Rafizi Ramli dan agenda generasi reformasi

Pengumuman rakan lama saya, Rafizi Ramli untuk bertanding jawatan Ketua Angkatan Muda Keadilan Malaysia dalam pemilihan Parti Keadilan Rakyat 2010 telah menarik pelbagai reaksi daripada teman-teman anggota Keadilan.

Pelbagai tuduhan dilontarkan terhadap Rafizi. Pertama, bahawa beliau adalah orang baru. Apabila hujah ini disangkalkan memandangkan beliau terlibat dalam Reformasi sejak hari pertama dan merupakan Exco Pemuda Keadilan 2001-2003, timbul pula persoalan beliau adalan calon dari “atas” dan menidakkan peranan Reformis. Akhir sekali ramai pula membangkitkan mengapa beliau mengundur diri selepas 2003 dan kembali hanya pada 2009.

Soal Rafizi menidakkan peranan Reformis bagi saya tak pernah timbul. Pendirian Rafizi sejak menawarkan dirinya untuk pemilihan Ketua AMK adalah AMK sebagai sayap anak muda parti harus melebarkan sokongan bagi memastikan 4.6 juta pengundi muda menjadi kunci kemenangan Keadilan dan Pakatan Rakyat untuk sampai ke Putrajaya.

Kata-kata beliau agar kita keluar dari “sentimentaliti melampau” mengundang kontroversi. Tetapi itu turut peringatan untuk dirinya juga, memandangkan Rafizi terlibat di demonstrasi jalanan sejak hari pertama Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dipecat. Malah sebelum pemecatan Anwar lagi Rafizi memainkan peranan sebagai Presiden Majlis Tertinggi Pelajar-Pelajar Malaysia di United Kingdom (UKEC) untuk menggiatkan hubungan dengan Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM) dan Gabung Mahasiswa Islam Se-Malaysia (GAMIS).

Antara risalah terawal ketika Reformasi meletus, Suara Mahasiswa ditulis oleh beliau sendiri.

Memang benar beliau kemudian terpaksa kembali ke Britain untuk menghabiskan pengajiannya. Pada waktu itulah saya ingat beliau mula menghubungi saya dan meminta saya menulis untuk laman Reformasi. Beliau menggerakkan Keadilan Antarabangsa Eropah serta Free Anwar Campaign bersama-sama Raja Petra Kamarudin serta memainkan peranan di dalam Pemuda Keadilan. Habis sahaja pengajiannya sebagai jurutera dan akauntan bertauliah, beliau pulang ke Malaysia menerusi Singapura memandangkan kepimpinan Pemuda Keadilan pada ketika itu mendapat maklumat bahawa beliau akan ditahan sekiranya memasuki melalui KLIA. Faris Musa (kini Timbalan Ketua AMK) lah yang membawa beliau pulang pada waktu itu.

Perletakan jawatan beliau sebagai Ahli Majlis Pimpinan Tertinggi dan Exco Pemuda Keadilan pada 2003 juga dibuat di atas dasar prinsip. Waktu itu Ezam Md Noor sebagai Ketua Pemuda telah cuba memaksa Pemuda menerima kemasukan wanita ke dalam entiti baru AMK berikutan penggabungan dengan Parti Rakyat Malaysia. Apa yang dibangkitkan Rafizi ialah keputusan tersebut dibuat tanpa perbincangan dengan akar-umbi. Saya sendiri berbeza pendapat dengan beliau pada waktu itu apabila beliau bersama-sama Allahyarham Adlan Benan Omar bertemu saya memaklumkan keputusan tersebut.

Namun beliau tidak seperti beberapa individu lain, termasuk Ketua AMK ketika itu yang akhirnya khianat pada perjuangan. Beliau meletak jawatan atas prinsip dan terus membantu rakan-rakan di dalam parti seperti Saiful Izham Ramli dan YB Nurul Izzah Anwar sekalipun menumpukan tumpuannya kepada kerjaya. Beliau tidak menjual maruahnya untuk menyerang parti. Malah kerjaya korporatnya yang cukup cemerlang pada usia begitu muda kini menjadi aset yang begitu berguna untuk Keadilan bagi memberikan perspektif berbeza berbanding dengan anak muda yang hampir sepenuh masa kerjayanya berada di dalam politik (termasuk saya sendiri).

Lebih menarik lagi beliau turut menyumbang idea kepada Anwar dalam Debat Harga Minyak dengan Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek pada 2008 dahulu. Akhirnya pada 2009 Rafizi mengambil keputusan meninggalkan kerjaya korporatnya untuk bersama parti.

Namun kita juga jangan hanya memandang ke belakang. Benar, kita perlu menghargai permulaan perjuangan kita dan reformis-reformis yang berani. Tetapi usaha membanding-bandingkan sumbangan masing-masing (sama ada Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, Chegu Bard mahupun Hasmi Hashim semua ada sumbangan berharga mereka) serta mengecilkan Reformasi hanya kepada penyertaan demonstrasi jalanan 1998 tidak membantu kita sampai ke Putrajaya. Dengan jalan dan latar kita yang belbagai, kita semua merupakan Generasi Reformasi.

