KUALA LUMPUR: Exiled popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin will be making his first public appearance this Saturday to give a talk in London on his alleged persecution in Malaysia.
In the talk to be organised by the Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG), Raja Petra will be giving an account of his personal experience in campaigning for greater transparency and accountability in Malaysian politics.
FMT spoke to Raja Petra on his first public appearance since he left Malaysia last year and asked him on his decision to come out in the open.
“They (SIHRG) picked me and asked me whether I would be prepared to give a public talk and I agreed,” he told FMT in an email interview.
He quickly added that it was not as though he was hiding from the public ever since he left Malaysia.
“I was always in the open. I walked the streets and attended functions and met many people, Malaysians as well as non-Malaysians. Umno people, ex-ministers included, even came to my house for dinner,” he said, adding that he had been meeting more Barisan Nasional people now than when he was in Malaysia.
He also said one such visitor even asked his permission to give his (Raja Petra's) phone number to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Is ISA still relevant?
On the talk itself, Raja Petra said he will be talking about the Internal Security Act and his personal experiences during two detentions in 2001 and 2008.
“My message will be about whether the ISA is still relevant and how it has been abused,” he said.
“What is the ISA all about -- an anti-terrorism law? -- or is it merely a law to stifle dissent and curtail freedom of expression? This is the focus of my talk on May 22.
“People ask me: do I wish to see the ISA repealed and if so, how would Malaysia combat terrorism? Am I not being irresponsible or idealistic?
“My reply is: we have to decide whether we are prepared to accept the concept of ‘the ends justify the means’.
“We can keep a draconian law like the ISA to serve a higher purpose, which is national security. But if we open the floodgates of ‘the ends justify the means’ then how far can we allow this to go? Are we not using one evil to fight another evil?” he asked.
He added that although the ISA is legal law passed by Parliament, “legal does not always make it moral”.
No immediate plans
When asked if he would be seen in more public talks after this, Raja Petra said that he will consider it if he was approached to do so.
“But I will not be embarking on a roadshow as such,” he added.
Asked on his future plans, he said he had none.
“I have no plans to speak of. I will just continue doing what I have been doing for more than 30 years since the 1970s and over the last 12 years since reformasi in 1998.
“And that is to write and speak on matters of social justice and fundamental human rights,” he said.
He also openly admitted enjoying Malaysian cuisine in the UK.
“Do you know how many Malaysians (Malays, Chinese, as well as Indians) own restaurants here in the UK (not only in London but in the other cities as well)?
“I have been to almost all these restaurants and have met all the owners. I even signed the visitors’ book and many other Malaysians who signed the book after me have seen my name and one even took a photograph of that page and put it in his blog,” he said.
SIHRG, in an open invitation for the talk, labelled Raja Petra as an iconic figure in the Malaysian blogosphere.
“No other blogger has been so systematically targeted for speaking out and fighting for greater democratic space, justice and a more inclusive society in Malaysia,” the group said.
It also noted that Raja Petra has also been charged with sedition and criminal defamation for allegedly implying that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor were involved in the murder of a Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.
“Today, Raja Petra remains in exile, unconvinced that he will be afforded due process and justice in defending himself against these charges and in responding to the appeal regarding his ISA detention,” added SIHRG.
The talk will be held at the BPP Law School lecture theatre in Holborn, London, from 1pm to 3pm. Following the talk, Raja Petra will be signing copies of his latest book “The Silent Roar, A decade of change”.