The last I wrote to you through this blog was on 18th August, 2008, 8 days before polling day in Permatang Pauh.
Then I wrote to say that I was going to “take a chance with you”.
Much has taken place since, and our personal circumstances have changed radically.
You now languish in prison on the most ludicrous of charges and after a lengthy and most bizarre court process that left me convinced that I made the right decision to quit legal practice 5 1/2 years ago. I, in turn, now stand convicted on a charge of sedition, sentenced to 8 months jail and only remain at large courtesy of a stay order whilst awaiting the appeal process against that decision to be exhausted.
Two nights ago, I heard that you had penned a letter to leaders in PKR voicing your concerns about the Dr M-led Save Malaysia and People’s Declaration initiative. That very night, I sought to but failed to obtain a copy of your letter.
Last night, I joined Chegubard and Arul of PSM in a debate where, in the very limited time we were each given, we endeavoured to present our serious misgivings about this initiative.
I had intended to write about the debate upon returning home a little while ago, but then, to my utter delight, I discovered that a translation of your letter had been published on Malaysiakini.
What I struggled to present in the 5 minutes allocated to me to make my case at the debate last night, you have with full clarity articulated in your 8-page letter.
Clearly, we share the same concerns.
Yes, in 2008, I said that I would take a chance with you, and the year before, on numerous occasions, I wrote to say that I wished you would give me a reason to trust you.
This letter has helped much.
Thank you, Malaysiakini, for the initiative to translate that important document. At the risk of annoying my friends at Malaysiakini, I am reproducing the same here, for the benefit of those who do not have access to Malaysiakini. I urge you to read it in full and then, subscribe to Malaysiakini.
Friends, president, deputy president and fellow beloved leaders –
Assalamualaikum warahmatullah hiwabarakatuh and salam sejahtera
The issue that I am bringing up here must be reviewed calmly. The contents of it does not stray from the core of our struggle and is consistent with what was sketched out before. But my concern is that you will only listen to me out of respect but not take it to heart.
Throughout our struggle, we have gone through challenging episodes which required thought and enlightenment. Our latest issue is with the Citizens’ Declaration which has dragged our leaders and apparatuses to be in cahoots with Tun M and Daim.
My view might be in contradiction with the stand of the majority of leaders. I am apprehensive, assuming that this strategy is a little overboard and threatens our struggle.
We must steer clear of the danger of falling into the games of the power elites and their skilful trickery to maintain an outdated system.
Even so, many of our friends believe the new strategy is more rewarding and is the best way to go. They say it can give us a new boost, as we will be combining our strengths to topple Najib Abdul Razak as prime minister, and bring about change.
They are certain that they can keep things in control and avoid any divergence in the mission.
This clash of ideas between us is a tangle we must unravel, but it is not something which should lead to personal conflicts or disputes.
My stand is the same as when there was the initiative by (Gua Musang MP) Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to collect signed statutory declarations (of retraction of support for Najib). This initiative is now buried. The other leaders and I had then agreed with this, but I had urged that we remain close to our policies and the aims of our struggles.
In looking at this current conundrum, we must not question the wisdom of those who have decided to take part and sign the Citizens’ Declaration. In my previous letters, I urged leaders to act cautiously when dealing with the ruling elite and to defend the principles of our struggle. The question now is, what next?
I am more inclined not to be seen to be uniting with the Citizens’ Declaration group, and to start to set a distance. Instead, we must strengthen and advance our campaign for change, to defend the people who are oppressed due to economic mismanagement, in keeping with the principles that we have carried with us all this while.
The Citizens’ Declaration group, including Mahathir, can be part of our struggle, but our agenda must be for change, not to advance the Citizens’ Declaration. Allow me to explain.
I have previously raised concern – during a short conversation in court – on why there is such a vigorous campaign to push for the Citizens’ Declaration which sidelines the concept of reform through democratic accountability. I thank all for the immediate responses and explanatory notes.
The launch of the Citizens’ Declaration appeared to have been set without the need or possibility for further negotiations – a fait accompli. It is only after pressure from NGO leaders at the last minute that other views were included, but the changes were superficial.
Principally, it remained Mahathir’s document – flawed and inconsistent with reform perspectives. It only focuses on Najib’s resignation as prime minister, as a result of the 1MDB scandal. It clearly strayed far from the raison d’etre, or the basis of our struggle – for freedom and justice, for supremacy of the law, to combat abuse of power and corruption, and justice for all!
The leaders appeared to have been taken in and were satisfied with the guarantee that all the demands included in the declaration will be fulfilled after Najib resigns. This reminds us of the complot of the ruling elite which I had explained before. It clearly benefits the rich and powerful while the people remain sidelined.