Majoriti generasi muda hari ini khususnya pengundi 21-30 tahun tidak turut serta dalam peristiwa Reformasi (berbeza dengan pengundi 31-40 tahun). Mereka terlalu muda. Saya sendiri tidak sempat ke jalanan tahun 1998-1999 memandangkan saya masih di asrama (berbeza dengan beberapa pelajar yang turut serta dan terhumban ke dalam lokap walaupun di sekolah menengah seperti staf saya Saifullah Zulkifli — Tingkatan 1, dan Allahyarham Salman Nasaruddin — Tingkatan 2). Cuba kita tanya mereka dan sudah tentu ramai yang cuma tahu sedikit tentang apa yang berlaku lebih sedekad lalu.

Lawan dan rakan kita juga semakin kreatif dalam mendekati anak muda. Dahulu Pemuda Umno juga terperangkap dengan pandangan ke belakang (misalnya menghunus keris) tetapi hari ini mereka cuba keluar dari “comfort zone” mereka. Hakikatnya kita banyak tarikan untuk mendapat sokongan anak muda (gabungan Generasi Reformasi di jalanan, aktivis NGO mahupun di Parlimen dan DUN) namun setakat ini kita semua masih gagal menggemblengnya. Cabaran generasi Facebook dan Twitter juga berbeza dengan generasi muda sebelum ini, mereka lebih cenderung menjadi pengundi atas pagar dan bukannya pengundi tegar parti seperti generasi terdahulu.

Apa yang Rafizi cuba tonjollkan ialah agar kita menilai agenda setiap calon Ketua AMK untuk memenangi setiap jalur anak muda yang ada pada hari ini: graduan muda yang tiada kerja, mat dan minah kilang yang bergelut dengan gaji rendah di kilang, malah mat rempit di jalanan. Inilah yang dinanti-nantikan anak muda yang mahu melihat Pakatan Rakyat menjadi kerajaan alternatif (government-in-waiting) bukannya pembangkang semata-mata. Menang atau kalah dalam pemilihan parti, audiens utama kita seharusnya rakyat umum yang akan mengundi di dalam PRU-13 nanti.

Berikutan sentimen banding-beza antara calon akan dilihat sebagai ribut dalam cawan yang tak tertampung, yang akhirnya merugikan Keadilan untuk jangka masa panjang. Ini berpotensi untuk menjadikan rakyat khususnya generasi muda muak dan jelek untuk mendekati Keadilan. Fokus pemilihan ialah agenda pemerkasaan parti, bukan mengheret parti dalam kancah polemik banding-beza yang tiada kesudahan

Jangan kita jadikan pemilihan 2010 ini suatu pertandingan syok sendiri yang menjadi tidak relevan untuk golongan muda malah rakyat Malaysia secara umum. Sebaliknya hakikat Keadilan berani mengadakan pemilihan satu anggota satu undi adalah kekuatan kita untuk kita tonjolkan persaingan sesama saudara seperjuangan untuk memenangi hati pengundi muda menjelang PRU-13.

* Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad kini merupakan Pengarah Komunikasi Parti Keadilan Rakyat dan Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri Seri Setia. Beliau mula melibatkan diri dengan Keadilan pada usia 19 tahun pada tahun 2001 dan menyertai Keadilan Cabang Kelana Jaya pada tahun 2005. Beliau telah menulis buku Mendepani Zaman: Melayu untuk Abad ke-21 yang diterbitkan Marshall Cavendish pada tahun 2009 dan juga mempunyai blog di http://www.niknazmi.com. Tulisan ini dibuat di atas kapasiti peribadinya.

Malaysiakini: Rafizi tanding ketua AMK, umum regu

Ahli Majlis Pimpinan Pusat (MPP) PKR Mohd Rafizi Ramli hari ini mengumumkan menawarkan diri bertanding jawatan ketua Pemuda PKR (AMK).

Beliau turut mengumumkan barisan regunya – dikenali sebagai Generasi Reformasi – yang akan bertanding jawatan utama dalam AMK.

Rafizi akan berganding dengan ADUN Batu Caves Amirudin Shari yang akan bertanding jawatan timbalan ketua AMK.

Manakala tiga lagi ADUN gandingannya akan bertanding jawatan naib ketua dan exco. Mereka ialah Sim Tze Tzin (Pantai Jerjak), S Kesavan (Hutan Melintang) dan Chang Lih Kang (Teja).

Sim dan Kesavan akan bertanding jawatan naib ketua manakala Chang dan empat orang lagi – Halimey Abu Bakar, MA Tinagaran, Saifullah Zulkifli dan Jafery Jomion akan bertanding jawatan exco.


Menurut Mohd Rafizi, barisan Generasi Reformasi menggabungkan pelbagai kumpulan berbeza atas semangat reformasi.

Beliau dipercayai akan mendapat tentangan sengit daripada penyandang jawatan itu Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, seorang lagi anggota MPP Badrul Hisham Shaharin dan seorang pemimpin cabang daripada Johor Hasmi Hashim.

Timbul isu baru

Ketiga-tiga mereka bagaimanapun belum membuat pengumuman rasmi berhubung kesediaan mereka merebut jawatan yang sama.

Dalam sidang media di sebuah hotel di Petaling Jaya pagi ini, Mohd Rafizi berkata, reformasi yang tercetus pada 1998 membuka lembaran baru apabila berjaya menggabungkan kumpulan yang berbeza pendekatan, warna kulit dan kepakaran, tetapi berkongsi matlamat yang sama.

