A 21st century guide on RPK for Gen Z and Gen Alpha
By ZAIDI AZMI, Sinar Daily
Are you new to the ever-dizzying-fast-paced realm of Malaysian politics and are currently scratching your head in pure perplexity over the latest clash between Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin?
Consider this your crash course to Raja Petra 101 – a brief tale of a keyboard warrior, whose streaks of defiance and seer-like clairvoyance into the intricate dealings done in the country’s corridors of powers which led to his exile in the United Kingdom.
Popularly known as RPK, Raja Petra rose to prominence back when blogging was the in-thing among political firebrands who wanted to voice their views without being shackled by the censorships in the mainstream media.
Known for his sharp criticism of political elites and government practices, RPK and his blog, Malaysia Today, which was launched in 2004, quickly gained a following among Malaysians, both local and abroad, who were seeking alternative perspectives and a voice of dissent.
But it was only during the tenure of currently jailed former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Raja Petra’s influence peaked, gaining both stardom and infamy for his relentless exposés, often targeting high-ranking officials in the Barisan Nasional (BN)-led government.
His most notable action was when he published two bombshells of a statutory declarations in 2008, implicating Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, in the infamous murder case of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibu.
If you don’t know Altantuya then here’s a recap, she was a translator back when Malaysia was negotiating with France over purchase of Scorpène-class submarines who was shot in the head twice and her body blown up with explosives in a jungle near Shah Alam in October 2006.
Aghast, angered and presumably annoyed – like who wouldn’t – by RPK’s frequent damning allegations, the then-Najib-led administration wielded the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and arrested him without trial in September 2008.
For the record, the ISA – which was eventually repealed by the Najib administration – on June 18, 2012 – allows indefinite detention without trial.
RPK was eventually freed, on Nov 7, 2008, as the Shah Alam High Court ruled that his detention was illegal, however, following the arrest, he eventually made the decision to flee the country and seek asylum in the UK in 2009.
Although he lived in exile, commenting on Malaysian politics remained on top of RPK’s to-do-list, with vividly nuanced analysis, exposés and manoeuvres on intrigues that unfolded behind a lot of closed doors in Malaysia’s corridors of power with the help of his trusty crystal ball.
But how else would someone living over 10,576 kilometres from Malaysia be privy of such intricacies to the point of being able to pen a detailed who-said-what-to-who account as if he was standing next to them, draped in Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility?
Unless, of course, someone has been steadily feeding him top-secret political intel…but how likely would that be right? So yeah, magic crystal ball it is.
Also, apparently the 2008 arrest was RPK’s second tangle with ISA, with the first being in 2001 back when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still the Prime Minister as the latter claimed that he along with ten other opposition activists were plotting to overthrow him.
Perhaps, a third arrest would be too much of a risk for RPK hence the exodus to the UK.
However, RPK’s outspokenness extended beyond his criticisms of BN.
He also had strong opinion about political parties such as Pas and Pakatan Harapan, with him often voicing his scepticism and reservation towards the former, arguing that Pas’ religious conservatism agenda would erode the country’s secular framework.
As for Pakatan, while he initially was seen rather chummy with the lot, seeing the coalition as a viable alternative to BN and capable of enacting progressive changes and more transparent administration.
However, his support towards Pakatan was not unwavering.
Over time, RPK became critical of certain decisions taken by the coalition, particularly regarding what he perceived as compromise on key reform issues and Pakatan’s inability to deliver on its election promises.
All in all, RPK’s constantly revolving targets of criticisms pretty much encapsulates the psyche of most fence-sitting politically savvy Malaysians who despite being very opinionated are not blind loyalists who are incapable of seeing the faults of their preferred political parties.
It’s either that, or he could just be another keyboard mercenary who is ever willing to wield his craft of the written words according to the whims and wishes of the highest bidder. Go on, pick your poisons.
Be that as it may, it is an indisputable fact that RPK’s writings – regardless of its veracity or lack thereof – have added more colours, excitement, and oomph into the complex dynamics of Malaysian politics.
And if he has been able to tell us a number of compelling intrigues all while being abroad, one can only imagine the drama he will likely be privy off if he’s back in the country.
But for that to be a reality, RPK needs to get in touch with Saifuddin first and based on what the latter said on Thursday, he is just – in the immortal words of Charlie Puth – one call away.