May There Be Many More Such Encounters!

by M. Bakri Musa

I congratulate Ustaz Sheikh Mahmud for bringing Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim together recently for a luncheon honoring Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. I also applaud Anwar and Abdullah for their very public display of civility towards each other on that occasion.

Along the same vein, I am pleased to see on the last day of the UMNO General Assembly Tun Mahathir and Abdullah Badawi shaking hands. Despite the many harsh exchanges between them recently, at least they could still manage a brief show of courtesy. Supporters and commentators may read many things on that, but the fact they could bury their personal differences even if only momentarily is praiseworthy enough.

Such public gestures of cordiality and mutual respect are sadly lacking in our society today. As with everything else, we could only change that if we have some very visible examples set by our leaders. We can do without such obscene displays as when a supposedly “Honorable Member” calling the Deputy Prime Minister a murderer in the hallowed hall of Parliament, or the Minister of Education branding the leader of the Opposition “a traitor to Malays!” Splendid example for our school children!

I wish academics as well as heads of NGOs, think tanks, and professional bodies would emulate Sheikh Mahmud. They too should bring together our leaders to discuss issues that deeply affect us in settings other than the political arena.

Unnecessary Conspiracy Theories

It reflects the rarity of the event, as well as the volatility of the current political climate, that a social encounter between Anwar and Abdullah would raise eyebrows among local political observers. Otherwise perceptive and sensible commentators are reduced to concocting mysterious conspiracy theories purportedly to explain and interpret such a happening.

We should all relax and quit being suspicious or invoke conspiratorial tones lest we might discourage or frighten other leaders from taking similar initiatives. Even if Anwar and Abdullah had discussed nothing more than their host’s rendang on that day, the fact that they had shared lunch together at the same table was enough. Anwar and Abdullah need not apologize for what they did. On the contrary they should thank their host publicly and profusely for that opportunity.

Anwar should not dismiss the meeting as mere “coincidence.” Even if it were so, he should still make full use of the opportunity. Likewise, Abdullah should not pretend, as he did, that Anwar “unexpectedly” dropped by. Yes, I know this is Malaysia, and an invitation from a friend of a friend to visit another friend is valid enough!

Imagine if either Anwar or Abdullah were to have said something along this line: Someone from the Ustaz’s office had approached me about the meeting and I readily agreed to it. To add some religious pizzazz to the response, make some references to the sunnah (practices) of the Holy Prophet to suit the occasion. The one that readily comes to mind would be the Prophet’s offer to negotiate with the Meccan leaders that culminated with their signing the peace treaty at Hudaybiyyah. That spared a potentially bloody battle between the followers of the prophet and the then pagan Meccans.

If Anwar or Abdullah had responded thus to the many ensuing queries instead of trying to dismiss this important encounter, even it was truly happenstance, imagine the valuable message of reconciliation and respect it would have sent to the citizens, especially their followers.

I am also pleased that Anwar had brought along his wife Azizzah. I wish that Abdullah too would have done the same. Spouses of leaders play a major role in moderating and supporting their respective wives and husbands.

I am not in tune with the Malaysian social protocol, but arriving after the Prime Minister on any occasion is definitely a “No! No!” However, Anwar had a ready explanation for his late arrival as he had to put up with some shenanigans at the courthouse.

Learning From Others

During the height of the American presidential election last year, candidates Barack Obama and John McCain took time off from their hectic campaigns for a joint appearance at the annual charity event, the Alfred E Smith Foundation Dinner, where they poked fun at each other (and shared the same dining table).

Similarly, former Presidents Bush, Sr., and Clinton, once fierce political competitors, were able to combine their considerable influence and prestige to head a charitable fund to help victims of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

As Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman made it his practice to invite Members of Parliament and their spouses for a social evening of joget dancing at the Sri Perdana on the opening day of Parliament. The Tunku was a gracious host; he knew how to make his guests feel at home and have an enjoyable evening. Even parliamentarians from PAS felt at ease at such parties.