Selepas pilihan raya umum lalu, tambahnya, walaupun isu pokok yang diperjuangkan – seperti pemansukan ISA dan kebebasan institusi kehakiman – masih sama, timbul pelbagai isu baru yang memerlukan perhatian sewajarnya. 

“Oleh itu, AMK sebagai barisan utama dalam mendekati orang muda memerlukan dinamisme yang tinggi. Isu yang diperjuangkan perlu melambangkan aspirasi majoriti 4.6 juta pengundi baru yang mempunyai citarasa yang berbeza. 

“Pendekatan yang digunakan juga perlu dipelbagaikan untuk menarik minat sebahagian besar anak muda yang pada ketika ini tidak berminat dengan politik,” katanya yang juga ketua eksekutif di pejabat penasihat ekonomi Selangor.

“Berdasarkan misi in, saya dan rakan-rakan yang lahir dari semangat kebersamaan dan kepelbagaian hasil gerakan reformasi ingin menawarkan diri untuk menyuntik dinamisme itu dalam AMK. Sebagai persediaan menghadapai pilihan raya umum ke-13.”

Turut hadir dalam sidang media itu, pengarah komunikasi PKR Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad yang hanya memberikan sokongan tetapi tidak akan bertanding sebarang jawatan tertinggi dalam AMK walaupun disebut-sebut sebelum ini.

Malaysiakini: Anwar’s aide vies for Youth chief post

PKR supreme council member Mohd Rafizi Ramli today announced his candidacy for party Youth chief at the upcoming party elections.

He also unveiled his team, dubbed Generasi Reformasi, at a press conference held in Petaling Jaya this morning.

NONEHis running mate for the Youth deputy chief’s post is Batu Caves state assemblyperson Amirudin Shari.

Others in Rafizi’s (left) team includes Pantai Jerejak state assemblyperson Sim Tze Tzin and Hutan Melintang state assemblyperson S Kesavan, who are vying for the position of vice-youth wing chief.

For the youth wing exco, the team’s candidates are Teja assemblyperson Chang Lih Kang, Halimey Abu Bakar, MA Tinagaran and Saifullah Zulkifli, as well as present Kota Kinabalu Youth chief Jafery Jomion.

Rafizi, who is the chief executive officer (CEO) at the Selangor economic adviser’s office, said that the party’s Youth movement needed to increase its “dynamism” and the line-up of fresh and multiracial leaders is necessary to prepare for the next general election.

“The issues that we champion must reflect the wishes of the 4.6 million voters who have diverse opinions,” he said, adding that young voters are those who will determine who will helm Putrajaya. 

Rafizi is the first of the expected contenders for the post who has declared his intentions. In order to qualify for the contest each candidate would have to have the backing of at least two divisions.

Division level nominations and voting which are currently ongoing is expected to be completed at the end of September.

‘Cultist’ approach

Asked about his chances and lack of popularity compared to incumbent Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin, Rafizi said: “In the beginning I felt it too but I am not really worried about it as most importantly is the message we are trying to convey to the voters outside.

NONE“However, the time has come to change the ‘old approach’ which was somewhat ‘cultist’, said Rafizi, who also pointed out that the movement under Shamsul has not built a team of leaders but just gave prominence to a small number.

“We can’t say if it is good or bad… we want this to be a healthy competition. It is about the objectives and the direction we are taking,” said Rafizi.

“In this party anyone can contest, unlike other parties that have barriers,” he said.

PKR is the first major political party to implement direct voting for all division-level positions as well as for the supreme council, which includes top leadership posts such as the president and deputy president. 

NONEAbout 400,000 members would cast their votes twice – one at the division annual general meeting (AGM) to elect division leaders, and another at a second meeting to poll for the top leaders – from Sept 17 to Nov 21.

The much-anticipated polls come afteramendments were made to the constitution at the PKR national congress two years ago. 

“Parties which are successful in effectively addressing issues that are close to the youth will have an advantage,” said Rafizi.

“Our approach also needs to vary to entice larger groups of the younger generations who are now uninterested in politics,” he added. 

He was quick to add that other political parties like PAS and Umno are also affected by the change in the younger generations’ voting trend.

Dinamisme Baru Angkatan Muda Keadilan Bersama-Sama Barisan “Generasi Reformasi”

Gerakan reformasi yang tercetus pada tahun 1998 membawa lembaran baru kepada sejarah politik tanahair apabila ia menggabungkan kumpulan-kumpulan yang berbeza tetapi mempunyai matlamat yang sama. Keunikan gerakan reformasi adalah apabila semua pihak yang berlainan pendekatan diberikan ruang sepenuhnya untuk menyumbang ke arah matlamat membawa perubahan kepada negara.

Dari gerakan ini, lahir satu generasi yang berbilang bangsa, pelbagai latar belakang, kepakaran dan pendekatan tetapi berkongsi matlamat yang sama. Generasi Reformasi ini mewakili suara anak Malaysia yang mahukan perubahan dinamik secara berterusan demi kesejahteraan rakyat.

