The journey in life is never a straight line (PART 8)

I really did not care too much whether Anwar was going to spend the rest of his days in jail. I felt he deserved jail anyway, if not for sodomy at least for helping Dr Mahathir screw up the country and for making his friends and family rich. But Anwar had started something here, which could be useful to the cause of unseating Dr Mahathir and kicking Umno out. So why not ride on that Reformasi wave and take advantage of it?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

By mid-1990 I had already wound down most of my businesses or sold off those that could be sold. Fortunately, that was just two years or so before the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. The bankers I met told me I must be a genius to be able to anticipate this crisis two years before it happened and to get out of the market in time.

The truth is I just no longer had any interest in business. Business sickened me. I felt nauseous when I looked at my business.

Nevertheless, I did not correct this misperception by the bankers. I allowed them to continue to think that I am a genius who anticipated the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis two years before it happened when even the world’s best economists could not see that — or even Malaysia’s greatest leaders such as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim.

A friend of mine told me that my enemies had got a bomoh (witch doctor) to charm me with black magic (‘kena buat’, as the Malays would say) so that my heart ‘turned’ and I felt ‘sick’ with business. And that is why I just write and write and neglect my business, my friend said.

That was quite true. I did feel sick with business and I was writing and writing, day in and day out. But I am not too sure whether this was because a bomoh had ‘buat’ me. Anyway, I have seen stranger things in my 62 years, some which defy explanation. I would like to believe, though, that there were no magic spells involved in my ‘change of heart’.

Just to digress a bit, another friend told me that every time I came near him he felt that something was ‘wrong’ (ada tak kena). He said he suspected I ‘kena buat orang’. He insisted he take me to meet a ‘gifted’ person who is known to have the ability to exorcise ‘demons’ from ‘orang kena buat’.

I have always been a curious person who would not hesitate to try anything new, at least once. So I agreed to the exorcism. The ‘exorcist’ just touched my big toe lightly and I began sweating profusely and wailed like a banshee. My friend could not stand the sound of my screaming so he left the room. He later told me that the scream did not sound like me one bit. It was a most unusual scream that did not sound human at all, he told.

I am not one to believe in the supernatural. But there you are. Believe it or not, that happened, and I still do not know what to make of it. The church, however, believes in such things, as do the majority of Muslims. As far as I am concerned, though, I had found my new ‘calling’ — a political activist cum political writer — and I found this life more interesting than the life of a businessman, something I had been for 20 years.

I think, at 45, I just needed a change, that’s all. Call it mid-life crisis if you wish. Or maybe it was because I was almost the same age as when both my parents died so I wanted to do something different before I died. Or call it possession by demons, if you also wish. Your choice!

Anyway, back to the issue of my businesses. For companies like Maroda Sdn Bhd, the Mercedes Benz dealership, I sold my interest to my partner. That was actually a very profitable company and what I regarded as my ‘flagship’, as I mentioned in the earlier episodes of this series of articles.

I did not make any profit on those shares I sold to my partner. In fact, I made a loss because I transferred my shares at RM1 per share even though I had held on to those shares for more than ten years and a Mercedes Benz dealership is worth at least a million or two in ‘goodwill’. Nevertheless, I took a ‘haircut’ because my partner could not possibly have forked out RM1 million or RM2 million if I had asked him to pay me that.

I practically ‘gave’ that company to my partner, a result of my disgust regarding the state of affairs. Hmmm…or maybe it was my partner who had got the bomoh to buat me. Smile (Joke only lah).

Another factor that prompted me to sell off my shares in Maroda is the fact that my partner was an Umno man and he was facing a lot of problems from Umno for partnering with an opposition supporter, meaning me. In fact, Umno was lobbying Cycle and Carriage to terminate Maroda’s dealership and to give the dealership to an Umno company. Hence, if I had stayed his partner, Maroda would have probably lost the agency anyway.

In fact, Umno had been trying to block Maroda from getting the Mercedes agency since 1980. Shahrir Samad, the then Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, can confirm this because he told my partner so. To be fair to Shahrir, though, he did not do what Umno asked him to do — to deny Maroda the agency. So not all Umno people are scumbags — at least not Shahrir Samad, whose brother, Khalid Samad, is the current PAS MP for Shah Alam.

By mid-1998 I was totally retired except for a bihun (fine noodles) factory that I still owned. But I was not involved in the running of that factory. I had a manager to take care of it.

The bihun manufacturing business was not too bad, although you can’t become a millionaire in that business — because it was very competitive and monopolised by the Chinese. Around 50% of our market was our own branding while the other 50% was contract manufacturing — which means we manufacture for others.