We have only just been involved in the statutory declaration issue. The same assurance had been given, albeit behind closed doors. And because we were excited at the thought of or desperate to change the national leadership, that we committed (to the statutory declaration plot). Today, it is fodder for ridicule, especially after Ku Li (Tengku Razaleigh) himself denied his involvement and said the plan did not make sense.
He was slick in using the SD to position himself as a compromise candidate, in the event of a conflict or stalemate between (Umno vice-presidents Ahmad) Zahid (Hamidi) and Hisham (Hishammuddin Hussein). I don’t understand how some in Pakatan Harapan continue to hope that change can come through lies and treachery.
And today, we strongly give our support to this new effort which is pushed through a movement led by those close to those who are ruling, and this effort is portrayed to be inclusive of the rakyat. There is one explanation – it was a desperate move. We are so desperate for mass support that we do this without a hint of guilt, when in fact it is to further our political interest.
We must be honest. We were involved in both initiatives (the statutory declaration and Citizens’ Declaration) and agreed that (Sungai Petani MP) Johari Abdul represent us in the SD initiative while (PKR deputy president) Azmin Ali, (PKR vice-president) Tian Chua and (PKR secretary-general) Rafizi Ramli for the Citizens’ Declaration initiative.
But I constantly avoided using the terms ‘support’ and ‘commitment’. It was distressing to see our leaders team up with a cruel leader and the most corrupt former finance minister! A senior lawyer informed me that he saw how our leaders were enamoured and humbled in the presence of this former autocrat at a public event. It seems like we are still stuck in a feudal culture.
Despite Azmin, (activist) Ambiga (Sreneevasan) and Mat Sabu’s (Amanah president Mohamad Sabu’s) vociferous eloquence, the dispute over the reform agenda is only a side issue. Don’t be fooled into thinking that statements condemning Mahathir’s cruelty during his rule can bring about systematic change. Mahathir is known for his tenacity, his steadfast hold on his agenda is hard to shake. The one fear that haunts dictators and autocrats is the possibility that their crimes will be exposed and the billions stolen will be exposed.
Mahathir has never appreciated the openness and goodwill others have extended to him. He is not regretful, but he constantly parades his heinous nature by continuing to use personal attacks (against me). These insults towards me were sadly not condemned by trusted friends. I hope you place our alliance before Mahathir’s interest.
Unfortunately, this (Citizens’ Declaration) will only convince Mahathir to continue to feel no guilt over the destruction and waste that happened in his time. He seems to have changed tack from denying his faults to erasing his faults completely. (PKR president and Anwar’s wife Dr Wan) Azizah (Wan Ismail) and I feel there is a need to oppose on principle, in order to defend our dignity. Our statement refers to the autocratic rule, and the need for a more holistic discourse – not a dictatorial approach like Mahathir’s.
Our view is that the Citizens’ Declaration will fail to bring good to the common people, especially in fixing economic problems and bring institutional reforms. Those who are obsessed with the Citizens’ Declaration did not welcome such criticism. I begged to differ and explained on this.
NGO leaders have also taken a strong stand on Mahathir, although in private. This is compared to Mahathir, who has always made his position public. And after that, another explanation was made but on something which does not bring about change, which is that the majority of parliamentarians will nominate the new prime minister.
I raised doubts in my previous letter to the PKR political bureau – I said the Citizens’ Declaration and the new approach went against solid change, or actual reform. I urged the leadership to not view this lightly. Don’t be too confident that you can counter their strategies. And this reminder should not be taken lightly, either.
‘The best lack of all conviction,
whilst the worse
Are full of passionate intensity’ [William Butlers Yeats]
Beware of the Machiavellians who will finally surrender their powers to their cronies.
We say we are rising above it, and doing it for the interest of the country. We forget the fact that there is no more governance in this country, and more worrying, no regret or drive to support reform.
Both Mahathir and Daim are the masterminds who aggressively defended crony capitalism. They did this through lopsided processes, the awarding of concessions to corrupt independent power producers, privatisation of highways and the monopoly of essential goods by cronies. These clearly abuse and burden the rakyat.
This unbridled rapacity (kerakusan) during their rule had caused destruction which we feel to this day.
You may feel that my stand is too harsh and it is better to be inclusive and make peace, in the same way I had earlier felt many of you were naive in thinking that Mahathir is now more open to change. Several discussions that took place between Pakatan Harapan and NGOs failed to change (your views) or stop obsessions and personal vendettas against Najib, when the same was not expressed against the faulty and destroyed system.
