Pak Samad isn’t the problem here
How will putting a poet behind bars make a difference to the BN government?
COMMENTOutsiders get murdered in Malaysia and the murderers are never convicted. The country’s Islamic Development Department (Jakim) blatantly misuses the Friday sermons to incite the Muslims against the non-Malays but that too is alright with the federal government.
What however Putrajaya under the Barisan Nasional government cannot digest is the fact that there are Malaysians who are willing to forsake glory to uphold their belief in the truth.
Be it then the Bersih chairperson S Ambiga or its co-chairperson A Samad Said, the national laureate-cum-activist, both have experienced the wrath of the BN government for standing up against injustices and wrongdoings.
Just for being honest and dedicated to a cause, both Ambiga and Samad were censured and calls made for their citizenships and honorific titles to be revoked.
Ambiga who was the force behind the Bersih rallies that demanded a clean-up to the electoral system, remains true to her cause, the ‘obstacles’ coming her way in spite.
Now, it is the 78-year-old poet and novelist Samad who is going through the same motion – the disrespect and uncouth treatment meted out by the authorities to him speaks volumes of their desperation in appeasing the ‘powers that be’.
Samad, the 1979 recipient of the Southeast Asia Write Award, found himself in trouble when he was arrested for allegedly flying the Sang Saka Malaya flag on the eve of Merdeka celebrations at Dataran Merdeka.
The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, notorious for his racist sentiments, has described the laureate’s actions as indecent and shameful.
The Sang Saka Malaya is a red-and-white flag with 12 yellow stars set in four columns and was reportedly proposed as Malaya’s national flag in the 1940s.
The flag was used by the first Malay party, Kesatuan Melayu Malaya (KMM) formed in 1938, that had fought against the colonial British for the country’s independence.
This is the second time in two years where authorities have taken action under the Sedition Act 1948, on those caught holding up the Sang Saka Malaya flag.
Muhyiddin said the display of the Sang Saka Malaya was politically-motivated.
“Samad’s involvement is incredibly embarrassing and it’s improper since he carries the title of a laureate,” Muhyiddin had said in his speech at Universiti Malaya on Friday.
The DPM who is also the Eduaction Minister added: “I don’t know what intention he has in flying the Sang Saka Malaya. It can’t be that someone who is so respected and who has produced many major works of literature would do something so shameful.
“It is not that he is uneducated. He is, and better than us,” the DPM had said.
Bingo! Muhyiddin got it right that Samad is far better enlightened that him and everyone else occupying the comfortable offices of Putrajaya.
It is precisely because he is far more ‘educated’ than prime minister Najib Tun Razak or Muhyiddin that Samad has no remorse over his actions.
As far as this reticent poet is concerned, the authorities can do whatever they please to ‘make their point’ and calls by Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek for Samad be stripped of his 1985 national laureate title following this incident far from bother him.
BN’s fear of truth-seekers
The DPM said the display of the Sang Saka Malays was politically motivated. Even if it was, what was so wrong in that? What was it about the Sang Saka Malaya that left BN insecure to the point that it had scramble to its feet to find scapegoats for reasons best known to it?
How will putting a poet behind bars make a difference to the BN government? To abuse the Sedition Act and punish Malaysians for having the courage to fight against injustices is fast becoming the hallmark of BN.
Is the BN government so unsure of its standing in the eyes of the rakyat that it had to despatch the police at midnight to nab Samad?
How has Muyhiddin arrived at the conclusion that flying the Sang Saka Malaya flag was politically propelling?
What about the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu? Was her death by C4 explosives not politically connected?
What about the fact that despite having been rejected by the rakyat, former Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil has been appointed as special adviser on women affairs to Najib? Is this not an obvious case of political agenda at work?
The flimsy tale cooked up by the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar that Samad had gone into hiding when the police went to his house to arrest him past midnight has further damaged the battered image of the police force.
Khalid claimed the arrest was made according to procedures and that the police went to Samad’s house on Tuesday afternoon but the national laureate was not at home.
“Samad returned home at midnight and tried to sneak but we caught him. Why blame the police for arresting someone who shamelessly desecrated the flag of our beloved country?,” was Khalid’s outburst.
The IGP claimed that the police had urged Samad to surrender himself but he failed to do so.
The truth as Samad has pointed out is something else.
“I was at home. I was not in hiding. I was at home all the time, though I did go for a walk at Bangsar and had tea at a mamak shop near my house,” he was reported as saying.
The tables have now turned with Samad, more popularly known as Pak Samad, accusing Khalid of fabricating a story to justify the 12.40am Sept 4 arrest at his home in Bangsar.
‘Datukships’ and conmen
As always, each time a controversy erupts, Malay extremist group Perkasa is always the first out to seek sleazy publicity. And the Samad and Sang Saka Malaya incident was treated no differently by Perkasa.
Its president, Ibrahim Ali also challenged Samad to return the honorific back to the government to prove that he would not be bothered if it was stripped off him.
“I applaud Samad’s bravery, but he should return the national laureate title himself if he is sincere. Many people will criticise the government if it revokes the title,” Ibrahim had said.
Looks like Ibrahim has forgotten that unlike others, Samad did not go begging for a ‘Datukship’. It was bestowed upon him as an acknowledgemnent for his contribution to the literary field.
And if revoking honorific titles is the only was for the BN government to ‘safe face’, why then are conmen and criminals awarded such titles? Or for that matter why are such titles not revoked from politicians or VIPs implicated in crimes?
This latest episode involving a senior citizen who is also an asset to the nation by virtue of his contribution to the linguistic field and who has been hounded for the all wrong reasons by BN will never be forgotten by the rakyat.
Even the words of Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz will be remembered for years to come.
“Everybody is the same… even if we’re ministers, if we did something wrong and the police called us up, then we should’ve come.”
“Who does A Samad Said think he is?… Does he think he is some kind of a big shot?” Nazri had retorted.
In case Nazri forgets, it is him and not Samad who is the ‘bigshot’ here. Nazri after all managed to rescue his brash son Mohd Nedim from being prosecuted for beating up a security supervisor of a condominium in Kuala Lumpur on March 19 last year.
If it was not for Nazri’s ‘political motivations’, his son Mohd Nedim would never have dreamt of living life in the fast lane, be it driving a Porsche or snatching a Hummer belonging to a seedy timber tycoon or returning to his swanky Clearwater penthouse in Damansara Heights after his busy nights out clubbing and pubbing.
So, please do not go out harassing a man of convictions for staying true to a cause. Samad Said, who was conferred the Sasterawan Nusantara title in 1999, is not the problem here – rather it is the nefarious BN government that is.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.