Such social interactions serve a very useful purpose; they help smooth and cement relationships in other spheres. Such interactions are what enabled the late Tan Chee Koon, Malaysia’s “Mr. Opposition,” to be a trenchant critic of the government and yet earned the admiration of government leaders.

It is not a surprise that the Selangor state government under Datuk Harun, an UMNO ultra, gave Tan, a socialist and in the opposition, a land grant for him to build Sentosa Hospital. Such goodwill gestures across the political (and also racial) divide are unimaginable today. Witness the current very ugly and public spat between Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and his predecessor Khir Toyo. And they are both Malays! Imagine if they were of different races! As it is, you can bet that you would not find them at each other’s “Open House” during Hari Raya.

Speaking of Hari Raya “Open House,” it was commendable of Anwar to be at Abdullah’s soon after he (Anwar) was released from prison. Alas, that was then. It seemed so very long ago!

UMNO Youth used to organize an annual social golf tournament with its counterpart in Singapore’s PAP Youth. To say that the political philosophies of UMNO and PAP are poles apart would be an understatement, yet their members were able to set that aside for an afternoon of friendly rivalry on the greens. If UMNO Youth could this with the PAP, why not with PAS Pemuda? If those folks at PAS are not into golf, then why not try Quran reading sessions or a zikir barat?

Instead we have that ugly scene of Hishammuddin calling Anwar Ibrahim a traitor. Even factoring in the highly partisan atmosphere of the recently concluded UMNO General Assembly, I still find Hishammuddin’s utterances offensive and unpardonable. And this guy fancies himself leading UMNO and our country some day!

I hope that new Prime Minister Najib Razak would reinstate the Tunku’s practice of having a social gala at the “People’s Palace” in Putrajaya on the opening day of Parliament so our legislators and their spouses, as well as senior government officials, could get together for an evening of fun and relaxation. Surely those folks could put politics aside for the evening.

I would also like our future Prime Minister to make it his practice of meeting regularly with the leader of the opposition to discuss pending major legislations. That would also help smooth out Parliament’s operations.

It would be too much to expect Najib and Anwar to spend a quiet social evening together as President Reagan did with the Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Of course it is not the place for Anwar to seek such regular meetings, but it would be the courteous and civilized thing for Najib as Prime Minster to initiate the gesture, just as Reagan did with O’Neill.

There was something else remarkable and heartening about the Mauludal Nabi event at Ustaz Sheikh Mahmud Al-Mazjub’s place, quite apart from the presence of both Anwar and Abdullah. The occasion was also graced by the presence of not only ulamas from neighboring countries but also the head of the Buddhist Monastery in Bangkok.

I hope that our leaders and Malaysians generally would learn something from this great alim, and that at our next national Maludal Nabi event we should also invite the heads of other religious organizations in the country. We should go further and expect our leaders to visit each other’s “Open House” during the festive seasons. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! That would truly be a worthy legacy for this great alim.

  1. #1 by OrangRojak on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 10:58 am

    We should all relax and quit being suspicious
    If only we could all afford to emigrate to the Valley, I expect we would.

  2. #2 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 12:52 pm

    What is the purpose of smiling and pretended to be nice, and later put one under ISA?

    Once they left the place, the started stabbing keris against each other, from the back. I think that is the worst behavior

  3. #3 by monsterball on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 1:12 pm

    M.Barki Musa is a 100% pro UMNO….and a racialist. Such sickening Malaysian.. hopes UMNO will rule forever.
    Always forget or ignore those are big time corrupted crooks. Harun was jailed for cheating…all forgotten…just talk what few good deeds done to benefit Malaysians.
    Sure enough……Mahathir is now a hero UMNO.
    Just because of 3 by-elections…new stunts are created…telling all Malays unite as one…under UMNO.