Pilihanraya Umum ke-13 (PRU13) adalah kesinambungan kepada perjuangan Generasi Reformasi yang bermula pada tahun 1998. Walaupun isu pokok yang menjadi teras perjuangan ini tetap sama, pelbagai isu baru juga timbul dan perlukan pembelaan sewajarnya.

PRU13 juga akan menyaksikan kuasa orang muda yang dianggarkan berjumlah 4.6 juta dalam menentukan pentadbiran di Putrajaya. Parti-parti yang berjaya menjunjung isu yang dekat dengan orang muda secara berkesan di peringkat nasional akan mempunyai kelebihan.

Oleh itu, Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) sebagai barisan utama dalam mendekati orang muda memerlukan dinamisme yang tinggi. Isu yang diperjuangkan perlu melambangkan aspirasi majoriti 4.6 juta pengundi muda yang mempunyai citarasa yang berbeza-beza. Pendekatan yang digunakan juga perlu dipelbagaikan untuk menarik minat sebahagian besar anak muda yang pada ketika ini tidak berminat dengan politik.

Berdasarkan misi ini, saya dan rakan-rakan yang lahir dari semangat kebersamaan dan kepelbagaian hasil dari gerakan reformasi ingin menawarkan diri untuk menyuntik dinamisme itu ke dalam AMK, sebagai persediaan menghadapi PRU13.

Kami yang menamakan diri kami Generasi Reformasi, melihat kepada beberapa perkara asas yang perlu diperkukuhkan oleh AMK seperti berikut:

  1. Membawa pendekatan baru untuk mempelbagaikan isu-isu orang muda yang diangkat ke peringkat nasional seperti perumahan mampu milik, kerjaya dan pendapatan berkualiti, kebebasan internet, kebebasan ilmiah orang muda di universti dan pembiayaan pendidikan yang adil; seterusnya memikat pengundi-pengundi muda;
  2. Memperkukuhkan organisasi di peringkat akar umbi dengan memastikan persediaan kewangan yang memuaskan dan urustadbir akar umbi yang baik;
  3. Tumpuan khusus kepada latihan kepimpinan dengan memberi ruang yang seluasnya kepada pimpinan bawah 30 tahun sebagai persediaan masa hadapan.

Dengan ini, kami menawarkan diri dengan barisan awal seperti berikut:

Calon Ketua AMK : Mohd Rafizi Ramli

Ahli Majlis Pimpinan Pusat dan

Bendahari Keadilan Terengganu

Calon Timbalan Ketua AMK : YB Amirudin Shari

Naib Ketua AMK dan

ADUN Batu Caves

Calon Naib Ketua AMK : YB Sim Tze Tzin

ADUN Pantai Jerejak

YB Kesavan Subramaniam

Naib Ketua AMK dan

ADUN Hutan Melintang

Calon EXCO : YB Chang Lih Kang

EXCO AMK dan

ADUN Teja

: Sdr Halimey Abu Bakar

Mantan Ketua AMK Selangor

: Sdr M A Tinagaran

Ketua Biro Integrasi Keadilan Perak dan

Setiausaha Parlimen Pakatan Rakyat Ipoh Barat

: Sdr Saifullah Zulkifli

Mantan Naib Presiden PKPIM dan

Pengerusi Siswazah Muda ABIM

: Sdr Jafery Jameon

Ketua AMK Kota Kinabalu

Kami mengalu-alukan perdebatan yang sihat demi mengukuhkan AMK menjelang PRU13, terutamanya yang berkisar tentang pendekatan menyuntik dinamisme ke dalam AMK untuk memikat lebih ramai pengundi muda.

MOHD RAFIZI RAMLI

Calon Ketua Angkatan Muda

Parti Keadilan Rakyat

1 September 2010

Allahyarham Adlan Benan Omar (1973 – 2008)

I managed to squeeze some time to pay a visit to Allahyarham Adlan Benar Omar’s grave in Seremban, together with an old friend Adany Ismail on Merdeka Day. Together, we witnessed his deterioration from the genius that he was to a dying man in his last few months in late 2007.

Death comes to all of us. Different people handle deaths and the loss of loved ones differently. To most of us, the death of our loved ones changes us forever.

There were times that I keep thinking how life would have been different if Ben had not gone so prematurely. Many things that I am doing now will not be mine but his.

I once wrote a long tribute about Ben, which I reproduced here as a reminder for us not to forget those who had left us. It is a reminder that we are but one of the many in a long line of people over the years who search for conscience and truth – just as we come unannounced, we should live and leave unannounced when our time comes; because truly our real tryst is with Allah and Allah alone.

It is also a reminder that in the end, any struggle is only a path to Him. I remind myself and people around me, constantly, that one day it will be our time – and it could be tomorrow.

To those who know Adlan Benan Omar, please sedekahkan al-Fatihah for him – may Allah blesses his soul for the wonderful person that he was. I wish I had more time with him, yet at the height of the turmoil in 1998 we usually said “wamakaru wamakarullah wallahu khairun maakiriin”. I should have known better.

This piece was originally written in March 2008, 2 months after his death. I reproduced here for the benefits of those who might not know Allahyarham Adlan Benan Omar.

 

Much has been written about the late Adlan Benan Omar (Mohd Shah, Class of 90) and you only need to Google him to find out. This account is not intended as an obituary of his colourful life; rather a reflection of the 17 years that I spent with him from the days of Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

PART I

“.. so how did you know him?”

“..well, he was appointed late as a prefect so one assembly, there was this huge prefect receiving a standing ovation…”

The conversation took place between me and Rizal (an ex-Cambridge lad who look after Ben all this while) on 15th January 2008 at the UMMC around 10 pm while Ben was having his routine dialysis. By then it was very clear that he (Ben) might not be around for long unless miracles happened.

I would remember that conversation with Rizal until my last breath, because despite our individual closeness to Ben, Rizal and I actually did not communicate much. I love him for looking after Ben all this while – a responsibility that I know was partly mine all along but was very bad at it; he (Rizal) must have felt the closeness by virtue of my closeness to Ben. But our relationship was awkward to say the least.

So the fact that we started to reflect the initial days that we knew Ben somehow signaled the resignation that the ‘end’ was near. It was poignant because both Rizal and I knew by then that it was a matter of days before it could happen.

My first recollection of Ben was a ceremony to appoint one Adlan Benan Omar as a prefect in my first month in MCKK. It was memorable because the name “Benan” was uncommon; plus he received a standing ovation while making his way to the stage.

Over the months, Ben had a lasting impression on me because of his oratory skills. To others in my batch, he was one of the kindest prefect-on-duty (together with Azizan Din) during the prep time inspection. Unlike some prefects who would tear our desk cover or punished us for the littlest mistake, Ben spent more time correcting our English (e.g. once someone wrote “Silent is golden” after which he spent some time explaining why it should have been “silence”).

It was these two traits – his oratory (and intellect) and kindness that eventually made us some sort of a tag team in many adventures that we had had together; from the college days all the way to the reformasi experience and beyond.

PART II

“..Third, if the objective is to win PPM vicariously, I and Dany have already done it in 1992. To us, it was a greater achievement because of the long dearth of MCKK win (since Sefudin Dolloh in 1980), we had putty to work with (Badak), a great debater (Kechoque) and a turtle. So there’s really nothing for us to gain out of all this, except more bother. Lagipun kitorang MCOBA and all MCOBAs are sworn brothers, betul tak, Shahrol?”


– email 31 March 2004, discussing the merit of coaching MCKK debating teams

I had been a school debater since my primary school days – apparently I never know when to shut up. In MCKK, each year the senior debaters would carry out a “screen test” to select new debaters for his batch to progress to represent koleq in future years.

As a Form 1, I never knew my “potential” (as it was referred to by Ben over and over again in my junior years) but I realized a string of interest from the senior debaters of my ability to speak; after a few months in college. While some others were more forthcoming (e.g. Dany wanted me to go to PPM – those days it was unheard of that a F1 could go to PPM); Ben kept a distance for a while. I remember that he smiled all the time when I debated, though he rarely said much.

But as a debater, he was to inspire a generation of debaters that MCKK had produced. I remember the inter-house competition in 1990 – on Saturday night he represented MS in the English section and won; the next night he won the Malay section. He was the first bilingual debater I met in my life and he was legendary in both.

In the 90s, the PPM was won repeatedly by RMC helmed by one Arulkanda Kandasamy. Later on we crossed path as the three of us were all in UKEC in the UK – and Arulkanda (the legend of the Malaysian debating circles) used to marvel endlessly at Ben’s debating prowess.

Ben went to Abingdon in Oxfordshire for his A-Level and became the first Malay head boy elected by popular votes.

Throughout the 2 years he was at Abingdon, our correspondence increased. He used to write on monthly basis to me – encouraging me to work hard to recapture PPM (which was last won by the newly minted YB of Temerloh, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in 1980). PPM by then was becoming a Holy Grail that every debater in MCKK spent our lifetime trying to win.

The friendship (between a legendary figure by MCKK’s standard and a junior who barely uttered 10 words to him while he was in MCKK) grew as our letters went back and forth (and this was during the snail mail era between Oxfordshire and Kuala Kangsar).

In 1992, I had my first ‘cap’ representing MCKK as a first speaker – a Form 3 leading a debating team, which was not so common in those days. It was a combination of Ben’s “wasiat” to the teachers as well as the teachers’ own pragmatism to promote meritocracy and break the stranglehold of “seniors-come-first” mentality. The correspondence increased as I kept sending him request for assistance with our points. He never failed to come back with a list of issues and facts for us to consider in our debates.

Nobody paid attention to us – not budak koleq, not the old boys, not even the school – as we were a bunch of first timers. Most of the attention went to the Cagers and English debaters. We were expected to lose in the first round.

Suddenly against all odds we broke the curse of 12 years and went to the final against the defending champion – all thanks to Ben. Fortunately the final was carried out annually during the summer break, so he came back from Oxfordshire to coach us.

It was only in August 1992 – after 2 years’ worth of correspondence – that I had a decent conversation with him for the first time. I remember he drove me (he was 19 years old then) in his old Saga to buy food to and fro Sekolah Alam Shah (where we were staying) throughout the preparation and looked after us.

He would explain the issue and then related the issue to the facts – so that we (myself, Badak Class of 92 as the second speaker and Kechoq Class of 93 as the third speaker) really understood the flow of thoughts. Then he would drill us with the rebuttal training – a bombardment of rebuttal upon rebuttal impromptu to train our “reflex” when dealing with opponent’s arguments. In the end, more than 90% of our text and argument was his – the only remaining 10% was what we had to come up for ourselves if the opponents went off-track in their arguments.

That year we won PPM and the jubilant celebration by the present and old boys at Dewan Muktamar that night was one of the most important memories of my childhood. In a single sweep – I owed Ben for the rest of my life; for giving us the opportunity to lift the trophy when all other better debaters than us had failed year after year before that.

One thing that I must mention here is Ben’s reputation as a walking encyclopedia. I know budak koleq of the later years would refer to this or that person as a walking encyclopedia – but if they had met Ben, they would have known what a real walking encyclopedia is. After all this is a guy who began to read when he was 3-4 years old and by Standard 6, I was told he had memorized the Malaysian Constitution. Gedebe (Baharuddin Hassan, the eccentric History teacher) used to tell me how he would never bother to mark Ben’s SPM paper, instead he would rather ask Ben to pick the mark himself.

So when both of us decided to take “sabbatical” break from partisan politics (having spent 5-6 years of our time during the early reformasi and keADILan days) – it was natural that we went back to coach MCKK debating teams, upon request by our ex-teachers.

From 2004 onwards, Ben and I spent a lot of our time with the present debaters. Ben never missed the team’s training or tournaments despite his failing health. He was a much better coach than I was since the team he coached made it to the final each year at the UIA National Debate Championship (in 2004, 2005 and 2006) while mine always crashed at earlier rounds. In 2004, he led the whole contingent of the coaches (8 of us altogether) for a week in Kangar for the PPM – we rented a bungalow and spent days and nights with the boys and teachers.

By the time we finally won UIA championship in April 2007, Ben was too sick to be present. I had tears – not so much because we won, but I had wished for him to be there as it would have meant a lot for him. He made his last visit to MCKK for a debate training in July 2007 – he collapsed while watching the boys doing a mock debate; then recovered and delivered his final speech to the present debaters. He passed away about 6 months later.

Looking back, there were times I felt guilty that I dragged Ben to coach the boys when I knew he was not fit physically. Yet I did the boys a great favour that they had the privilege to know him and drew inspiration from him, the way I was. In the final analysis, I want to believe that both Ben and I did not have regret for the last 4 years we spent coaching the MCKK debating teams.

I am sure that the present and future MCKK debating teams will always remember the Debating Master who single-handedly transformed our fortune and set in motion the discipline and tradition that defines MCKK debaters for many years to come.

PART III

“.. long ago I shot my bow, Where it fell I didn’t know, Much later in a huge great oak, I picked it up still unbroke..”


– letter from Abingdon, 16 April 1992

Ben was always a man in hurry, knowing that his health would be a limitation in the future. In his many correspondences to me when I was a junior, he would share his frustration of the unfairness of the world, of the resolve that we must have to do the right thing in life, of the burden to lead. He was very concerned about having people who would continue his “fight” for setting things right – whatever I understood that to be then.


Much of my worldview in MCKK during my formative years was influenced by Ben’s idea of “fighting for a just cause”. This romanticism later on plunged us into other things; which were to have a profound effect on the direction of his life.

My decision to shun prefectship against everyone’s expectation and chose the KPKM path was rooted from our shared belief that leadership is partly a question of legitimacy. An appointed prefect can never have the same legitimacy compared to an elected Union’s EXCO.

He encouraged me to explore the unthinkable in MCKK. By mid of Form 4 – as an anti-establishment KPKM EXCO poised to play a bigger role when I was in Form 5 – our discussion on what I should do when I was in Form 5 grew more intense in our correspondence. I bounced a lot of ideas on what I thought at the time the necessity to undo the “power structure” in MCKK dominated by the Prefects Board – he always gave feedback and advices on the need to be magnanimous and considerate when dealing with opponents.

I received an ESSO scholarship to USA before I sat for my SPM; however I went on to take PETRONAS’ scholarship solely because I wanted to join Ben in the UK. By that time, Ben was already in Cambridge reading History and Law.

We always discussed the “adventures” of doing something different for the good of the people; so when eventually he founded UKEC (a coalition of Malaysian students associations in the UK) I got very excited. Through UKEC we hoped we could change the landscape of student activism in the UK – from one that was partisan and a mere vehicle of the political masters in Malaysia (e.g. Kelab UMNO, Kelab MIC, Hizbi) – to one that promoted intellectualism, openness and the spirit of volunteerism.

Ben achieved with UKEC in two years what other student leaders before his time could not achieve for a decade. He elevated the voice of students at the national arena so much so that ministers began to court UKEC (and directly him). It was very human to be impressed with Ben’s talent and ability, so before long he was very much the darling of the establishment. By 1996 – UKEC counted among its Honorary Members the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, scores of ministers, intellects and corporate leaders.


Consequently, Ben found himself in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s circles when he came back from Cambridge. In the early days, he sometimes got very frustrated with the manners things were done in our society; when sometimes the most basic issue of fairness was easily put aside. He feared the direction the society was taking – much of his fear back then in one way or another manifested itself later on; especially on the part where “one day we shall be governed by our inferiors”.

