Beware! Cavemen Working!

[Note:  I brought forward my usual Sunday contribution in light of what happened in Malaysia during the last 24 hours.   MBM]

Beware! Cavemen Working!

M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.com)

The arrest under the ISA of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the hugely popular Internet commentary portal Malaysia-Today, together with journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and MP Teresa Kok, as well as the “show cause” letter to three newspapers expose the caveman thinking and behavior of those we have entrusted to lead our nation.

To think that this repressive action is being taken during our holy month of Ramadan! So this is the essence of Abdullah Badawi’s much-hyped Islam Hadhari!

I join millions of other law-abiding Malaysians in condemning this latest Neanderthal action of the Abdullah Administration in its callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity. Unlike many however, I am not shocked by Abdullah’s latest act. On the contrary, it is so predictable. Raja Petra himself commented on his imminent arrest a few days earlier in his column, as well as in an interview with the BBC.

After all, the only tool a caveman has is his club, and the only skill he has learned is to swing it around wildly. When that does not work, the only choice in the caveman’s thinking is to get a bigger club and to swing it even more recklessly, even at the risk of destroying everything around him, including himself.

The government had earlier blocked Raja Petra’s website, but when that proved ineffective (as mirror sites popped up immediately everywhere) as well as embarrassing (as it showed the government’s impotence and stupidity), the caveman in Putrajaya dropped his club and grabbed an even bigger one and began swinging it clumsily around.

Rest assured that no matter how big the club or how hard the caveman swings it, this “new” strategy will not work either. We no longer live in caves and Malaysians – our leaders excepted – have long evolved from our Pithecanthropus phase.

Contrary to the official portrayal, Raja Petra is not and never was a threat to the safety and stability of the nation. That major threat comes instead from those cavemen in Putrajaya. Through his highly influential website, Raja Petra has done a yeoman’s job bringing the sunshine into that dark cave, using his website as a massive reflector. Unfortunately its dim-witted dwellers, long used to working under equally dim light, found this sudden brightness blinding; hence they went berserk.

Raja Petra has successfully ran rings around the collar of the petty and inept Malaysian officialdom. I applaud him for his success; I applaud him even more as he relishes in doing so!

Earlier the government had directed its agencies to block access to MalaysiaToday. When that proved futile they reversed their decision. Now they arrested him under the ISA. What will they do next when they discover that too will fail? Some folks are slow learners, others like Abdullah and his minions never learn at all. Another feature of the caveman!

The Phenomenon That Is RPK

Raja Petra Kamaruddin is more than just an individual or a blogger; he is a phenomenon. His creation, Malaysia-Today.net, now has a robust life of its own. Through it Raja Petra has successfully ignited the passion for freedom among Malaysians. This fire is now burning bright not only at Malaysia-Today.net but also everywhere its sparks have landed.

Even if Abdullah could douse down Malaysia-Today, a major supposition given his demonstrated ineptness, he could never suppress this yearning for freedom among Malaysians.

Nor for that matter could anyone else. Raja Petra had made fools of the many who tried. There was the pompous lawyer Raja Petra reduced to wild exasperations, frothing in his mouth at being unable to serve legal papers upon Raja Petra. Deputy Prime Minister Najib and his wife Rosmah wisely chose not to engage Raja Petra in any legal tussle even though he had made some serious allegations linking her to the brutal murder of a Mongolian model.

Far from being cowed by the string of lawsuits, threatened and real, civil and criminal, Raja Petra is emboldened. The only way they could “put him in” was not through the normal judicial process of using the courts but by resorting to the brutish powers of the ISA.

Malaysian officials justify their use of this abominable statute by pointing out that even countries like America, Singapore and South Korea have some version of this law. This is a misreading. Those oppressive statutes in America do not apply to Americans, only to foreigners. More importantly, the statutes are being regularly and successfully challenged in the courts.

As for Singapore and South Korea, yes those countries are cavalier in their respect for the basic human rights of their citizens, but at least they have an efficient clean government and citizens have a high standard of living. Not a bad trade off, though not one I would willingly partake if I were to have a choice.

Malaysians on the other hand have to contend with a repressive, corrupt and inefficient government as well as a rapidly eroding standard of living. The worse possible combination!

Social Entrepreneur Par Excellence

Raja Petra is a social entrepreneur par excellence. An entrepreneur is one who sees the needs of the consumers and goes about fulfilling that need, using the available tools and resources. In the process he makes a tidy monetary profit, but also gains other non-pecuniary benefits like satisfaction in serving his customers. A social entrepreneur profits not in monetary terms but in the changes he brings about in his community. And Raja Petra has brought about enormous and irreversible changes to Malaysians and the nation.

To be sure there were many others who preceded Raja Petra. He was successful because he used the medium of the season, the Internet. Had he been contented to writing columns in newspapers, delivering sermons, or making political speeches, he would, like many of his predecessors have limited if any success.

It is this unique combination of the Internet and Raja Petra together with the peculiar situation existing in Malaysia today that has produced this phenomenal success. The peculiar combination I refer to is first, the atrocious standards and utter lack of credibility of the mainstream media that eased the acceptance of Malaysia-Today by Malaysians. The second is the foresight of Dr. Mahathir with his Multimedia Super Corridor initiative and its solemn promise of non-censorship that made Raja Petra and Malaysia-Today blossom.

Today we, Malaysians as well as non-Malaysians are the beneficiaries. Raja Petra’s being held under the ISA would not in any way diminish that luster. But then what do cavemen know of about luster or gold and platinum! To them those are nothing but rocks and pebbles!

Putting Raja Petra away will not put an end to Malaysia-Today and what it stands for. It is we the people that have made what Malaysia-Today what it is. The government would have to put all freedom-loving Malaysians in jail if it ever hopes to put a stop to this phenomenon that is Malaysia-Today.

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