  4. #4 by puteri pinang on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 1:20 pm

    There’s never enemy in politics. So we sensible rakyat pls don’t get excited over what the uumno leaders and ex-leaders said.

  5. #5 by taiking on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 2:10 pm

    That is the problem. I blame it on umno and their narrow mindedness. To them everything is about power and wealth preservation – all done in the meaningless and deceiving name of “malay rights”.

    They go to extremes to preserve their wealth and positions. Every little threat they perceive would be dealt with unfarily and unjustifiably severely and mercilessly. ISA is used very generously against anyone who does not agree with them or their ways or their ideas. They even have the cheek to call for revocation of citizenship when such act is constitutionally not possible.

    They see non-umnoputras who are non-malays as unwelcomed visitors to the country. And they see non-umnoputras who are malays as traitors. In other words, to them no one is worthy of the country except them. No one deserves to enjoy the wealth of the country except them. But they forgot that wealth may exist but usually not in a form which is readily and immediately exploitable for economic gain. They must be cultivated or nurtured or mined or somehow worked upon before they can yeild any commercial benefits.

    In short, it is like a cake, and a cake cannot make itself. Someone must first acquire the necessary cake making skills and then get the basic ingredients and finally take the trouble to make the cake. The economic cake of malaysia was made mainly through the effort of non-umnoputras who are non-malays. They have no problem sharing the cake with anyone. Actually, chinese live by this principle: “You good. I good. Everyone good.” To mat sallehs this is translated to mean “win-win”.

    Therefore letting the rest of malaysian to enjoy the cake was never seriously resisted by the chinese. As a matter of principle – by and large – they can accept the argument that malays too need to have a share. But problems would surface when someone come along and claim a large chunck of the cake as of right in the deceiving name of malay rights. Any resistance to such claims would be met with grossly unfair treatment (ISA etc etc) and threats of citizenship revocation and threats of a repeat of may 13.

    That is umno after 50 yrs. Enough. Reject them. Vote pakatan.

  6. #6 by wanderer on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 2:32 pm

    This sort of courteous behavior can only be seen with mature politicians and education. One wonders when this will ever happen again, since Tunku was the premier.
    UMNO today are breeding samseng, hooligans and gangster in their lower tier of future leaders in their party…expect them to behave in a civilized manner?…… High hope!
    Any decent bloke will offer help to a handicapped, to these celaka UMNO, they will do the reverse…a simple less educated man in the street will not imagine himself doing what these celaka permuda UMNO did, felt so proud about it….puiiiiiit!

  7. #7 by mauriyaII on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 2:32 pm

    I for one do not subscribe to superficiality. What is the use of being a hypocrite such as Mamakthir who was vicious in his attacks on AAB just because he did not proceed with the crooked bridge which was one of the mamak’s visionary projects. He even went to the extent to resign from UMNO just because he did not have his way. He rejoins UMNO when AAB relinquishes his postion as PM.

    It is the way of the mamak. To smile and come up with platitudes when it suits him but to sharpen the blade to plunge it in the BACK when one least expects it. He does all these with a stupid smile on his face and his rabid followers were glowing in their support.

    Hypocracy at its highest!

  8. #8 by Godfather on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 2:45 pm

    They are united by two things only: (1) common hatred for Anwar Ibrahim, and (2) common desire to steal.

  9. #9 by shamshul anuar on Monday, 30 March 2009 - 11:45 pm

    DEar Monsterball,

    Exactly that is the problem with you. Anyone praising good deed by UMNO leader will automatically lebelled as “UMNO loyalist”.

    What Abdullah did is not surprising considering that is his character. Way back in 1982 when UMNO Permatang Pauh wanted him to suggest another candidate as they rejected Anwar , he said “Give that boy a chance” of course, that is not the exact word.

    He did not say anything when Anwar toppled him from his coveted post of Penang UMNO Chief. He kept quiet when Anwar called him “tukang susun kasut” in a function when Anwar was DPM.

