Thursday, March 20, 2008


"Mati ayam, mati tungaunya (if the fowl dies, its ticks perish too)" - an old Malay saying.

As far as I’m concerned, Umno-BN is deceased. Finito. R.I.P. Kaput. What happened on March 8th was a gigantic Samurai sword that moved so swiftly the 10-headed hydra of Might-Is-Right that has terrorized us for the last 25 years lost all its heads. The BN survivors of the March 8th debacle are all operating in Safe Mode now, their operating systems having crashed big-time. Perhaps the Umno-BN hard drive can still be booted up a few more times and some useful data saved - but the motherboard itself is on the verge of terminal malfunction. So let's not speak ill of the dead.

Anyone who hasn’t been brainwashed by establishment pundits with vested interests can see that Anwar Ibrahim has got what it takes to steer this floundering ship back on course. And what it takes is intelligence, courage, stamina, adaptability, good humor, experience, and most importantly, ethical sense. His resilience has been proven over the last ten years by his capacity to transmute tragedy into triumph, transforming himself from victim to victor - all the while maintaining his dignity, clarity, and focus.

Whatever his early political agenda, the Anwar Ibrahim of 2008 has been forged in the furnace of personal pain and endurance. In 1998 he could have taken the money and run - become an academic or corporate CEO. But he didn’t. He stood up to Mahathir (right) and fought like a man. That’s how he gained my respect and admiration and trust. There are very few in our midst today that I can describe as “heroic.”

Is Chandra Muzaffar a hero? He might have been once, back in the early 1980s when he left academia to battle the monstrous menace of Mahathir. But after his ISA experience in 1987, Chandra’s spirit buckled. He left Aliran to establish JUST and for a few years he continued to say the right things. But he had lost his fire, his fighting spirit. He had gone the way of Lee Lam Thye.

Is Raja Petra Kamarudin (left) a hero? Most certainly. He stood by Anwar Ibrahim in the early days of his rebellion against monumental odds and was arrested under the ISA for his efforts. He was a tireless webmaster for the official Reformasi website and that subsequently led to his launching Malaysia Today - a "no holds barred" local news portal that has played a crucial role in exposing the dark side of Umno-BN and gained an immense readership. Indeed, RPK grew to be such a thorn in BN's backside a police report was filed against him by an Umno hatchetman and he was interrogated for eight hours. He threw his energy into the Opposition campaign as a featured speaker at many ceramahs (political rallies). Although a bona fide prince, RPK has always been accessible, down-to-earth and his finger is firmly on the pulse of the people. A large part of the credit for what happened on March 8th must go to RPK.

[Since this essay was written, much has transpired that warrants the inclusion of a footnote: RPK was arrested under ISA in September 2008 and sent to Kamunting; in November a courageous high court judge ordered his unconditional release, and RPK subsequently went into self-imposed exile; recently, RPK turned petulant and began attacking Anwar Ibrahim, although it appears to be more a personal than political feud. This has dimmed RPK's heroic lustre to a serious extent, even if he remains a positive force for change.]

Is Tian Chua a hero? I would say YES! But his career as a politician is only just beginning and he has a lot of learning to do, especially in terms of his approach. Even so, his fearlessness in the face of police violence has inspired many to speak up or march for justice. There are many other heroes I can think of: Lim Guan Eng, the new Chief Minister of Penang, for example, jailed by Mahathir for speaking up on behalf of a schoolgirl gang-banged by the former Chief Minister of Melaka; Tony Pua, who sold his successful IT business to launch his political career as an outspoken blogger and DAP candidate; Sivarasa Rasiah, who has spent the last 20 years defending human rights... it so happens they are all in the Barisan Rakyat.

And then there's Steven Gan, managing editor of Malaysiakini, who stuck to his guns as a political journalist and quit The Sun when he rubbed the establishment up the wrong way. In 1999, at the height of Reformasi fervor, Steven teamed up with Premesh Chandran to launch Malaysia's first news portal. Over the years Malaysiakini has survived several police raids and the confiscation of its computers. For invaluable services rendered to truth-loving Malaysians, this news portal deserves a standing ovation - and a thousand-fold increase in subscribers!

