Teoh Boon Hock’s cynical incarnation into political martyrdom

By Azmi Anshar (NST Online)

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”, Joseph Stalin glibly broached at the height of his murderous rule decades ago. Stalin’s foul assessment of humanity is, regrettably, truer as ever, putting Teoh Boon Hock’s scandalous passing in perspective.

In death, Teoh is riotously celebrated, exalted by the infamy of his sudden death, both in timing and police classification of the sordid manner in which his mortality was snuffed. This is strangely a bit ironic because when Teoh was alive, hardly a squeak of his life and times were heard or chronicled, save for the little matter-of-fact referrals as political secretary to a DAP assemblyman and perhaps nondescript sidebars as a party cadre. But that’s life.

In death too, Teoh is unexpectedly elevated in eminence and by the time he was buried today, Teoh is surely now a full-blown martyr anointed by his living political masters rashly in need of a rallying cry to stay afloat and above the field of noise.

The crowd that picketed at his wake knotted in outrage, the moderate thousands that griped at the Pakatan Rakyat rallies feverishly demanding answers to his abnormal demise and the congregation that demonstrated duplicitously at his funeral in Alor Gajah is a testament to Teoh’s precipitous consecration. Somewhere among the masses, an exclusive group of friends and relatives did genuinely bereave for the departed.

Depending on your political persuasions or how badly you desperately insist on assigning recriminations, there can three options to characterise the rabid bloviation over Teoh’s death:

:: the consequences of law enforcement gone awry;
:: the repercussion of Teoh’s whistle-blowing to the anti-graft authorities that implicated certain sordid people; or,
:: the cynicism of hucksterism plumbing the depths of political opportunism.

No matter how hard or how sincere the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission tries to exonerate itself from liability to Teoh’s death, Pakatan Rakyat politicians keep piling back the rap, their backers bent on demanding their pound of flesh. Despite the vague evidence, advisers to the MACC seemed to abandon what they see as a sinking ship, according to Ramon Navaratnam, who heads one of the MACC five advisory panels.

The MACC or their people involved in Teoh’s questioning may at the end of this sordid affair be found to be non-culpable but the agency’s reputation is taking a severe flagellation, further shredded in the last few days by politicians striking their agenda while the iron is moltenly hot.

A small measure of relief emerged though: the mob-assault on the MACC seemed sensibly toned down – no blazing accusations of pre-meditated acts related to Teoh’s death, only that the police and anti-corruption heads must “assume responsibility” because the questioning of Teoh “broke some rules”. At least that was what Anwar Ibrahim mildly remonstrated after the funeral. The repeated calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry are still on the table but that is all right.

However, key DAP leaders want nothing less than the head of the MACC’s boss to roll regardless of the investigations. Guilty before proven innocent is their rigid mantra. DAP’s supremo, Lim Kit Siang, disingenuously capitalised on the MACC’s reeling by demanding that the Prime Minister calls off what he termed as the MACC “war” against Pakatan Rakyat and focus anti-graft efforts against “mega corruptions”. Kit is sponsoring the notion that Pakatan Rakyat politicians are the new sacred cows.

One intriguing aspect of Teoh’s role prior to his death was that he was a “willing” person of interest in the MACC’s investigations into the alleged false claims for state allocations perpetrated by certain Pakatan Rakyat representatives. According to the MACC’s portrayal of Teoh, he was NOT a suspect, had helpfully cooperated and intended to provide useful documents pertaining to transactions of seven companies he had processed. Verily, Teoh was very useful alive than dead to the MACC and that’s a sympathetic gesture.

But if you had witnessed the unrelenting outrage that overwhelmed the rallies and the funeral that blithely catapulted Teoh to the levels of martyrdom, no alternative rationale to Teoh’s death is warranted. There can be only one culprit and that is the MACC – period! Soon enough, these avowals of blame degenerated to the point when the higher echelons of the Government were senselessly dragged into the blame game.

Teoh’s family had appealed for a “low-key” reaction from funeral attendees. Reports stated that the attendees had adhered to the plea by not shouting slogans – verbally that is because the placards, banners and attitudes screamed and ranted forcibly like any good political rallies. Take away the casket and the funeral resembles an angry political march, the ones that are likely to goad extremists on the other side of the political divide to jump into the toxic fray in a matter of time to further convolute the situation.

Some Pro-Pakatan Rakyat backers are insisting that Teoh’s death is very much “political” no matter how many ways his killing is cut and level-headed denouncements of that idea is blithely stomped as mired in naïveté. If that is the case, then the funeral was never intended to be a sombre, mournful affair, simply another stage to pour acid in the noxious political discourse. Just swim in the number alerts/messages that waterlogged the Twitter pages of several Pakatan leaders who showed up for the funeral.

Unfortunately, this cynical assessment is a prevalent occurrence and it is expended from all sides of the political spectrum. No love is lost in this marathon political feud and all is fair in loathing as long as the vendetta accrues political gains.

Perhaps not all politicians subscribe to this contemptuously misanthropic mindset. If there are, then they have to stand up and be counted, otherwise Teoh’s death is no different from the depravity ramped up by sex and deviant behaviour, violence and death, frailties and permissiveness.

The hunt for political game is infinite but courtesy tells us that Teoh Boon Hock deserves better than being a prized catch and trophy for the mantelpiece.