    He maintained his dignity by supporting Tun Ghaffar Baba when most politicians supported Anwar as Tun Ghaffar refused to bribe to defend his post.

    He kept quiet when Anwar went all out to topple his government by bribing BN MPs . He accepted Sultan of Perak’s decision to appoint Nizar as MB although he earlier proposed BN-PAs Govt that many PAS members “akar umbi” find appealing.

    He did not do anything to Anwar when Anwar slandered him that BN bribed Saiful to make allegation against Anwar. Anwar refused to swear by God’s name when every Muslim who is telling the truth will rush to swear in God”s name. Why? what is Anwar afraid of?

    If I were to be Anwar, I would kiss Abdullah ‘s hand asking for forgiveness on what nasty thing I said about him. I would remember that at least once, Abdullah influence made UMNO Permatang Pauh accepted Anwar.

    The truth shall prevail about Anwar. May Allah ‘open’ his heart and heal his most glaring weakness;that he is willing to do anything to win the post of PM although the price is collapse of his race’s only asset that is political power.

  10. #10 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 10:31 am

    shamshul anuar Says: his race’s only asset that is political power
    That’s not right! I can’t argue with the rest of your comment; you usually make sensible comments. But you’ve finished this one by repeating the “big fat Malaysian lie”. Hubris and paranoid stereotyping are practically Malaysian National Sports, and they’re paralysing your country.

    Were you speaking for yourself? Do you personally have no other asset than a share, by virtue of skin colour, in political advantage? I don’t believe you do. I believe there are very few Malaysians who have no asset but political power. There are in-breeding communities in Malaysia that exploit anxieties and gross superficial similarities to reinforce stereotypes that end up as holy grails of cultural identity. But it would be abject idiocy to assume all Malaysians’ lives are determined by the in-breeding category their government (or community) assigns them to.

    For a person to believe that a race exists in Malaysia that needs specific legal support requires that person to believe one of two things: either the race is inherently inferior to other races, or other races have acted in a racist manner to elevate their position above that of other races. If you believe the first, then I imagine either you’re not a member of that race, or your belief should really only extend to your own abilities. If you believe the second, then why promote exactly the same abuse as though it was a remedy? Why not tackle the real problem?

    No matter what our personal opinion is of any particular Opposition politician, racist policies have to go before racist cultural issues can be addressed. If the nations assets are distributed with a glaring racial bias, then the policies the nation needs are ones that redistribute assets in a race-blind way. An underlying bias would cause fair redistribution to negatively affect those who currently benefit from bias and positively affect those the bias is hurting. I believe the long term effect would be to make bias itself undesirable. The current policy is clearly having the opposite effect.

  11. #11 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 11:22 am


  12. #12 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 2:24 pm

    Bakri Musa, you spoke too soon. Mahathir is back to whacking Abdullah again. In fact, his hatred and vindictiveness can be seen in the picture where he was between Najib and AAB – he was holding najib entire palm, but was only daintily holding AAB’s fingers.


  13. #13 by Bobster on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 6:35 pm

    Quote shamshul anuar:

    The truth shall prevail about Anwar. May Allah ‘open’ his heart and heal his most glaring weakness;that he is willing to do anything to win the post of PM although the price is collapse of his race’s only asset that is political power

    Question to Shamshul Anuar:-

    Wonder why Allah in your term is so racist and bias as we human race? You must of certain race to be PM. You cannot say anything about your own race even policies obsolute. You cannot comment anything about your corrupted parties as your be called traitor of own race.

    We Chinese no shame hamtam MCA/Gerakan kau kau so? Are we also called traitors of own race? Hey these people are playing politics to rob the country you know! Who are the traitors of the country end of the day? Don’t tell us hearsay again. So many scandals under the sun but no action taken.

    May Allah open the eyes of the many blind supporters.

  14. #14 by monsterball on Wednesday, 1 April 2009 - 7:37 pm

    I think you have mental problem….shamshul anuar.

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