Sunday, February 8, 2009


Malaysiakini, 8 Feb 2009

Dear Karpal,

You have been banging your head against the BN brick wall for nearly 40 years. I have long admired and loved you for your indomitable warrior spirit, which reveals you to be of authentic khalsa pedigree. With your brilliant grasp of the law you have stood out as one of the finest legal minds in the region. The few times we have met I noticed you almost glowed with the aura of a saint, and I saw you as a spiritual warrior who would fight to the death for what you believe to be right.

However, ever since the political tsunami of 8 March 2008, you have become a lot grouchier and much more pugnacious. Initially, I figured it would take you a bit of time to adjust to the new political realities wherein the DAP, which you have loyally served for so many decades, is no longer confined to playing the perennial role of Loyal Opposition. Indeed, along with its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat, the DAP must now get used to being in charge - just as Lim Guan Eng has had to swiftly adapt to being the Chief Minister of Penang, not just somebody paid to give BN a hard time in parliament and maintain the illusion of democracy.

When you're in charge, there is no longer any advantage in being perceived as "strident" or "quarrelsome." Indeed, when one is in power, one must become more accepting and understanding of others, and speak in gentler - but more authoritative - tones.

In recent days we have all witnessed the magnificent spirit of enlightened and noble leadership that Perak MB Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin personifies. He has stood up firmly and with impressive dignity to being dismissed as MB by the Sultan of Perak - and he has done so without a trace of rancor or rudeness. We could point to this and call it the silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud: the constitutional crisis in Perak and the kurang ajar manner in which YB Nizar has been mistreated by the BN faction has brought forth shining qualities within this young leader we otherwise would never know existed. YB Nizar has conducted himself with such impeccable aplomb and courage, Malaysians are now saying he is PM material - and indeed I agree he is.

What's remarkable is that YB Nizar's appeal as a leader transcends all party lines and racial barriers. We see him as a good, intelligent, approachable, humble, inspiring man - not as the PAS Mentri Besar of Perak.

Well, it's Nizar's job on the line - and he has never once blamed Anwar Ibrahim for the current political imbroglio. Nor has he threatened to sue the Sultan for making an arguably unwise decision, possibly swayed by business considerations.

Now more than ever the rakyat would like to see a strong, united Pakatan Rakyat focused on replacing Umno/BN as the federal government. Not one where every other leader is a loose cannon that can scuttle the ship anytime for the most absurd reasons. True, the Pakatan Rakyat espouses the spirit and not merely the letter of democratic ideals - and therefore must allow for dissenting views on various issues.

Nevertheless, it is one thing to voice disagreement and quite another to attack your political allies and colleagues in such a truculent and aggressive manner as to cause internal injury. The last thing we want is to see the Pakatan Rakyat coalition disintegrate before it has even had a chance to govern the nation.

Dear Karpal, in my humble opinion, Anwar is a highly intelligent man, albeit openly ambitious (and that is hardly a crime). If there are painful lessons to be learnt from the Perak party-hopping debacle, I have no doubt Anwar will very quickly learn them. There is absolutely no call to publicly whack him on the head with your umbrella. Anwar's detractors will certainly view this as extremely comical and seize upon your criticism as fuel for their gigantic spin machines.

Your demand for Anwar to step down as Pakatan leader at this juncture is unjustified and perhaps even suicidal. Without Anwar's powers of persuasion and his moderating influence, fundamentalist voices (from both ends of the spectrum) will rise to the fore and ruin all our hopes for authentic change in Malaysia.

Dear Karpal, I value honesty and outspokenness above most other traits. I am not in politics because, like you, I'm inclined to have a short fuse - and when angry am capable of shooting my mouth off and hurting a lot of people's feelings. But you, Karpal, are a veteran politician and really ought to know better, especially as you approach your 69th solar orbit. Clearly, the patriarchal control freak latent in your DNA is beginning to emerge and with increasing frequency. I have seen 90-year-old Sikh patriarchs scare the living daylights out of their burly 40-year-old grandsons. Please, dear friend, don't give in to those destructive propensities. Good families have broken down and become dysfunctional because of uncontrollable irascibility on the part of white-bearded, stern-faced patriarchs with absolutely no sense of humor and who cannot tolerate new ways of doing things.

May I suggest that you take a break from the emotionally charged atmosphere in Perak? Take time out to recuperate from the psychic toxins of being immersed for so many decades in a BN-dominated parliament. Be a child again with your grandchildren, a loving, inspiring father to your wonderful progeny, an affectionate husband to your supportive wife, and a wise, compassionate friend to the multitudes who adore and respect you as a living saint.

And I'm sure you have in you the goodness of heart and wisdom to apologize to Anwar for your outburst. Leave the fate of this nation in the collective hands of the rakyat - or of God, if you happen to be a believer. Come back and rejoin the fray when you're well rested and together let us fulfil the aspirations of a beautiful young nation.