It does not make sense that after cooperating with Pakatan Harapan, NGOs and those I trust, Mahathir continued to insult and attack me! Such behaviour prevented any possibility of a meeting between Mahathir and my family. Some friends solemnly told me that one cannot expect a 92-year-old (sic) man to change. This strengthens my belief that the ruling elite will only move to save Umno and ensure the revival of the old system.
‘The serpent that did sting…
Now wears the crown.’ [Shakespeare]
The public remain, as a voice full of awareness, the rakyat hope for a principled stand. We cannot be considered as trying to prevent or delay the reform agenda or not being earnest in fighting for the plight of the rakyat.
We demand for freedom, economic justice, reduction in the wealth gap, and to fight corruption and plundering. Do believe in the wisdom of the voice of the people and be guided by activists, reformists and strengthen the party’s grassroots.
Let me comment on other issues. I’m sorry – but I can’t help but be shocked with the shallow view that Najib’s fall will be enough to bring change towards democratic accountability.
I have stressed a conflicting stand and there is no evidence to say otherwise. I was also asked to show a clear and non-confusing approach towards the declaration, and I have done so accurately.
But I condemn the insensitive attitude urging the president, especially (vice-president and Anwar’s daughter) Nurul Izzah to pay a courtesy visit to Tun M or to join his programmes.
Maybe you want to ease (Mahathir’s) heart but demanding for sacrifices to be made by my family, especially after his recent ridicule, is heartless!
And don’t pay heed to those who claim they have ‘valid, reliable sources’ that Najib had sent a messenger to meet me and there was a meeting with Zahid at HKL (Hospital Kuala Lumpur) last week. This is slander and was spread to create disputes.
Trust seems to have eroded. I can confidently say if the meeting did happen. My credibility remains unaffected. And otherwise, I will come clean to my friends if there was indeed an offer. It is shameful to showcase such an attitude but we need to rebuild the trust and have love and affection.
Before I end – I am now dejected. I don’t mean to burden you with the sufferings of loneliness in prison. Such a test, although hard for me, Azizah and my family to bear, is not as complicated as handling the party’s recent developments.
After Reformasi 1998, I feel that the idealism with regard to fighting for a cause started to erode, tested by the lustre of power and funds. My strength is spurring the awareness towards change. And so we struggled for nearly two decades facing life’s cruelty. We destroyed the walls of fear, communalism; rigid religious definition to rahmatan lil alamin (blessings for the whole world).
But my concern is due to the latest developments that place us at the crossroads. The question of pure ambition. Idealism is no longer the fundamental question but (merely) political talk to come into power. Or otherwise, am I afflicted with ill fortune because I find it hard to accept the reality?
It is sufficient for me to conclude that my weakness is that I cannot handle the new understanding in the form of the Citizens’ Declaration. I have no qualms if our ceramah sessions are continued by stressing on PKR’s agenda; rejecting the greed for power and exploitation of the rakyat. Other groups may come (to the ceramah), just to explain the declaration; but do not shift from our approach
Obviously, the veteran leader who does not support the concept of the rakyat should not come into prominence because it will confuse the rakyat; obscure the reform agenda and even betray the trust for reform. In the discourse about the matter, that is the only limit that I can admit. If the majority chooses to support the declaration fully, I will abide by it but I will retreat and only repeat the desire for an intact form of change.
My subsequent disappointment will be due to the weakness and failure to assemble a solid line of leadership. The ability and role as the glue to the leadership will further erode. And so there will be lamentations with the elements of accusations that I too was involved with several crises before this. I tried to do my best but alas I have limits.
Rivalry has gone beyond the boundaries of ethics that it seems to be better to deal with political enemies rather than comrades. All my pleas no longer have an effect. The views and comments of friends are full of prejudice. The question of values and morals as well as the danger of slander must be avoided. Therefore my abilities are stunted here.
I sincerely hope that this letter will not be spun and interpreted according to the different palates. This letter is a will and a form of trust for all friends in the line of leadership. Use it as well as you can. I ask for forgiveness if it offends.
In my loneliness and depression, I had gone through poems which include the ‘Best Poems of the English language: from Chancer through Proust’ by Harold Bloom. Before this I was entertained by Pablo Neruda; Anna Akhmatova (Tsarina of Poetry); WS Rendra and A Samad Said. My friend, the poet Tawfiq Ismail, once bloomed in his youth – a poem which I memorised and once recited in Bandung around the year 2005. The title: ‘Memang Selalu Demikian, Hadi (1966) during the time when varsity students went against PKI and Sukarno. I ask for permission that Hadi be changed to Saudaraku: Memang Selalu Demikian Saudaraku’.
(Anwar then cites the poem which talks about how traitors and ‘fake warriors’ always come out as a result of a particular fight.)