Cannot help it but feel solemn

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 30, 2014 shows Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gesturing during an interview with Agence France-Presse at his office in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysias highest court on February 10, 2015 upheld a sodomy conviction against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, rejecting his appeal against the verdict and casting fresh doubt over his turbulent political career. AFP PHOTO / FILES / MOHD RASFAN

THE newspapers were sold out yesterday morning in most parts of Miri City.

Every local and national papers had headlines that featured the fate of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

People in coffeeshops were chattering non-stop while reading the news on the jailing of the Opposition Leader.

Many people said they could not help it but feel sorry especially for his wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, and their children and grandchildren.

“All credit to Anwar for not running away, for not seeking political exile in another country, when he had the chance. He stood and fought all the way,” said a senior civil servant I bumped into during lunch hour.

People continue to ask. Did he really commit sodomy? The Federal Court said “yes”.

Opposition politicians and sympathisers said “no”.

Even if he had, the five-year jail term was too severe, they said.

They have labelled the court ruling as political.

Opposition political leaders from across country, including in Sarawak, are very bitter. Of course they are bitter.

They consider the ruling an act of gross injustice.

Anwar is very important to the opposition in Sarawak.

It is a well-known fact that Anwar had made big impacts in Sarawak that had resulted in the opposition winning more and more state and parliamentary seats during the past two state elections and past parliamentary polls in the Land of the Hornbills.

He is a popular figure. When he came to Miri during the last general elections, he was greeted by thousands at his ceramahs.

During the 2011 state election, his presence in Miri City saw record crowds turning up every night.

Anwar’s presence in Miri had helped the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat to topple the Barisan Nasional in two state seats of Pujut and Piasau and the Miri parliamentary seat.

Miri was under the control of the once-invisible Sarawak United People’s Party for many decades, until the 2011 state election and 2012 parliamentary polls when Anwar and the opposition came in droves and turned the SUPP upside down in this place.

What would happen now that Anwar is jailed? Will the Pakatan Rakyat disintegrate? Or will it become stronger?

The next state election in Sarawak is due within 15 months, with the current state assembly term ending in June 2016.

Anwar’s jailing will definitely have an impact. It may garner even more symphathy votes for the Pakatan parties of PKR, DAP and PAS or it may work the other way around.

The absence of his towering figure during public election rallies may have a telling effect on the opposition parties.

Whatever it is, one cannot help but feel solemn for Anwar and his family.

They are paying the price for being so involved in the world of politics; and that world of politics can be quite perilous.

I know of several personal friends with close links to politicians who consider politics as “a world of deception” and that it is more healthy for them to stay away from being entangled in the political web.

During the past 24 years in journalism, I know of some very capable people who do not want to be actively associated with politics.

The very first time I heard that comment was in Kuala Terengganu, way back in the early 1990s when I was serving there as a rookie reporter covering Terengganu and Kelantan.

When I was in the east coast states, I got to know a very hardworking entrepreneur, a top brain in the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Terengganu.

He remarked to me during a dinner one day that it was not wise to be involved in politics.

There was a political party that was trying very hard to woo him into politics because he was well-known among the business and industry circles and he commanded a lot of respect and had great influence among government departments and among the trading community.

This man, if he had joined politics and become an active politician, would be able to win a public election because of his abilities and charisma.

However, he chosed to stay clear of politics and had declined numerous attempts from politicians in high places to lure him in.

He told me that if he were to enter into the world of politics, he would most likely encounter corruption, nepotism, cronyism, backstabbing, betrayals, injustices, vengefulness, disappointments and these were things that he could not tolerate or accept, so it was better he stayed away.

Back then, I was only starting my journalism career and was still learning about everything, including politics and politicians.

Today, after 24 years, I have to say that politics is indeed a world of intrigue, and very often a world full of deception.

But, the world of politics is not all bad and rotten.

Yes, there are many corrupted politicians, and those with personal weaknesses in terms of power abuse, wine, women and gambling, but there are also a number of good, sincere and honest politicians around.

These good ones are in politics because they want to serve the rakyat to make society a better place, but, of course, they have to rub shoulders with those who are there for the money, power, fame and the other “benefits” that come with the political connections.

There are also honorable politicians who fought for justice, equality, for an end to corrupt practices and to correct the wrongs in the ruling system.

We as ordinary citizens need to distinguish between the good ones and the rotten ones.

We should not despise politics or politicians wholesale.

Politics is very important in our state and country.

Due to the set-up of the government structure, politicians are the ones who hold most of the posts in the state and federal governments. And as the ones in the Cabinet, which is the highest decision-making body in the land, they are responsible for shaping policies that impact all of us in our every day life, whether in education, finance, housing, transportation, health and medical services and the likes.

We cannot make do without politicians, so we need to live with them and work with them.

My friend suggested that the day would come in Malaysia where the decision-makers like the ministers and wakil rakyats would be from non-political platforms.

Well, that day will be in the distant future because the way things are, it is the ruling party of the day now that decides who they want to be in the state and federal cabinets.

And judging from the way things are now in Malaysian politics, I am sure there will be many more controversies to come.

As for Anwar and his family, it is hard for us ordinary folk not to feel solemn for them; never mind whether we are supporters of BN or the opposition or totally neutral in politics.

I have seen the inside of a prison building. It is a sad, cold, harsh place.

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