(Originally written on 14 September 2008, reposted)
So Pete got himself busted with ISA again – it’s de javu. The first time Pete went to ISA in 2001 (if I am not mistaken), I was in the thick of things. Now I just pray he will be fine, but he is a tough boy (sometimes too tough for his own good) so he will be fine this time too.
I first met YM Raja Petra from afar in 1992, he was the emcee for the Old Boys Weekend Annual Concert in Hargreaves Hall that year. I remember him commented out loud that Nahar Hakimi (Class of 92) was quite a jambu when introducing the present boys’ band to the crowd.
Our path crossed again because of what happened in 1998. It was a co-incidence really – I was in the UK and was already doing some groundwork contacting MPs etc. to highlight the issues in the UK and Europe, he needed help with Free Anwar Campaign. He needed a writer; someone to feed him news constantly and as he correctly expected – one day he would need a spare webmaster when he eventually is arrested under ISA.
We never met until I came back in 2003, but we were constantly in touch. I called him, he SMS me and when the going got tough for his family here, Pete and Kak Marina decided to send their two sons to the UK to try to make a living. I helped place them with a keADILan supporter in Manchester, a very nice chap by the name of Abang Saufi who tried their level best to make life easy for the two boys, knowing the sacrifice that their parents were doing in Malaysia (and life was tough financially for Pete at the time).
You see, we were the unwanted lot those days – nobody wanted to associate let alone help anyone with a keADILan tag on their forehead; so 2-3 of us had to look after each other.
When he was taken in in 2001, we had agreed before hand that “the show must go on” (maybe in tribute to hockey team’s mantra “Rain or Shine” ha ha). For 52 days I was manning the Free Anwar Campaign website from London, the news kept on flowing despite Pete’s arrest. Until now I chuckled once in a while how it must have baffled them then that there was a back up and Pete’s arrest did not shutdown the website.
Luckily Pete was released after 52 days – it was a great relief. First, because we were all concerned about his safety. Second, I began to fret if he were to be detained under the customary 2-year sentence in Kamunting and I would have to maintain the website for longer than necessary (those days you have to use Dreamweaver to come up with the html page and manually link and upload the files to the internet on a dial up connection!)
But we can only plan and Allah’s disposal is the finality.
Life goes on and I came back without any brouhaha and spent another one year being very close to Pete. Even from the time I was abroad, I had written for Suara Keadilan and Pete was the editor – so we continued writing until we parted ways in late 2003.
There were a few times we went on demonstration together – and after one such demo against the war on Iraq in 2003, Pete and I went for a nasi ayam in Ampang. That was the last time we saw each other until another co-incidence brought our path briefly together again in 2007.
In October 2007, arwah Ben insisted that I joined him for a meeting of concerned activists with YTM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh at his residence in Ampang, where I met Pete and Kak Marina again. It took him a while to recognise me since I put on a lot of weight (so he claimed!).
I was supposed to have a berbuka puasa with YB Machang and a few others last Wednesday and Pete was actually there, but had to cancel last minute because things in office dragged on. If I had gone, I would have met him before he got arrested.
After I withdrew from official partisan politics, I kept to myself and concentrated on my work and the boys in MCKK. In politics, rumours dominate the day – there was one time I think Pete must have thought that I sold out.
Some of my batchmates, in the early days, asked me why I foolishly did what I did knowing the risk to myself and family. In public, you would passionately explain your ideals and how what you were doing were the most patriotic thing a citizen should have done.
But the truth is always simpler – it’s the friendship and MCKK. I never met Raja Petra in person but decided to help him nevertheless; because he was an MCKK brother in distress. He needed help and on top of that he was actually doing a pretty decent thing – trying to uphold the truth. If I, a fellow MCKK boy did not help him, then what chance would he have. All the years writing many articles and news for Suara Keadilan and Free Anwar Campaign was simply because the editor for both was Raja Petra Kamaruddin – a fellow MCKK in distress.
And the truth is – it was the same motive that had driven me to my political activism circa 1998 – 2003 in the first place – Anwar Ibrahim was a fellow budak koleq, whom I thought had been victimised.
That is how powerful the MCKK bond in my book – I am sure too if one day calamity befalls me, there are others who will put their neck the way many of us had put for other MCKK boys before.
Pete reminds me of Peter Pan and Wendy. Pete never grows up, I always joke that he is trapped in his hippie youth – still thinking about a crusade against everything. It’s always about adventure and excitement to him I guess. If Pete was Peter Pan, many of us were Wendy. We aged faster than him and after a while craved less and less for adventure – so while Pete continued, we withdrew. But like Wendy, we never turned back on the past and never did once we sell out.
I pray that he will be fine (but he’s a tough boy so he will be fine). I tell myself that I will make an effort to see him and buy him a drink and nasi ayam when he comes out eventually.
We should all pray for him too regardless of what we think of his approach.