I was quite amused to wake up this morning to the article below by Dtk Zaid Ibrahim.
Let me be the very first to say that this correspondance isn’t really worth your time (I just had a spare minute and couldn’t help myself). There are a lot more important things going on. So I won’t be offended in the least if you’re not bothered to read. I too should be shifting my focus to things of bigger consequence for the nation.
Not having the best English in the world, I had to look up the meaning of ‘effete’. All I can say is that it’s a step up from ‘bangsat‘ I guess :)
(He’s right about the snob part though, as my close friends can attest to).
Anyway, my article seem to have rubbed him the wrong way, and must apologise for the slight. I don’t think much response is warranted, but what little may be I insert below:
There are many columnists who write about politics and politicians. The worst of the lot is Nathaniel Tan. Last week he wrote a lengthy article in Malaysiakini about politicians and political activists who, according to him, have no integrity and credibility.
He named Dato’ Ibrahim Ali, Datuk S. Nallakaruppan and me as the undesirable ones. His yardstick or measure is simple: if a politician has changed political party more than once, then he is unprincipled and unreliable.
nat: :) As I wrote earlier on Twitter Dtk, you certainly usually have more refined, progressive and admirable views than either gentlemen quoted above. I cannot really say you have more staying power though, in all honesty. Many of the people I was referring to (I suppose others like Wee Choo Keong and Zulkifli Nordin also fit the bill), had a big fight with the current elected leaders of their party, and decided to say forget them, I’m going to go my own way. Was it because of principle, or was it because of ego? I guess every rakyat has to decide that for themselves.
So this professor of integrity has now introduced a new prescription for political integrity: if a politician stays loyal to his party despite having to accommodate and accept many things that are against his beliefs and principles, then he is good and has integrity. Such a person has a larger picture, according to Nathaniel, and is therefore desirable.
In Nathaniel’s simple world, if a politician changes party once, he is still acceptable; but more than once and he is a frog. Why does it depend on the number of times he changes party?
nat: I suppose it matters less how many times, but just from recent observation in Malaysia, it happens that those who move more than once tend to do so for…. less admirable reasons, usually? Just my personal observation, maybe I’m wrong.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad left UMNO because of his hatred of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He then rejoined the party after Pak Lah retired. This is good principle for Nathaniel, whereas in my case my actions were unprincipled – but he forgets that UMNO sacked me. Does this count as one “jump”?
nat: It is very rare indeed that I consider anything Tun Mahathir does to be based on ‘good principle’. This case is definitely no different. Quitting Umno in protest of Tun Abdullah is really more in the vein of a drama queen than it is a statesman.
In Nathaniel’s view it was my fault regardless. I did not have a bigger picture. Perhaps I was too critical. Leaving PKR (two moves now) was also undesirable because I should have stayed on even if it meant that I had to condone electoral cheating and power manipulation.
In Nathaniel’s calculus, one has to be blindly loyal at the cost of one’s own principles to qualify as having integrity. There must be many Nazis that Nathaniel is proud of, seeing as they stood by Hitler to the bitter end. On the other hand, Sir Winston S. Churchill must be a spineless party-hopper since he crossed from the Conservatives to the Liberals then back again. Churchill had many qualities – some good, others bad – but lacking principle or integrity is not one of them.
nat: Yeah, I just love the Nazis. Come on, who doesn’t? (Don’t worry, we won’t apply Godwin’s law :) Had Dtk Zaid read my article from beginning to end, I stated clearly that should a party truly abandon its principles, then it is time to abandon said party. Has it? I look at some of the people still within the party, and measure their decisions against their credibility, the tests of integrity they have endured, and what I know of them personally. If PKR is good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for me. A fair number of people were dissatisfied with the last PKR elections (I certainly voted for a *lot* of people that didn’t win). If Dtk Zaid has proof of “electoral cheating and power manipulation”, I humbly beg him to step forward with and make the appropriate reports to the Registrar of Societies, PDRM, etc, so that we can save the party from people who usurp elections, as well as . If however he does not have proof that would withstand public scrutiny, how does he know for sure himself that there was electoral fraud?
Who is this pompous writer to go around with his own constructed “integrity-barometer” castigating others for lack of principle? If he wants to test his mettle and is willing to let others measure the level of integrity in his system, then I bid him welcome to the world of politics.
Giving one’s opinion about other people is the easiest thing to do. Unless you are also in a political party, you will never understand the travails and difficulties one faces. Politics is a difficult discipline and the choices one has to make are never easy.
It would be better if effete snobs like Nathaniel were less judgmental and harsh about politicians unless they would like to join the Club too. Taking cheap shots from the gallery does little more than display the lack of backbone he would like to accuse others of.
nat: thank you for your kind welcome, Dtk. You joined Umno in 2000, definitely making you my senior in politics. I might not be able however to defer to your seniority within PKR alas, given that unless I’m mistaken, my membership which began in 2007 predates yours (it’s not often I can talk about my membership with vague pride rather than vague embarrassment, thanks for the opportunity :). Your stint in the party though, was longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage, so it’s all good.
We all worked hard for Dtk Zaid in Hulu Selangor. I have no regrets. The coalition chose a candidate, we supported him. I also know some of Dtk Zaid’s family, cool people. So if there’s any personal animosity, it certainly won’t come from this pompous, effete snob :)
Just today, Dtk Zaid and DS Anwar seemed to have a little make up on Twitter, which is all well and good. It’s a little hard to tell where Dtk Zaid and Kita stands at any given time, but I guess that’s not really a major concern. Regardless, I do wish him all the best.
Should I ever come across compelling reasons to change any of my positions, I hope I shall always have the humility to do so. In this case, I alas cannot say I have, so with humble apologies, I will stick to what I wrote in my original article. In summary, I still believe consistency and knowing when to subdue one’s ego still counts for something in this world.