You can’t really make money in contract manufacturing because the selling price is too low. But it allowed you to cover your fixed costs such as salaries, etc. Hence you can make a decent profit from your own brand — which you can sell at a higher price — and since the fixed costs are already taken care of you only need to worry about the variable or material costs.

1998 was also the time that Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from Umno and the government — 2nd December 1998 to be exact. And that was a day of celebration for me.

You see, over the three years before that, I had been whacking Anwar Ibrahim kau-kau. I condemned him and even exposed his wrongdoings and revealed details of how all his cronies and family members were getting rich. My ‘flagship’ article was called ‘The Rise and Fall of Anwar Ibrahim’, which was published in Harakah, the party organ of PAS.

Anwar’s people were, understandably, furious.

In that article I had predicted Anwar’s downfall. I also revealed why he was going to fall. I revealed that Anwar was plotting behind Dr Mahathir’s back and that the old man took two months leave and appointed Anwar the Acting Prime Minister as a trap for Anwar to walk in to. I then predicted that Dr Mahathir would make his move on Anwar and would finish him off, once and for all, once he returns from his two months leave.

Hence, when it happened exactly as how I predicted it was going to happen, I felt that that was a cause for celebration. I was right and now I could tell everyone, “I told you so!” And when Anwar launched his Reformasi Movement on 2nd September 1998, culminating in the massive rally at Dataran Merdeka on 20th September 1998, I did not ‘go to the ground’. I stayed home and watched Anwar get demolished by Dr Mahathir.

It was when I saw Anwar’s black eye and we were told that he was handcuffed, blindfolded and beaten up by no less than the IGP himself that I became outraged. I was also quite surprised by the massive turnout at Dataran Merdeka on 20th September. It was then that I realised that Anwar had created a wave of dissent and that there was a strong likelihood the Reformasi Movement could be a platform for our opposition to Umno.

I really did not care too much whether Anwar was going to spend the rest of his days in jail. I felt he deserved jail anyway, if not for sodomy at least for helping Dr Mahathir screw up the country and for making his friends and family rich. But Anwar had started something here, which could be useful to the cause of unseating Dr Mahathir and kicking Umno out. So why not ride on that Reformasi wave and take advantage of it?

Okay, maybe my reasons for rallying to Anwar’s side were less than noble. It was not so much to see justice for Anwar (who did not understand the meaning of the word anyway) but to ‘use’ Anwar, the new icon of dissent, to further our own cause, which I had personally been involved in since the 1970s. Anwar was using us anyway to fight the system that he was once part of and which he exploited for his own interests. Hence, since he was using us, it was not unfair if we too used him. It was a win-win situation, as they would say today.

So I decided to come out and become active in the Reformasi Movement. But then that triggered other problems for me. My bihun customers began cancelling their contracts. They were under pressure to kill our business.

I met up with the GM of our biggest customer, Anwar Ibrahim’s schoolmate in the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), and he advised me to remove my name from the company. As long as my name was still in the company they can’t give me any more business.

I discussed this matter with another of Anwar’s classmates, Lt Kol Yunos Othman, and he agreed to become one of my nominees. I would transfer 500,000 of my shares to him and another 500,000 to another person. He would also take over the running of the business and I was not to show my face at the factory to prove that I had ‘sold’ the business.

He then told me he needed RM500,000 working capital to finance the business and he brought me to meet someone high up in the bank, another classmate of Anwar. The banker agreed to give the company RM500,000 but they would need security. His bank would give loans based on 50% of the security value if it is vacant land. So the land must be at least RM1 million in value.

I agreed to lend the company my land and the company got the loan. The bihun contracts were reinstated and with a price increase on top of that. And every month I would receive a ‘salary’ of RM5,000 as agreed.

After a few months the RM5,000 stopped coming. I then found out that the 500,000 shares of the second nominee had been transferred to Lt Kol Yunos. I spoke to my second nominee and she denied that she had transferred the shares. I then went to meet the Company Secretary, Ong Keng Tong, and he said that my nominee had signed the transfer forms in front of him — which she, again, denied.

Later, I received a letter from the land office informing me that the bank was auctioning off my land. I found out from the bank that not a single Sen of the loan had been paid.

By then I had other problems on my hand — my detention under ISA — so I decided to call it a day and just move on. I never spoke to Lt Kol Yunos again and till today I do not know what happened to my factory. I just did not care any more. To me that was my ‘previous life’ and I no longer wanted to be concerned about my previous life.

Or maybe it was the charm that the bomoh put on me that made me not care. Smile