RPK the conscience of civil society

By AA Rahman

Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) is a phenomenon. RPK is known to not just Malaysians, but also the international community via his website Malaysia Today. That the latter has become an authoritative source of information about what is not going so well with the powers-that-be stems from the fact that each piece of story which RPK chooses to post, no matter how baffling and incredible, would later turn out to be true.

The latest concerns a member of the prosecution team for the Sodomy II trial. When the piece about her first appeared in MT, it sounded too good to be true. But now even the AG cannot ignore it and has to respond, implicitly admitting the truth of the episode.

RPK, represented by his website, Malaysia Today, is a phenomenon not just for Malaysia, but also for the world. RPK started his website during the reformasi period just as Malaysiakini, and later Malaysian Insider, appeared on the media landscape to provide the public with a more balanced coverage of news and issues affecting them.

Unlike Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider which adhere to journalistic norms, MT deviates from the norms; the way it reports courts controversy and often borders on sedition. For all these shortcomings on the part of MT, the readers seem just too willing to forgive RPK, and seem quite pleased to settle for the benefits of knowing about what others would not publish or print. In other words, in this unique case the end does justify the means!

Indeed the readers of MT, needless to say, increase in number by the day for the reason that MT has carved out for itself such an excellent track record (partly also due to the controversy surrounding the person and yet partly also due to RPK being a hunted fugitive). For that reason, the authority has become so afraid of RPK and his website.

They tried to imprison him (yes, imprison him they did) so that he would not be able to spread his ‘lies’. But that turns out to be just impossible and even put the prosecuting party in the same league as the comical character of Sheriff Lobo.

Putting RPK behind bars will not stop his torrent of reporting and analyses and communicating issues critically relevant to the people. This is evident from the fact that while he spent his time in Kamunting, his postings kept coming! The authority would, of course, like to banish RPK.

That he is at the moment a fugitive is a consequence of the determination of the authority to prosecute him, in fact, he has been denied his rightful place in this country of his own.

It now seems ironic that it is while he is outside the country, seemingly out of touch with the reality, that is Malaysia, that he posted the said latest explosive piece. So it appears that to silence RPK is a futile effort. No matter what happens to RPK, Malaysia Today will live on.

Of course, some try to discredit his posting by saying they each contains ‘2% truth and the rest is just lies (read ‘you cannot produce the evidence in a court of law)’. But then, it is that 2% which constitutes the fact of the matter that matters, and most people can just do away with 98% which may be just too elusive, being well-protected by the all-too-powerful machinery of the powers- that-be.

Together with Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today may just represent the conscience of the civil society.