Between friends, comrades and acquaintances (UPDATED with Chinese Translation)

Opposition supporters demonstrate a very low level of maturity. They allow their thinking to be clouded by emotions. We need to be pragmatic. Support the cause by all means. The cause is what matters. But leaders are dispensable. Leaders come and go. The cause remains.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Back in the days when I used to do business (that would be pre-1995) I had a ‘guiding light’. I do not do business with people I socialise with and I do not socialise with people I do business with. I keep my friends and my business acquaintances separate.

I did, however, break that rule a number of times. I did business with some friends and each time I got screwed big time. I lost quite a bit of money and that was when I got so disgusted I decided to call it quits in 1995 and thereafter focused fulltime on my real passion, writing. Well, only friends can screw you because only friends are able to exploit your trust.

I suppose the saying ‘the surest way to lose a friend is to lend him money’ holds true here. That is why whenever a friend wants to borrow money I just give him a portion of what he asks for and tell him that it is a gift, not a loan. And then I just write off the amount. Better that than you never get the money back and lose a friend in the process.

The same goes for political comrades. I separate the ‘rakan seperjuangan’ (comrades of the same struggle) from friends. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, Haris Ibrahim, the President of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) is both a comrade and a friend (plus my lawyer as well). But (Sam) Haris, as I said, is the exception.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is my friend. But he is not my rakan seperjuangan though. Dr Mahathir’s struggle is to ensure that Umno stays in power while mine is ABU (Anything But Umno).

I know, at this point some of you are going to start foaming at the mouth and scream: how can I regard Dr Mahathir as a friend after what he did to Malaysia? Well, as I said, we differ on ideology but that does not mean I can’t take him as a friend, and vice versa.

When I was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in September 2008, Dr Mahathir made a public statement condemning my detention. He was most upset that the government detained me, whom Dr Mahathir said, is just a Blogger and not a threat to national security.

When the court released me in November 2008, Dr Mahathir phoned me. He wanted to know how I was and, understandably, I was pleased that the ex-Prime Minister took the trouble to phone me on the day of my release.

No one else phoned me, not one of the opposition leaders, not even Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Ronnie Liu and Saari Sungib did come to see me though). They could not be bothered about me although I was detained because I was doing the work of the opposition. Dr Mahathir, however, phoned me to ask how I was. Under those circumstances how can I not regard Dr Mahathir as a friend?

Another person who spoke up for me when I was detained was Datuk Zaid Ibrahim. In fact, Zaid not only spoke up for me but he even resigned from his post as Minister in protest of my detention. Name me one Barisan Nasional minister who would resign from his/her post out of protest for detaining his/her friend. Most would rather distant themselves from their friend to ensure their political survival. Zaid, instead, sacrificed his political career for a friend.

Again, just like many can’t understand why I regard Dr Mahathir as a friend, they also can’t understand why I support Zaid, whom they regard as a traitor to the opposition cause. Nevertheless, while I regard Zaid as my friend, I refused to join his political party (which hurt his feelings, I know).

When I had to leave the country to avoid a third detention under the ISA, Zaid flew to Manchester to meet me. He even took me to a football match at the Old Trafford (Manchester United versus Sunderland). When I flew to Bangkok in January this year, Zaid came over to meet me and to buy me dinner. Last week, he, again, flew to Bangkok to meet up with me and to spend some time with me.

The other friends who went to Manchester (three times over three years) to meet me were Tan Sri Sanusi Junid and Mat Sabu of PAS. Mat Sabu even slept in my house and his purpose for going to Manchester was for no other reason other than to meet me and to spend time with me.

Sanusi Junid even phoned me on Hari Raya day to wish me ‘Selamat Hari Hari’. I am not a rakan seperjuang of Sanusi. Just like Dr Mahathir, Sanusi’s perjuangan is Umno and mine is ABU. But he calls me on Hari Raya day to wish me ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ while none of the opposition leaders would do that (or even members of the Selangor Royal Family).

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and quite a number of Umno leaders are my friends. Many Umno Bloggers are my friends. A few of the MCA, Gerakan and PPP leaders are also my friends. All these people meet me when they are in the UK and also phone me from time to time.

Okay, I have talked about Dr Mahathir, Zaid, Sanusi, Mat Sabu, Nazri Aziz and all those others. You are probably by now wondering: what about Anwar Ibrahim? What is Anwar to me?

Well, Anwar is the Opposition Leader. So I support Anwar because I am pro-opposition and Anwar is the Opposition Leader. But he is not my friend. He is not my friend because he has not demonstrated friendship like Dr Mahathir, Zaid, Sanusi, Mat Sabu, Nazri Aziz, etc., have.

But that is all Anwar is to me, my rakan seperjuangan, nothing more. And don’t expect me to demonstrate loyalty to Anwar as a friend would because he has not shown me that he is my friend like Dr Mahathir, Zaid, Sanusi, Mat Sabu, Nazri Aziz, etc., have.

Some say I am too critical towards Anwar. Actually, I have been holding back. You have not seen how critical I can be if I really wanted to. I do not want to go all out to criticise Anwar because too many people will take this criticism as a sell out or an act treacherous to the opposition cause.

The trouble is: people expect me to suck Anwar’s dick to prove my loyalty to the opposition cause. Why must the opposition cause be tied to Anwar? The opposition cause is the opposition cause and Anwar is Anwar. They are two different issues and should not be packaged as one issue.

This, many can’t seem to understand. They think that since you support the opposition then you must also support Anwar. I support PAS as well. Does that mean I must also support Hasan Ali? Can’t I oppose Hasan Ali while supporting PAS?

Opposition supporters demonstrate a very low level of maturity. They allow their thinking to be clouded by emotions. We need to be pragmatic. Support the cause by all means. The cause is what matters. But leaders are dispensable. Leaders come and go. The cause remains.

The million-dollar question is: is Anwar the only Malaysian out of 28 million Malaysians who can lead the opposition? I think not. You mean out of 28 million Malaysians we can’t find a replacement to Anwar? How come Anwar has been made so indispensable?

Anwar is most likely going to jail. He is most likely going to jail because he may be convicted of sodomy. Never mind if Anwar is or is not guilty or whether Anwar is a victim of a political conspiracy. That no longer matters. What matters is, who is going to lead the opposition once Anwar goes to jail?

Surely we are not serious about storming the Sungai Buloh Prison to break down the walls to free Anwar from jail and make him Prime Minister, like what Azmin Ali said? That’s not how Prime Minister’s are appointed in a parliamentary democracy.

Let’s get real. We need someone to lead the opposition. And once Anwar is sent to jail it will have to be someone new. Personally, if you ask me, I would choose Nurul Izzah. But that is my personal opinion and my opinion may be clouded and not the best choice. Anyway, I am entitled to my personal opinion even if I may be wrong.

In closing, let me just say that I choose my own friends and no one is going to tell me who I can take as my friends. Yes, I know that many in the opposition resent the fact that I take Dr Mahathir, Sanusi, Zaid, Nazri Aziz, etc., as my friends. Well, tough! There is nothing you can do about that.

Translated into Chinese at: