Malaysiakini : COMMENT | So PKR leader Latheefa Koya is now the villain because of a
couple of her statements. The first when she publicly disagreed with
DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and reminded everyone that the court of public
opinion is not enough to convict former premier Najib Abdul Razak and that no politician should be encouraging such a perception.
The second was when she called a child donating money to Tabung Harapan a gimmick. Well, folks, she is right on both counts. Tabung Harapan - a fund
which so far has no oversight except that it is controlled by a
political coalition - is a politically-charged fund no matter its
A child who donates to the fund has been contextualised as someone
who has reduced the national debt as opposed to the former prime
minister, which says a lot about the narrative developed by Pakatan
Harapan. In other words, his act has become politicised and because
everyone hates Najib, it is easy to make such statements. People either applaud or can’t be bothered to face the online opprobrium expected for dissenting against these types of tactics.
This kid is lucky. Partisan politics in Malaysia is not like it is in
some Western democracies. If this were to happen in the US for
instance, this kid’s life would have been torn apart with his detractors
combing through his life hoping to spin his action as part of a larger
partisan political narrative.
There would be articles which view his act as partisan posturing and
he and his family would be vilified. This is why it is never a good
thing for politicians to use kids in their narratives. Latheefa is right when she said the whole thing is exploitative but,
of course, you wouldn’t get that from the expected online abuse she
Besides the usual allegations of having Umno DNA, a political
operative from DAP sent me a sampling (which disgusted her) of abuse
including comments that questioned if Lathheefa was menopausal, a bitter
hag or part of an elaborate PKR plot to destabilise Harapan. All this
from people who are supposed to be defending the noble actions of a kid.
Hannah Yeoh said at first she refused
to accept the piggy bank but then relented. Her first instinct was the
correct one. She should have just told this young man that the money
would better serve the community he interacts with, his school,
charitable organisations around his neighbourhood and that sort of thing
instead of using this occasion to spread the Kool-Aid.
And make no mistake. This was a political statement. And that’s fine
but you should not dress it up as anything other than a political
statement. And that’s the problem right there. This is not about the
kid. However, people who are critical of this stunt, would be made to
look as if they are attacking the child.
His father had to come up and say that his son was a patriot when
nobody was questioning the motives of his child - only the motives of
those who chose to accept his money and remind everyone about that. Does
anyone really need to be reminded that Najib is a kleptocrat? If you really believe that children should be able to express
themselves, then what you should be doing is removing legislation that
hinders such behaviour, exorcise racial and religious norms that hinder
such expression and encourage young people with diverse opinions instead
of relying on mob rule to silence dissent.
If a young person were to have written something that was against
Harapan - even if it did not support the past regime - could you imagine
the reception the child would have got? Actually, you do not. Anyone
who offers up a dissenting view is routinely trounced by the Harapan
Need for scepticism
However, Hannah is right when she said that there are Malaysians kids
doing this sort of thing. Over the years of observing activism,
especially by young people, I have noticed how children, especially from
underprivileged backgrounds, are more politically aware these days. They spending time, effort and money on activities that ironically do
not get the attention of politicians except when it is politically
expedient for the latter to do so. What these kids do is not a sideshow.
It is part of their lives.
Honestly, I was amazed at how many qualifiers were in Latheefa’s
statement. For instance, she made it clear that when she said that
Harapan should get on with governing - she did not mean they were not.
All she ventured was that this was a sideshow that the Harapan regime
could do without. And it is.
Her rejoinder that this was a country of laws was also met with the
same kind of online abuse. I get that Latheefa can be mercurial, but
receiving text messages that she is some sort of sub-rosa agent out to
destabilise Harapan? Or that she was attempting to divert from PKR’s own
issues by sullying the good name of the DAP. Really? Another text read:
"What has she ever done for this country, unlike this kid?”
So let me get this straight. Because PKR is perceived as the weak
link in Harapan and its internal squabbles well-documented, PKR
political operatives should just keep quiet and not say anything -
especially if it goes against Harapan - because this demonstrates how
they just want to destabilise the new government?
I have had a few public disagreements with what Latheefa has said but
to claim that she is just some political operative who hasn’t done
anything for the country is downright moronic. Her work with stateless people and gender issues, not to mention
public interest cases - that nobody seemed to be interested in - is
evidence that she is just not some political operative looking for
Reminding Malaysians that there is a difference between public
opinion and the rule of law is something we need from our political
operatives. Reminding Malaysians that the former prime minister deserves
due process like every other citizen in this country is important. And
she was right again when she questioned how a politician could make such
a statement encouraging otherwise.
Why did we vote for Harapan? I do not know about anyone else but I
voted for them to bring change in the way how we do things in this
country. I did not vote for Harapan so a lynch mob could go after the
former prime minister. I did not write
glowingly about attorney-general Tommy Thomas so he could play the old
BN game and fix the political enemies of the Harapan state.
If a case is brought against Najib, I want it to be an airtight case
which finally exposes the depths of the 1MDB scandal after years of
allegations. I want Malaysians to understand exactly how corrupt the
former Umno state was and how we could ensure that the Harapan regime
does not have the same room to make such mistakes.
These kinds of Harapan narratives and strategies prove one thing. There is a great need for scepticism in this new Malaysia.