He used to write a lot and telephoned me (I was in Leeds at the time) to share his frustration; nevertheless he trudged along serving IKD (Institut Kajian Dasar).

Then came the economic crisis and 1998; which was to change his path completely. While I struggled as UKEC Chairman in the UK to calm the students community due to various rumours of a possible recall by the government; Ben lobbied in Malaysia for the government not to over-react. We collaborated with MBM and PKPIM to put forward a common voice in dealing with students’ reaction to the economic crisis to resist suggestions that overseas scholars were relocated locally (among other issues championed); made possible through the MCKK connection (MBM President was Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Class of 78 while PKPIM General Secretary was Ahmad Shabrimi Sidek, Class of 91). The collaboration eventually led to a lasting common ground between local and overseas Malaysian students and propelled us to the heydays of reformasi in 1998.

By 1998, the political landscape changed so much. Ben and our circles had various discussions on how to navigate but we always ended up at the same point when it came to the most appropriate response – speak our mind without fear or favour. Things snowballed and by 2 September 1998, Ben chose the irreversible.

With the benefit of hindsight, he could have chosen the easy way out. Somehow I feel human beings will always find good reasons to justify the decisions they make – so if Ben had wanted to ignore his conscience; he could have opted to go with the establishment that abandoned Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He could have seized the vacuum left and emerged as the frontrunner among the young faces in UMNO eventually, given his unrivalled intellect, charisma and oratory skills.

Yet he was never interested in power for himself, only in power as a tool to do the right thing and to effect changes. When power by itself is in conflict with the greater purpose for which the power is supposed to be exercised; he chose to abandon the prospect for power. He chose reformasi and conscience.

Ben spent his years after 1998 on a rollercoaster of adventure – the reformasi type of adventure. Our objective as concerned activists and collegians was to keep the Anwar Ibrahim story alive – in our own small ways, together with Raja Petra, Q (Class of 95) and a few others – we were among the motley crew of people who manned the last frontier inaccessible by the reach of power of the ruling regime: internet through various reformasi websites. Ben also contributed a lot to the overseas campaign to keep Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the limelight; given his many contacts abroad.


Eventually he did return to Malaysia and was one of the early pioneers of Pemuda keADILan, until his last posts in the party as a member of the Supreme Council (MPT) and Youth Secretary. In 2003, Ben and I decided to take a “sabbatical” leave from all party posts and went on our separate ways (as far as politics and activism was concerned). He remained very close to the opposition political pulse and frequented Kota Bharu in advisory roles on economic matters until his health deteriorated.

There were many times that I looked at Ben in melancholy especially in his final months. He was content with spending time with his little niece or entertaining some of the present debaters – what a stark difference to what could have been; for someone with gifts like his. Many times I wished that he had not chosen the path he took in 1998; so that he would be at a place where I thought he deserved. I grew restless sometimes that the society idolized certain personalities who were no match to Ben’s intellect and charisma; because the society never had the opportunity to know him in the first place. On a number of occasions, I wished that Ben had shown some sign of remorse that he had forfeited the promise of influence, power and popularity – in exchange for conscience and peace.

Ben that I know however never had a single regret of the path he had taken. Till his dying breath, never once I heard he expressed regret – his concern was always that the interest of the people and country must come over and above everyone else’s; and this he expressed with sheer eloquence in a meeting with YTM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah (perhaps his last political meeting) in October 2007.


With the passing of Ben, I lost a person I regard as the best intellect and the most charismatic leader of my generation – and many who have had encounters with Ben from near or far would have agreed with me.

One person was constantly on my mind as the phone kept ringing and TV channels were flipped from one another on the night of 8 March. He was not around to witness the coming of age of fellow Malaysians – a dream that he pursued relentlessly throughout his relatively short life. Before I slept that morning, I reassured myself that though many will not remember his contribution that made 8 March 2008 possible; at least those who had worked with him will know that the choices he made had not been in vain.

PART IV

“Time passes by, Raf, and may soon overtake us. But the love is constant and only goes stronger. Even when I am gone, I will watch over you as full of pride at you as I have always been. But then you know I have always, and will always, love you above all else..”

– SMS 24 October 2007

Most articles written on Ben revolve around his intellectual and oratory prowess. I would have understood it since Ben was always a larger than life figure who left a lasting impression on people. He was truly a shooting star – most did not have much opportunity to know him better, but they will always remember the witty genius they once met.

In that perspective, I can consider myself extremely blessed to be so close to him personally since 1990. Our relationship evolved from one of a senior-junior to a mentor-apprentice to partners in crime and finally to brothers.

Initially our relationship always revolved around “work”. In MCKK – it was always about winning PPM, restructuring the “order of the day” or succession planning, then in UKEC it was always about pushing for more moderate voice with reasons beyond racial and religious lines to the point that in 1997, he once wrote to me that sometimes in the future we (he and I) should spend time to catch up on personal matters and not just work.

But of all so many virtues that Allah has blessed him with – Ben’s greatest asset was his kindness. He had a kind heart that on many occasions he never thought twice to take from his pocket and give it to others; and he never gloat about it.

He started a charity project called Kalsom with other friends in the UK to provide guidance and assistance to excellent students from rural areas in 1994. The project had been continuous since then and each year hundreds of Form 4 students from all over the country benefited. Some of these students have long started working; some of them benefited financially from Ben’s assistance during their years in university.