But to my mind nobody can match what Anwar Ibrahim has accomplished: he has led us through the Chapel Perilous of racial politics and now, for the first time since Merdeka, we can look around and appreciate the beauty of our own diversity and say, “Vive la difference!” On March 9th I was blissed out by a tangible feeling that we are no longer stuck in the rut of ethnocentric tempurungism, that we have finally outgrown all that “Bangsa-Ugama-Tanahair” hot air. I went to town and felt the genuine goodwill and jubilation that shone from every face I saw - Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli, Dan-lain-lain!

What has been missing all these decades is the possibility that we can love one another as humans, regardless of skin color or creed - that’s because cold-blooded ambition and ruthless greed have no use for empathy and warm feelings, nor does it encourage compassion, kindness, and spontaneous joy. No, it feeds and fattens itself vampire-like on fear - other people’s fear. And now, on that bright Sunday morning after GE12, the fear had dissipated like a bad smell in the winds of change. PKR flags fluttered proudly against a glorious blue Selangor sky, proclaiming that the people's eyes were open at long last.

In the climate of fear Mahathir created during his 22-year reign, anybody who dared speak the truth became a hero - or martyr. Anwar Ibrahim, more than any other political icon in the country, succeeded in transcending his own childhood prejudices to embody the universal values that will unite rather than divide us as a nation. That is indeed the mark of a hero. Let us honor this hero (who nearly became a martyr) by giving him what he fully deserves - the chance to serve as prime minister (at least till he tires of it or we tire of him). At the same time, let us all aspire to become heroes too, so that we will no longer be scared children in need of a grown-up to lead us across the street. Let us each become, in time, self-governing individuals whose relationship to our political leaders is akin to an orchestra’s respect for the conductor, knowing full well that his job is to create a symphony from the potential cacophony of so many different instruments.

[Illustration by Antares from Two Catfish in the Same Hole; photos pinched from various sources]


Martin Bradley said...

Here, Here (clapping of hands)buy that man a drink, well done, stout fellow, what a brick, cheers (more clapping of hands)en core give that man a teapot!

Mr. Smith said...

UMNO is not quite dead yet and it must be clobbered until it looses its last breath or it would resurrect and cause this nation more harm. So too with MCA and MIC. All these parties must be buried or cremated.
Let no Malaysian lend a hand to any of these parties to regain their strength.
All UMNO. MCA and MIC members must flee their sinking ships and seek shelter in BR.

Starmandala said...

Hi Yusuf! Who are you buying a drink for - Anwar or me? Make it two teh tariks, please! :-)

Agent Smith, I don't endorse violence but if I were in the vicinity and saw you clobbering and kicking the supine body of Umno, I'd probably just wag my finger at you and say something politically correct like, "Tut! Tut! Not nice to bash somebody who's already down..." - and then quietly hand you a bottle of Red Bull.

zewt said...

they are all heroes. but you know what? i spoke to some ppl on the ground and though they see anwar as the only hope... many still remember the time when he was deputy.... the not so nice things he did...

Unknown said...

hear, hear, you have ny vote on this article. cheers!

Anonymous said...

I'm not too sure whether to give DSAI that benefit of a doubt for upholding 'The Universal' values as you have claimed.
What Universal Values has he Upholded?
By saying that we should give him a chance to become a PM is just like saying we should give NAJIB & KJ a chance to also become PM.
Dont go & blindly give your support to 'Politicians' unless they are the likes from PAS whom have been living without taking advantage of the ppl.
You should promote Pas leaders instead of DSAI.

Anonymous said...

Wait! Why so many people want BN and its component parties dead and buried?
I wish to make it clear that I'm not a BN/UMNO/MCA/MIC/..... supporter.
I did my part on 8 March 2008.
How Malaysia can mature into a better democracy if the 2 parties system never materialized with the demiss of BN?

Starmandala said...

To Zewt: who among us has NEVER done or said some "not so nice things"? It's silly to expect some saint or superman to play the role of messiah; all we want is a good pilot and a few good navigators to steer the ship safely towards our desired destination - and I assume every Malaysian wants to live in a happy, healthy, honest, harmonious and prosperous country where the government regards all citizens as its respected friend and honored employer. The problem has simply been that the mechanisms by which citizens may reprimand or sack a public servant have been tampered with or effectively disabled. Gutless press, shallow TV stations,
crooked judiciary, corrupt and partisan police force, ineffectual human rights commission, useless anti-corruption agency, the list is endless. We need a man of strong character and charisma to helm the government while all these ills are rectified. Once that is done, just about anybody can become the government as far as I'm concerned - it's not that glamorous a job in any case!

