Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad today told the police to go ahead and arrest him for attending the Bersih 4 rally when he returned to the Subang Airport from the Czech Republic.
I would be disappointed if Mahathir had said otherwise or disappeared from Malaysia to escape any police dragnet.
As political leaders, we must stand up for the rights of the people and do not run away from the police if we have done no wrong.
I was advised against returning to Kuala Lumpur during the May 13, 1969 riots as I had flown to Kota Kinabalu on the morning of May 13, 1969 to campaign for the Independent candidate in Kota Kinabalu, but I returned to Kuala Lumpur although I was warned that I was on the blacklist of Internal Security Act arrests, as I felt that my place was with the people of Malaysia in their hour of need and trouble and not to seek personal refuge and safety abroad. I was then 28 years old.
Anwar Ibrahim could have stayed overseas to avoid serving jail sentence in the Sodomy II political trial, and he was advised by his many friends abroad including from Turkey and Indonesia to continue his political struggle for freedom and justice for the people of Malaysia from exile instead of undergoing incarceration in jail, but Anwar never hesitated for a moment that his place is in the country with the people of Malaysia, even if it is within four walls of a Malaysian jail in the latest episode of his political persecution. Anwar was 67 years old when starting his fourth incarceration.
I have had a lot of political differences with Mahathir in my five decades of politics in Malaysia, but just as I never thought of running overseas despite the gathering of storm clouds in the run-up to Operation Lalang which resulted in my second ISA detention of 18 months when I was 36 years old, I want to salute Mahathir for not flinching from any possibility of police action for his speech and participation in the Bersih 4 rally on August 29 and 30. Mahathir has celebrated his 90 birthday.
What Malaysia needs are not political opportunists which are aplenty but political leaders of conviction who are prepared to pay the price for their political principles and beliefs.
I find thehe present breed of political opportunists, like their predecessors, equally distasteful as they are doing the greatest disservice to the country.
In this connection, I call on UMNO/BN Ministers and leaders not to wear blinkers about Mahathir – regarding all he said now as wrong when during his 22-year premiership, idolising all he said as right even when he was wrong.
I will never do this. When Mahathir was at the height of his power, I have no hesitation in speaking truth to power even if the price was another spell of Internal Security Act detention.
Similarly, if what Mahathir does or says now is right and good for the country, I have no hesitation in supporting or praising him, as I will not allow his past iniquities and failings to stand in the way of commending him when he is doing the right thing.
What I find most despicable are politicians who have neither principle nor honour and whose only interest and obsession is to climb up the greasy pole to political influence and power even if the price is having to prostitute themselves.
One such example are UMNO politicians playing the race card about the Bersih 4 rally distorting it as a Chinese show-of-force and challenge to Malay political power when it had no tinge of racialism whatsoever, and Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, colour, gender or even politics had converged in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu for the common cause of good governance and free, fair elections which transcended race completely.
As Mahathir said this morning, there is no need for any “Red Shirt” Malay rally to counter Bersih 4, as it was not a question about race but about good governance.
But even more despicable than UMNO politicians who are trying to play the race card over the Bersih 4 rally are MCA and Gerakan politicians who could go so low as to concoct grounds to help the opportunistic UMNO politicians to play the race card, such as declaiming that “growing Malay anger towards the Chinese community should be blamed solely on DAP” when there is no basis for any “growing Malay anger” in the first place.
These opportunistic MCA and Gerakan politicians (who are best described as “Dead Men Walking”) made baseless allegations that the DAP had “hijacked” and taken over control and command of Bersih 4 (although the Malaysian Special Branch, one of the best police intelligence forces in the world could find no such evidence) and that DAP must be responsible when isolated incidents like stepping on Najib and PAS President Hadi Awang’s photo or the burning of hell notes to Najib took place.
DAP had right from the beginning deplored such incidents although DAP leaders had no first-hand knowledge about them, like the two Bersih 4 rally participants who stomped on the picture of Najib and Hadi as this is not the political or civic culture we want to promote in Malaysia.
In rebutting my disapproval of senseless act like stomping on picture of political leaders, some MCA and Gerakan leaders claimed that they have evidence that at the Perak DAP State Convention in November 2009, I had stomped on the pictures of former Perak Pakatan Rakyat Assembly members whose defection from PR had resulted in the collapse of the PR Perak State Government in February 2009.
My media statement of 4th December 2009, which I am reproducing in full, explained the circumstances and why I maintain that I had not stomped on the photograph of any political leader in my nearly 50 years in politics:
“Perak DAP convention doormat incident a lesson to all politicians
“ 4th December 2009
“The Perak DAP convention doormat incident on Sunday (30th November 2009) was not the best of political judgment, taste or example.
“I was taken by surprise when confronted with the doormat and tried to avoid stepping on the three pictures but not completely with success.
“I fully share the apology made by the DAP leadership over the incident. In fact, I had on the very same day of the convention suggested to the Perak DAP leadership to tender a public apology over the incident.
“The Perak DAP convention doormat incident is a lesson to all politicians to be particularly mindful about sensitivities of Malaysians in a plural society and the propensity of irresponsible politicians to turn a non-racial issue into a racial one.
“The DAP leadership has learnt from the mistake.
“But have the UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaderships learnt any lessons, whether before or after? The answers to both can only be in the negative.”
On the same day, 4th December 2009, the then Perak DAP State Chairman Ngeh Koo Ham issued the following statement:
“DAP Perak takes full responsibility for the 3 frogs door-mat incident at the DAP Perak Annual Convention. DAP leaders who were invited to the convention should not be blamed, UMNO and BN leaders who criticized Lim Kit Siang over the incident has no sense of justice and are hypocrites for failing to criticize their own members who have acted in more terrible manner
“DAP Perak takes full responsibility for the 3 frogs (3 Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives who defected) door-mat incident at the DAP Perak Annual Convention and we have apologised to all Malaysians who felt offended by the incident.
“DAP leaders including YB Lim Kit Siang, the Chief Minister Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng and the leaders PKR and PAS who were also invited to the convention are not to be blamed. As the door mat was placed across the entrance to the convention hall, all persons entering the hall will have to step on the door mat.
“UMNO leaders have singled out YB Lim Kit Siang for attack. This is totally unjustified and it clearly show their lack of the sense of justice.
“The door-mat was not placed by YB Lim Kit Siang and all persons entering the convention hall would have also stepped on the door-mat.
“UMNO leaders who criticized the incident are hypocrites as they failed to show the same displeasure when BN/UMNO members did similarly or worse in the following incidences:-
(i) UMNO members stepping on the portrait of Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon last year.
(ii) BN members burning the portrait of the Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng, recently.
(iii) Perak BN Youth tearing the portraits of YB Lim Kit Siang, my portrait and other PR Leaders.
(iv) The storming of APCET II (Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor) meeting by UMNO Youth.
(v) UMNO Youth Chief, Khairy Bin Jamaluddin behaving in an unruly manner during the visit of the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Condoleeza Rice, to Malaysia.”
Malaysian politics and public life can do with greater civility, rationality and even humility instead of the barbarity, irrationality, cockiness and arrogance seem to abound at present in certain political circles in Malaysia.
DAP leaders are setting an example in promoting the civic and political culture of civility, rationality and humility. Are UMNO/BN leaders prepared to do the same?