Monday, June 29, 2009

Way to go, Dato' Kadar Shah!


M. Bakri Musa

“Apologies – at the very least – are called for.” So began an editorial, “Feast of Lies,” that appeared in the New Straits Times on April 27, 2009. Its pontificating tone continues, “… scandalous allegations are leapt on and gnawed to the bone without even a perfunctory attempt at verification, ….”

What triggered the righteous indignation of the paper’s editorial writers was the alternative media’s widespread reporting of the shenanigans of the Kelantan royal family. Today, thanks to a brave Malaysian, Kadar Shah Sulaiman, and the professionalism of Singapore’s police personnel, the Kelantan Prince’s estranged wife, Manohara, is now free. As the world now knows, her nine-month royal marriage was anything but a fairy tale, at least according to Manohara, which is what matters.

While her husband may be a prince, she discovered too late that he was of the Neanderthal variety. Perhaps her kiss was not powerful enough; the frog still remains in him.

I would have thought that the folks at The New Straits Times, of all people, would not be strangers to royal mischief. All they have to do is review their archives of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

What prompted the sanctimonious editorial was the appearance of the young royal couple at a wedding reception in Kota Baru where they were (or at least she was) seen smiling happily. Any editor who could have been so easily hoodwinked by a “photo op,” well, he or she could also be easily swayed by a mere phone call from someone powerful. So much for being “hardnosed” journalists!

However, this commentary is not on the credibility (or the lack thereof) of The NST. I need not add anything on that matter; the paper’s declining circulation is proof enough of the current sorry state of this once proud publication.

Instead, I cannot help but wonder what would have happened had Manohara tried her escape not from a Singapore hotel but one in KL. Three points worth pondering; the first two relate to the professionalism of Singapore’s public service, in this particular case, its Police Force. The third concerns the humanity of one Malaysian who tipped Manohara’s family that the Prince and his wife would be in Singapore and thus was instrumental in her escape.

First, the Singapore police rightly pointed out to the Prince and his hangers-on that they risk being jailed for interfering with police work or obstructing Manohara’s movements. Second was the revealing comment of that taxi driver to the effect that Manohara and her family had nothing to fear from the Singapore police. That such a compliment would come from a taxi driver reflects the integrity of the republic’s police.

Had the Manohara episode happened in Kuala Lumpur, our Chief of Police would be kissing the Raja Temonggong’s hand and asking for forgiveness for “interfering” with royal affairs. The Chief would also probably give Manohara some fatherly “advice” to return to her husband and be a “good” and “obedient” wife.

Alas, we see this blind royal genuflection even among the highest echelon of our leadership. Despite the horrifying details related by Manohara, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyuddin saw fit to comment that the Malaysian government does not want to get involved. “I think this is more of a personal matter,” he was reported to have said. “We should not be dragged into this situation so we want to just leave it as it is,” he continued.

Muhyuddin as Deputy Prime Minister ought to know that once a crime is committed, or alleged to have been committed, then that is no longer a private matter. The state must have an interest in that. That is our Deputy Prime Minister for you. He had so quickly forgotten that he was sworn to uphold the laws of the country. A crime is a crime regardless of who had committed it. And spousal abuse is a crime.

Then there is Nazri Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister’ office; he is still waiting for a formal complaint! Obviously he did not read his party’s paper, the NST! Poor Aziz would wait till it snows in Malaysia if he were to think that Manohara would trust our institutions well enough to lodge a police report here! This monkey of a minister just refuses to see anything until it is pointed out to him. It did not occur to his thick skull that he should be the one to direct the police to investigate. If nothing else, to protect the integrity of the palace if indeed Manohara were fabricating her allegations.

If Muhyuddin and Nazri could not say anything sensible, they should just shut up. There is no need to embarrass the country. Come to think of it, that is good advice for all our leaders. I wonder if Nazri and Muhyuddin have a daughter; how they would feel if she were to be abused by her husband. The ministers’ utterances were at best boorish; at worse, reprehensible.
Second is the reputation of Singapore’s police in the eyes of the island’s taxi drivers. “… [T]he police would definitely protect us regardless of who we were, whether we were foreigners or locals, whether we were rich or poor,” one driver told Manohara’s family. I wonder what our taxi drivers think of our own police force if we were to engage them in candid conversations.
Here would be some realistic samples. “The last time those bastards stopped me they demanded no less than RM200!” Another: “That huge mansion on the hill, that’s the police chief’s second house!” These supposed comments are not figments of my florid imagination. Witness what happened to former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the hands of the Police Chief. Anwar was even cockier and more certain of his power than Muhyuddin could ever hope to be. Yet that did not protect Anwar.

The scary part of that ugly Anwar incident was not the rogue Chief of Police rather that the assault occurred in front of at least two senior officers. They did not see fit to restrain their brute lawless chief; they also chose to remain silent when the subsequent controversy erupted. They witnessed a major felony being committed and chose not to stop or report it. They were guilty of being accomplices to a major crime as well as obstructing justice. Yet those two officers still serve His Majesty’s Government. That is the Royal Malaysian Police.

It is tempting to condemn Malaysians generally, as many are wont to, for the abject performances of our leaders and institutions. It is after all difficult to separate leaders and institutions from the people.

Seen in this light, the exemplary performance of Kadar Shah Sulaiman, UMNO’s Muar branch chief, deserves much praise and wider recognition. Clearly he saw his duty to a suffering fellow human greater than that to a sultan or sultan’s family. Kadar is truly a modern-day Hang Jebat; he makes us all proud.

The shenanigans of Malay royals are not news. As for the credibility and reputation of our mainstream media editors, now that would be news when they showed any! Currently their reputation may only be slightly less soiled than that of the sultans. Our leaders and institutions are not much better. Given such a milieu it is easy to be pessimistic. Yet amidst such gloom we can occasionally be pleasantly surprised. Kadar Shah Sulaiman’s action assured us that there still exists some humanity among Malaysians. It also shows that one brave soul can indeed make a difference.

As for our editors in the mainstream media, do not expect a mea culpa any time soon; they still delude themselves into thinking that they are doing a swell job. They do not bother with “even a perfunctory attempt at verification.”

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