I have no problem with PAS leaders. It so happens I don't know many of them so well. Perhaps this period of rapid transition is when PAS leaders like Perak MB Nizar will attain national prominence and gain
people's respect and trust across the board. Let's forget about race and religion, okay? Those are no-win spins. People who are truly enlightened and who carry the divine within their hearts don't go around pointing fingers and banning things.

To Anonymous: Anwar promises an accountable, just and responsive government that will take us beyond the treacherous pitfalls of BN's racial politics. Once that is achieved, all of us will naturally uphold universal values like honesty, compassion, and empathy - rather than cling in fear to the old tribal taboos and superstitions that have kept us psychologically enslaved for generations.

Anonymous said...

Here is the latest blog created by my conscience ...

Creating An Absolute Monarchy In Malaysia Based On Royal Supremacy

Hear me confess: My Lies, My Plots, My Hypocrisy … Things that you can never find at my official site @

Yours truly,
Raja Petra bin Raja Kamarudin

Anonymous said...

Dear Hy,

You claimed that we need BN coz it is part of democracy system. I beg to differ coz there's two different issues here: 1st issue: We need democracy and people who believe and work towards democracy. Even if there's people who didn't believe it, Malaysia as a harmony country always have people who embrace the spirit of tolerance: one of it is respect other's belief. 2nd issue. Is BN have some of democracy character: believe/respect/tolerate/ working towards democracy? Actions does speaks louder than words! History is loud and clear: Do they ever welcome difference of opinion among its own members? Do they ever let the mainstream media stand without shadowed by fear/bias/favor to BN's influence? What is democracy in Parliament when their MPs always being used as rubber stamp? Show me when did BN believe in Parliamentary democracy. In my humble view, as compared to BR parties, they've demonstrated how they can work together, manage to handle diverse of opinions among their own members, and work together within the spirit of tolerance. On top of it, these are few examples that BR demonstrated how democracy works among themselves. So, rakyat should be grateful for having BR here. Of course, future is uncertain. Let's ponder on and work towards it :)

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. A joker.

Anonymous said...

The worth of an individual is gauged more through his deeds (his contrbutions) than his words.

Anwar is a master word-smith, he can hold a crowd at the palms of his hand. Judging from what he had said while he was in the government and what he has been saying, now he is in the opposition, a certain pattern can be discerned. There appears to be a tendency of him saying different things to suit different audiences. This may be a requisite of a good politician but it creates doubt as to his sincerity and principles.

He points out the misdeeds and abuses of the BN, now. But was he not a part of the BN then? Why was he silent, then? Why did he not expose such misdeeds and abuses of positions, then?

He is in the right place, at the right time, at this juncture of our history. Whether he is the right person, has yet to be discovered. Hope the rakyat does not have to pay a heavy price, if he happens to be the PM, one day?

Anonymous said...

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief. Perhaps an ex-thief will also do.

So may be it takes an UMNO guy to fell an UMNO guy.

Like Mahathir to Anwar, and now Anwar to Badawi...


Starmandala said...

Re-reading this post, I've realized a serious omission on my part: I forgot to credit a few women who instantly come to mind when I think of heroism!
First and foremost, I wish to include among my personal nominees for National Hero the incredible Wan Azizah, wife of Anwar Ibrahim, and their radiant daughter, Nurul Izzah (now MP for Lembah Pantai). If it weren't for these women's remarkable inner strength and their devotion to the Reformasi cause, KeADILan would never have existed. They kept the flames of hope alive through those dark years when Anwar was incarcerated and in constant pain. I remember the pride I felt when I saw the 18-year-old Nurul Izzah travel all over the world speaking up confidently on her father's behalf. Chip off the old block! Which father would not dream of such a splendid child? And let's put in a word for women activists like Sonia Randhawa, Toni Kassim, and Elizabeth Wong who have devoted
years of their young lives to righting wrongs on the public behalf - and in so doing, they have
inspired so many to stand up for accountable government, justice, and participatory democracy. A toast to the brave women in our midst!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, Antares, you are MY hero!!! You are the greatest. the deepest, finest, most intelligent human being I've ever met! Errr... you ARE human aren't you? some people say maybe not... maybe you are from another planet!

Starmandala said...

LOL... no prizes for guessing which of these comments is my personal favorite :-p Thank you, I feel so... umm... validated!