The meaning of civil liberties (UPDATED with Chinese Translation)

And no, I am not saying that NST distorted my interview, which is the first thing you will say I am trying to do. To be fair to my friend, Jalil, he did publish the verbatim transcripts, as I stipulated he do so. What I am saying is that many of you did not read the transcripts. You only read the headlines — man bites dog – and jumped to conclusions.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysians do not like to read. Many Malaysian PhD students I met in the UK do not read even one book a year other than their textbooks. These students who came to my house for dinner were amazed that I had accumulated two bookcases of hundreds of books in the mere three years that I had been in the UK. I buy second-hand or used books at one pound for two or three, although I do buy new books from Amazon on certain topics as well.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the strategy that we applied was to distribute single-page A4 risalah (handbills, or what some called flyers). The message we deliver to the voters needs to be brief and in point form, and better still if it is in graphics rather than text format.

Headlines also play a part in getting them to read the risalah. ‘Dog bites man’ does not tickle the readers fancy as much as ‘Man bites dog’. The latter would ensure that they read what we want so say. Even the UK press uses such sensationalised headlines: such as ‘Opposition leader puts foot in mouth’. Invariably, the opposition leader then was Michael Foot.

If I had to write about Margaret Thatcher I would headline my piece ‘The PM with the biggest balls in history’. Of course, Thatcher is a woman, which means she does not literally have balls.

The English language is complex. The choice of words and in what context it is used and in response to what type of question decides the true meaning of the statement. When English is not your mother tongue or is not the medium of instruction, as it was in our days in the 1960s, then obviously you will be grappling with the language.

One article I wrote where I questioned whether Umno would ever reform — and I said ‘when pigs fly’ — was literally translated by Harakah to ‘bila babi terbang’. One chap called me and laughed at my choice of idiom. I told this person that it was wrongly translated. It should have been translated to ‘bila kucing bertanduk’ (when cats grow horns).

This reminds me of the story of Lord Mountbatten speaking to the Chinese community leaders in Tanjong Malim after the town was put under curfew due to the killing of the government surveyors by the CPM terrorists. Mountbatten refused to lift the curfew unless they identified who these terrorists were.

After a week, still no one came forward and Mountbatten called the Chinese community leaders for a meeting. “If you want to be bastards then I can show you I can be a bigger bastard,” said Mountbatten.

The Chinese leaders were shocked when the translator said, “The Tuan has accused your father and mother of not being married when you were born.”

But they were very amused when the translator continued, “But the Tuan admits that his father and mother were also not married when he was born.”

General McArthur once gave a speech to the Chinese nationalist troops, which he ended with a long-winded joke. The translator translated it in just a few words and the soldiers laughed and clapped.

Later, the General asked the translator how he managed to translate that very long joke in just a few words and the translator said, “I just told them that the General has told us a joke so can you all please laugh and clap.”

Yes, when it is too complicated to translate, just cut to the chase. It is less trouble that way.

Amnesty International has issued a press statement regarding Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal yesterday. What Donna Guest said was basically what I said in my NST interview, although with a different choice of words.

In the interview, Jalil Hamid of NST (one-time with Reuters when I first knew him) asked me about the MCLM. I explained that the MCLM is about civil liberties. I know that many Malaysians, especially Muslims, are not yet ready to accept civil liberties in cases where it is viewed as opposed to Islam. Nevertheless, when we talk about civil liberties we sometimes have to compromise on Islamic principles in the interest of civil liberties.

I used the example of gay relationships. Under Islam this is certainly taboo. But if we want to talk about civil liberties then we must put aside religious taboos. I added that this makes me a very bad Muslim for saying something like that. But if I want to really propagate civil liberties there are no two ways about it. Religion has to be set aside if we want to talk about civil liberties.

Then they shifted the subject to Anwar Ibrahim and therefore does this mean I can accept a gay Prime Minister? I replied that the issue of Anwar being gay is not important to me. Anwar may be gay (not ‘maybe gay’) but that is not the mark of the suitability or otherwise of Anwar being the Prime Minister. It is whether he can run the country that matters.

I then stressed on how Selangor is being run and pointed out the weaknesses in the state administration. If you can’t even run one state how are the voters going to trust you with running the country? I mentioned that we had in fact raised this matter with Anwar back in 2010 and Anwar’s response was that the MB has a huge ego and will not listen to him.

I then pointed out that Anwar had appointed himself as the economic adviser to Selangor but over the last two years he has made more than 60 overseas trips for matters that have nothing to do with Selangor. They are all his personal trips. Why not just stay home and run the state instead of complaining about the MB, whom he appointed anyway?

