If one has not read the feature interview with Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Grace Under Fire, (link restored) in the Star today, I would encourage you to read it now.
Tears were welling in my eyes as I was reading it, but they were the tears of joy for sure. The interview tells the transformation of a low-key Malaysian doctor-cum-housewife into a reluctant politician, and then into an inspiring opposition leader in her own right!
But why should I, a keen watcher and commentator of Malaysian politics, be so deeply moved by the story of one of the most famous women in the country? Should I not have known it well by now?
Kak Wan’s journey over the last ten years is certainly not new to me. But it is her simpliciy, humility, perseverance and fortitude that distinguish her from other politicians.
Here is a political wife who was, all at a sudden, made to endure state persecution and media attack of myriad forms against her husband. She could have chosen to weep in her room (which I am sure she must have on occasions), but decided to put on a brave face and to seek justice not only for her husband, but for Malaysians of all races as well.
Ten years on and all her efforts have not been in vain. But what has always struck me most is her sheer willingness to forgive.
I remember not long after Anwar Ibrahim was released from the Sungai Buloh jail, Kak Wan stated that she had forgiven those who were behind the conspiracy. Now, she refuses to criticize Chandra Muzaffar who had made damaging remarks about Anwar on the eve of the 12th General Election. Instead, she is gracious enough to acknowledge Chandra’s contributions in the early days of Parti Keadilan Nasional, as the party was then known.
Reading Kak Wan’s interview, I cannot help thinking about Tun Mahathir Mohammad, our former prime minister.
The man was, as we know, once so powerful and high-handed. When he arbitrarily declared Malaysia tan Islamic state, much of the Christian community was deeply concerned but was too timid to speak out.
I still hold to my view that the plethora of religious controversies over the last two years did not happen overnight; they were the indirect outcomes of the failure of the churches to make a clear stand when Mahathir practically chose to dishonour our Federal Constitution on that fafetful day of 29 September 2001.
But look at the man now: he is bitter, resentful, insecure, and obstinate as ever. He has been going around the country seizing every opportunity to chatise Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over various issues, while refusing to face up to his own wrongdoings when he was in charge. He is also adamant that he was not in the wrong when it comes to the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President in 1988, which started the rot in Malaysia’s judiciary.
Of course, our former prime minister also does not think he had acted unjustly against Anwar in 1998 either.
I must make it clear that I hold no personal grudges against Mahathir; in fact, I still respect him for some of the things that he has done for the country, such as giving the nation a vision, and having demonstrated his valour to rein in the sultans.
But we cannot run away from the raw fact that Malaysia became more divided and segregated under his administration, not to mention the manipulation of the judiciary to serve his own agenda.
Being part of the Mahathir generation, I sincerely hope the former prime minister will come to terms with his own failings and mistakes, and to earn back the status of a statesman that he will then rightfully deserve.
Really, I am not too sure if he is a happier man now than when he was in power. Compared to Kak Wan’s positive and optimistic spirits, Mahathir’s bitterness and resentment are just all over the place. Every sarcastic word and smile of his testifies that.
As Christians, surely we should pray earnestly for all the leaders, past and present. And I would dedicate my first Micah Mandate prose to the man who is still finding it hard to let go of power nearly five years after he stepped down.
I would like to end my sharing with Hebrews 12:15:
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”