Fazurin (another close friend to Ben and a fellow debater) and I had always agreed that Ben “suffered” from superiority complex. Given his intellect, in public he was a larger than life character; impressing and dazzling people to the point that he could appear remote sometimes. Yet he was a gentle and considerate person in private – a trait that perhaps many did not have the opportunity to witness.

While growing up, many of us went through ups and downs; myself included. Luckily Ben was always around and would support me in any means necessary. Once when I was going through a rough patch as a young accountant struggling to qualify for my CA in London – after a messy breakdown in relationship and barely able to pay my bills with my meager pay – Ben flew all the way from Singapore just to give moral support (and took me out for dinner etc. to cheer me up) and paid my bills until I could get back on my feet. He never once mentioned about the money he paid for my rent and bills during those days in London.

And I could not be the only one whose life he had touched. There were many others; because unlike many of us – he invested in people. He believed in potential and in people’s ability to continue the good work that he had done. Somehow he always knew that he would not live long; so his energy was spent considerably in influencing and touching the lives of others whom he hoped one day could accomplish things he did not have the time to do.

Looking back, he should be proud. There are some Malay Cambridge graduates who would not have been in Cambridge without his help. He left behind a band of junior debaters in MCKK who went on to represent Malaysia (among others) and accomplished many things none of us was able to do. The UKEC as an organization produced many outstanding professionals (having benefited from the training that UKEC provided as a platform) whose contribution to the nation will continue to grow in the future. He worked tirelessly for the cause to release Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and he held the fort for Pemuda Keadilan (together with other activists) in the face of onslaught from the opponents; so that the people after him could bring the party where it is today.

I wish many of the successful Malays would have had a passion for investing in people like him. I was partly motivated by him to start a string of projects with MCKK with the broad objective of moulding exceptional talents among our students. We follow these talented students all the way through university and into their first job. This is our only way of saying thanks to Ben – by making sure we touch many other people’s life the way he had touched ours.

I only have one regret with Ben – that I never reciprocate his time and efforts for me, as I was too busy pursuing my own things. After we took the “sabbatical” leave from partisan politics, we went separate ways. I concentrated on my duty as a corporate slave and part time MCKK coach, he was with his stuff. Along the way his health deteriorated and he kept it from me (and I was never bothered to check up on him regularly). We still talked on the phone once in a while, but the frequency got less and less over time.

After PPM 2007, I wanted to see him just to vent my frustration with the way things were – as I was frustrated with the system, MCKK and even the team. It was only then that I knew he had just been out of the ICU. He had always been in and out of hospital and I visited him once in a while, but that was the first time he was discharged from an ICU.

I remember that day – despite his difficulty and pain, he spent some time cheering me up and going through all the jokes and experiences that we went through in our many adventures, as if reflecting. It was then that I knew that his time was short.

I was glad that I had the opportunity to make it up somehow to him over the next few months – that I spent more time with him after work; mostly to cheer him up. But things deteriorated very quickly and by end of December 2007 – doctors felt that nothing much could be done for him.

In his last few weeks, he stopped talking. I would like to think that it was his resignation that he would go away and was reflecting; though sometimes I could not help but wonder whether he was angry.

On 17 January 2008 – his last birthday – I brought him a card around midnight as we (the family and I) were not sure whether it was a good idea; but we thought it was worth trying to cheer him up. He did not read that night and the torrential tears that I had when he was indifferent to the card was the worst so far; as I desperately needed to believe that I had not let him down and he was not angry.

The next day his sister called me to tell me that he read the card twice and I cannot describe how happy I was. I thought that I could make a difference in assisting him to fight his illnesses, so I started writing a letter in the manner he used to write so many letters to me. I wanted to leave a letter each day to him to encourage and motivate him; to remind him of what a wonderful friendship the last 17 years had been.

I never managed to pass the first letter to him – by Saturday his health deteriorated so much that it became clear that his time would be in a matter of days. He passed away one week after his birthday. I was not around; I was at work.

The last meaningful thing that I said to him was through the birthday card, part of which was as follows (from whatever I could recall):

“.. I am sorry for all the years of neglect, for all the years of taking you for granted..
..You are the only person I ever look up to and I simply cannot contemplate life without you yet…
.. Once you wrote to me that when there was only one set of footsteps on the beach; that was because God carried the man through – so will He with you…
… As you always told me – “this too shall pass”…
… for whatever it is worth, Happy Birthday Abang…”

Ben left behind too big a vacuum that it is irreplaceable. Yet many will remember him for the kindness, the inspiration, the lessons, the assistance and the privilege of knowing him in the first place. Rest Ben, Insya Allah our prayers will never leave you alone.

Adlan Benan Omar, Mohd Shah House (Class of 90) read History and Law in Cambridge. He was an investment banker by career and historian by passion.

Rafizi Ramli, Sulaiman House (Class of 94) was the Union president and Carey Award winner in 1994. He was trained as an engineer and is currently an accountant by practice.

Ahli Parlimen Pandan dan Naib Presiden/Setiausaha Agung Parti Keadilan Rakyat || Member of Parliament for Pandan, Vice President/Secretary General of Justice Party