A Tale of Two Tuns

Art Harun

If ever there was a wish which I could be granted  when I grow really old, – this is not to say that I am not already old, it is just that I am not that old, yet  –  that would be a wish that I could be given the wisdom of knowing when to keep my mouth shut.

Because really, people who are pass their "best-before" date could really sound curious and funny, especially when what they are saying now goes against what they have been saying and doing while they were younger.

Amidst all the grief and disbelief caused by the tragic lost of life of an innocent son of Malaysia in the past week, two Tuns were also hogging the headlines over what they said. In a way, these two Tuns had almost connived to provide me – and many others, I believe – with much needed comic relief in times when such relief was really needed.

And so, I should have perhaps thanked both of them but for the fact that their statements were laced with so much irony and insidiousness.

Firstly it was Tun Abdullah. He was apparently conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Democracy by Universiti Utara Malaysia.

It is now of course fashionable within the ruling elite to have the prefix "Dr" somewhere between the array of prefixes preceding their name. Like Tun Tan Seri Datuk Seri Dr Hj So and so. It gives them the comfort of being in possession of something extra. Something which others do not have. Or so they think. Like when they buy a Mercedes, they must buy a Brabus. Things like that. Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, yes, Tun Abdullah was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Democracy by UUM. I would not go into whether or not such conferment was justifiable – because this article would be too long otherwise – but what he said during his acceptance speech was what, in my opinion, precipitated the saying "silence is golden".

Upon being conferred, our newly minted Doctor in Democracy proceeded to the microphone and, in what was believed to be nothing short of an astounding moment, called for the abolishment of the ISA. I really hope he had read his prepared speech before delivering it. And if he had read it, I hope he understood what he was saying. If anything, I hope he was awake while he was doing so.

That call would have, in the normal course of things, been met with jubilant celebrations  of orgasmic proportion. However, coming from an ex Premier under whose administration there were 82 arrests; 76 new detention orders and 87 renewal of detention orders under the ISA as at the end of 2007 (figures are from the SUARAM's Human Rights  Report 2007), that call was as funny as – if not funnier than – a drunken kangaroo spinning like a top on its tail while shouting "kangaroo boleh!"

Added to that, under his administration, the ISA was abused beyond anything which was thought possible when Raja Petra Kamarudin and Teresa Kok were arrested for apparently "insulting Muslims and Islam". Raja Petra, as we all know, was later detained at Kamunting before a brave Judge, Justice Dato' Syed Helmi of the Shah Alam High Court, released him (the government's appeal against that release is still pending in the Federal Court).