Reflection: There’s A Personal Side

I treasure privacy so much that I hardly mix personal life with work. I used to make a rule that as much as possible, I wouldn’t go out for lunch with officemates. My relationship with superiors has always been formal, no matter how hard the superior tried to inject some form of personal friendship. It’s not so much a question of professionalism, but more of a necessary protection for sanity.

Ever since I come to work for Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah (as a party boss), I have always been formal. Trying to start an informal conversation with me would have been useless, as I very quickly turn back to the formal self (sometimes I wonder whether people feel I was trained by a butler ha ha).

But it was very different today.

I exchanged a few updates and reports with president over BBM and somehow we veered to an area so private and personal to me – the life of the late Adlan Benan Omar.

Kak Wan had had the opportunity to work closely with Ben, during the initial years of Keadilan. Ben was an idealistic young man fresh from Cambridge, with a burden of destiny on his shoulder given his unmatched talent in oratory and history.

I had known Ben since I was 13. We were both debaters in school, so we passed the baton and promise to ensure a long line of good debaters, from one generation to another. We corresponded throughout his time in Abingdon and Cambridge. By the time I was in the UK, I devoted my life to UKEC that Ben helped to found.

Ben and I were two completely different persons at the opposite spectrum of personality, yet we were brought together by the common yearning for change (and adventure).

Since school days, it was always more honourable to live a life of a rebel with a cause. While other people were busy trying to become a head boy, I was more preoccupied with collecting signatures for a petition organised by the Students Union. Ben and I thrived in life as a rebel with a cause.

He had always taken the public face, while I provided the administrative and managerial support to complete a task.

I had contented to play that role forever as he was gifted as a public orator, until he left us prematurely in 2008. The day he died, I knew that my life would be changed forever and I would not finish my career in the corporate world as a chartered accountant. I knew that the only way to do justice to his memory was to become a part of the struggle that he had devoted his life to.

So it was awkward (and yet comforting) to dwell on Ben’s life with Kak Wan, both of us understood the gravity of his talents. There were a lot of “what ifs” questions (eg I wouldn’t have been here if Ben is alive, or I wouldn’t have taken temporary break from the party if Ben had decided to stay on back in 2003) – while it does not change anything, it feels good to dwell nevertheless.

Talking about Ben was perhaps as personal as I can get with party colleagues and activists. Some people ask why I do not drag the whole bunch of my MCKK batchmates who had always followed me in our charity work previously into politics.

Because everyone must have a secluded and private area of our life not dictated or touched by politics.

The corruption and lack of values associated with politics make people feel politicians are not human. Hence you can attack them verbally and psychologically as if they are not human (the way DS Anwar has been).

But we often forget that there’s a personal side of the public face.

And going through such a personal exchange about a friend so dear to both of us; reminds me of the great important lesson in life as a politician – do not lose the personal side of your life and character.

Somehow, I feel Kak Wan and DS Anwar withstand the onslaught directed at them all these years because essentially they retain a very personal side of their public life; that becomes so obvious when you have a common denominator in the form of a memory of Adlan Benan Omar.

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