do not follow just one man and believe everything he says out of blind, unwavering loyalty.
This is a principle we would do well to follow both in Anwar’s case as well as RPKs.
The bigger picture
A lot of people like to say things like: “The voters are saying it. I am telling you what the voters are saying.” Quite frankly, I put no stock in the views of armchair critics (much less those who are perpetually overseas) who don’t do any scientific study of such things.
One of the few merits of political aspirants is that they are the only ones willing to get into the ring and put their money where their mouth is in finding out exactly what voters are saying.
Some people predict change, others make them – which category are you in?
Democracy is a process that needs to be participated in, not a banner to be waved around while trying to fulfil an agenda by means entirely undemocratic.
If you want to back one person or another, do so by all means – but ultimately, don’t be misguided into thinking that there are shortcuts to gaining the support of the majority.
This runs foul of the basic lesson those like RPK himself have tried so hard to instill: that people are not stupid.
Many of us agree on the need for a better Malaysia. Some of us even agree on what that better Malaysia looks like. Agreement on how to get there is even harder to find.
After all the time I’ve spent observing and working on Malaysian issues, I think my analysis is the same: the biggest bottleneck is political. No nation ruled by the same government for half a century can claim to be healthy. Rot inevitably sets in.
Those who are willing to set aside our ego and see the bigger picture know that our journey is one of many steps – steps that will likely have to be taken in sequence, at least until the day actually comes that Pakatan Rakyat truly abandons all principles.
Political change is far, far from the be all end all. In my ‘spare time’, I dream up ideal alternative political systems and structures that address all the evils and shortcomings of a two party system and move power from politicians to people.
But my dreams will not yet help Selvach; they won’t prevent another Sarbani or Beng Hock; and they sure won’t help Malaysians get the healthcare, education and quality of life that’s denied to them by constant plundering and corruption. Not yet, anyway.
What will help them in the near future is a robust two party system; and a two party system does not exist in a nation that has only known one government.
Once we cross that hurdle, I’d bet my bottom dollar that we’ll all be back here pressuring the new government to behave the way it’s supposed to, or get them voted out like the last one.
So, I figure we can help make that happen, or we can continue to try and sow the seeds of discord, disunity and doubt. Which category are you in?