Can Malaysians accept a gay Prime Minister? I replied that most Malaysians are not ready to accept a gay Minister or Prime Minister like in the UK and Australia. So that poses a problem for Anwar, whom many believe is guilty of the allegations against him.

I stressed that what I am saying is what many people are saying. The only thing is no one is prepared to say so openly but do so only in private discussions or in Mamak shops.

Just for the record, many friends who are now angry with me have been lamenting for a long time. One Blogger even accused Lim Guan Eng of corruption and wanted to expose him but I convinced this Blogger not to. This same Blogger has written some very nasty things about me.

This is the height of hypocrisy. They rant, rave, lament and curse Pakatan Rakyat. But they do not want to do so openly. And, when I do, they curse me. Some even said that they would not be voting Pakatan Rakyat come the next election. These same people now allege I have sold out.

I just do not understand these people. They will not be voting Pakatan Rakyat and I am the one who sold out? At least I am still shouting ABU.

Anyway, I maintain my stand that whether Anwar is or is not gay is of no concern to me. Whether he can run the country is. In the interest of civil liberties these archaic laws need to be abolished. Do you know that oral sex is as serious a crime as sodomy? Even Islam does not disallow oral sex and yet you can go to jail for oral sex.

Do I believe that Anwar is gay (or bisexual)? So what if I do? Am I not entitled to my beliefs if I think that there is a basis for this belief? Some people believe that Moses parted the Red Sea. Others believe that Jesus died on the cross and came back to life three days later. Then there are those who believe that Muhammad flew up to heaven on a winged horse to meet God. You are entitled to your beliefs even if there are some who consider these beliefs utter nonsense.

And no, I am not saying that NST distorted my interview, which is the first thing you will say I am trying to do. To be fair to my friend, Jalil, he did publish the verbatim transcripts, as I stipulated he do so. What I am saying is that many of you did not read the transcripts. You only read the headlines — man bites dog – and jumped to conclusions.

The comments and the many Blog articles talk about only one thing. They do not talk about what I said. They only talk about the fact that, if I gave an interview with NST, then this is evidence that I had sold out.

If I had said what I said in my NST interview in Harakah, then many would have agreed with what I said and would have said that this is exactly the same thing as what they are saying. They would say I am speaking on behalf of the rakyat. But it is because it was NST is the reason everyone is upset.

Do you know that what Hasan Ali is saying is the same thing as what the Kedah MB is saying? The only thing is Ustaz Azizan talks behind closed doors while Hasan’s statements are carried by the mainstream media.

If Hasan is a Trojan Horse then why is the Kedah MB not also a Trojan horse? They are both singing the same song. In fact, the Kedah MB has told a closed-door meeting that he believes Anwar is guilty. You may have forgotten that I have written about this some time ago.

Do you remember that article? I bet you don’t. And this is because you don’t read what I write. Now, if I were to say this in NST or TV3, you will take note. So sometimes I need to do this to grab your attention even at the risk of being called a Trojan horse or traitor. What more can I do to a nation that never reads?



Malaysia: Anwar case shows why sodomy law must be scrapped

The Malaysian government must repeal the criminal sodomy law used in a politically motivated attempt to bar Anwar Ibrahim from politics, Amnesty International said today after the opposition leader was acquitted by the country’s High Court.

“Anwar’s acquittal is a welcome move. Fortunately, the Malaysian authorities have refrained from turning the country’s opposition leader into a prisoner of conscience,” said Donna Guest, deputy Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.

“The government must now repeal the sodomy law, a repressive statute that enabled this politically motivated persecution.”

The High Court verdict comes in the run-up to national elections, widely expected to take place in early 2012.

If Anwar had been convicted and sentenced to prison for a year or more, he would have been barred from politics for five years.

This case was the second time Anwar was prosecuted for criminal sodomy.

After he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998, he was arrested on sodomy charges and imprisoned for six years. The sodomy conviction was later overturned and he was freed in 2004.

As a result of that conviction, Anwar was barred from politics until 2008.

In July 2008, a month before he returned to parliament in a by-election, the opposition leader was again arrested on sodomy charges. A 26-year-old former aide told police that he and Anwar had had a sexual encounter in a Kuala Lumpur apartment.

Laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity between adults are contrary to international human rights standards.

In December 2011, the UN Human Rights Commissioner published a report calling on states to repeal provisions that criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults.

In the case of Toonen v Australia, the UN Human Rights Commission in 1994 found that laws punishing same-sex sexual behaviour infringe on the right to privacy.

Malaysia’s criminal sodomy law, Section 377, was drawn from the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and imposed under British colonial rule. In 2009, India repealed its sodomy law.

“The sodomy law violates the rights of gay Malaysians. Moreover, it was used as a tool of political repression against Anwar,” said Donna Guest.

Translated into Chinese at: