I don’t really blame all those people who feel enraged by the apparent defection of erstwhile pro-democracy blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin to the Umno/BN or at least anti-PKR ranks. But I feel that RPK’s rank betrayal of his former followers and fans is a blessing in disguise: a timely lesson in the fact that we can count on nobody to save us but ourselves.
Or, in other words, that people win political freedom by fighting for their personal principles, not from following cult-figures, political populists or other all-too-fallible personalities.
As tempting as it may be to sit back and wait to be led sheep-like to a political promised land by some self-styled saviour, messiah, hero, leader or even an elected prime minister, president, emperor, Caesar or Feuhrer, such passive hopes of succour and salvation are as false as they’re feeble.
History is rich in examples of the fact that, given sufficient time and authority, a great many heroes turn into zeroes, saviours into enslavers, charismatic leaders into catastrophic misleaders, icons into nothing but cons, and personalities into poisonalities.
Human nature being what it is, power, whether it springs from talent, popularity, wealth, fame or Mao Tse Tung’s proverbial barrel of a gun, really does corrupt. And absolute power corrupts not only absolutely, but, as exemplified by the endless rule of the Communist Party in China, the Kim dynasty in North Korea and the Umno/BN regime in Malaysia, also obsoletely.
And in the fight against such absolute, obsolete obscenities in North Africa and the Middle East, one of the most hopeful aspects to me of the Arab Spring has been and remains the fact that the people at large, not individual demagogues, have led the charge.
Hence my admiration for the burgeoning Anybody But Umno (ABU) movement in Malaysia, based as it is on the peoples’ common desire to be rid of an obsolete, absolutely corrupt and outright criminal government, not in support of some party or person, but on principle.
ABU seems to me to signal a growing popular awareness in Malaysia that personalities, on whichever side of the political divide, are both changeable and temporary, whereas principles like truth, justice and equality of opportunity for all are immutable, indisputable and eternal.
Thus evolutionary and even revolutionary figures like Raja Petra Kamarudin and his fellow formerly popular pro-democracy blogger Ahirudin ‘Rocky’ Attan, as inspirational as they may be for as long as they managed to retain their principles, became irrelevant the moment their messages of hope start to sound suspiciously like personally-interested or even regime-inspired and paid hype.
But as disappointed, disenchanted and even enraged as we former fans and sycophants may feel at our favourites’ falls from grace, let’s at least give them due credit for the two priceless gifts they’ve given us: sorely-needed encouragement back when we needed it most, and now the impetus to realise that we’re no longer dependent on their leadership by example.
Similarly, if on a far larger scale and at infinitely greater personal cost, I believe that Anwar Ibrahim has served his purpose.
Even if Umno/BN manages by hook or crook to permanently thwart his dream of someday becoming prime minister of Malaysia, and whether or not you believe he deserves this come-uppance, he’s done more than anyone else to fatally damage the regime’s credibility.
He’s inspired two arguably far less worthy prime ministers than he might possibly be – first the mendacious, megalomanic Dr Mahathir Mohamad and now the sleazy nonentity Najib Razak – into mounting sodomy trials that have publicly and even globally revealed them as shameless perverters of justice.
And in the process Anwar has served as a convenient and conspicuous persecution-symbol for the opposition and martyr figure for enlisting the support of sympathetic Malaysian voters.
But on the downside, he has also been plagued by suspicions surrounding his earlier incarnations as an Umno ultra and deputy prime minister, and his evident unwillingness to come clean on crimes and misdemeanours committed by the regime during his time as an insider.
And even more troubling, he has apparently been a divisive rather than a uniting force both in his own political organisation, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and among former friends, colleagues and supporters including Raja Petra Kamarudin.
So much so that, in the mainstream media interview that has so outraged so many of his Malaysia Today readers, or former readers, RPK was quoted as going so far as to concede that Anwar “may be” homosexual, as if his sexuality was somehow politically significant, and “is 99 per cent likely” to be the mystery male in the infamous “Datuk T” sex tape.
This has been widely perceived as part of an Umno/BN-inspired smear campaign on designed to soften-up public opinion in advance of the verdict in Anwar’s second sodomy trial, which is expected on January 9.
But whether Anwar is convicted or not, and whether or not RPK is in the pay or the thrall of the government, it seems to me that both of these controversial figures have played important parts, indeed starring roles, in awakening major portions of the Malaysian public to the perfidies of Umno/BN.
And now it’s up to every Malaysian to be sufficiently inspired and emboldened by these shining examples, however tarnished they now may be or possibly have yet to become, to stand up as leaders rather than just followers; as fighters for their principles rather than passive supporters of public figures.
Or, if you prefer, as proud members of and loud advocates for Malaysia’s principled, non-partisan and above all personality- and personage-free movement for freedom, fairness, honesty and justice for all, Anybody But Umno (ABU).