By Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz
Editor’s Note: We strive to maintain Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s views as verbatim as possible.
I READ with mixed feelings of upset, disappointment – and a good dose of relief – on the various “analysis” and “comments” on what had been written by Tommy Thomas in his memoirs.
Memoirs is defined as a historical account or biography based on personal knowledge. Basically, a memoir is written from the author’s personal knowledge, memories, as well as his/her perspectives.
Sometimes the same thing can be viewed very differently by different people. For example, what is klepto to many is Bossku to some.
What’s against all Laws, and Faiths, as illegal, unlawful, and haram such as corruption, is nicely condoned and justified as “ok” by some here in Malaysia.
Double and multiple standards which goes against the grain (which is as being equitable and indicating fair governance) is routinely applied in our country, eg people in the Government will only have to quarantine for three days after crossing national borders, while we, the ordinary rakyat, have to undergo 14 days of quarantine at the hotel and at our own expense.
Also, people can mingle in pasar malam and other places that are meant to attract crowds, travel in public transports such as buses and trains and yet only limited number of passengers are allowed in private vehicles as well as in eateries.
Freedom of expression
And I can go on and on.
And the narrative is now being so widely debated among the rakyat.
Now back to Tommy Thomas’ book (My Story: Justice in the Wilderness).
So much flurry, and “action to sue” by some parties. Ironically, some may not have even read the book! However, they somehow felt compelled or “motivated” to join the suing action group. I don’t want to comment on the legalese as I am not a lawyer.
But it is important to remember that any person who writes his or her personal memoirs cannot be forced to view things from the readers, analysts, or commentators’ viewpoints.
One cannot chastise or “shoot the messenger” because one does not like the message or due to different views or perceptions.
If the writer is conveying the message from his or her personal perspective, then we should respect that.
No one is allowed to guide me as I write my memoirs for only I myself know what happened and what was said. Also, it is entirely up to me whether I want to mention names. That is my call! There is no political correctness in putting pen to paper and relating what happened in one’s memoirs.
In fact, I came across some untruths about me during my tenure as an official ministry in someone’s autobiography. It was blatantly false but I decided to let it go. As I believe only the Almighty knows all. Right is always right although I had been wronged in print. The person got it totally wrong. Those who know the truth and the facts can testify.
Maybe someone else fed the writer with wrong information or guided the writer on what to write. I couldn’t care less even though I was wronged. Suffice that I know I was right.
In that context, I really question the rush to sue, make police reports and worse of all ban Tommy’s book.
Like the Malay proverb siapa makan cili, dia terasa pedas, is the chili too hot to take?
Diversity of views
Are we turning into a dictatorship?
Are we behaving like cooks in the hot kitchen who cannot stand the heat?
Don’t those people who are huffing and puffing about Tommy’s autobiography/ memoirs realise there are many who agree with Tommy’s observations on what he knows about?
Or do we only want to have memoirs that embellish things, sweeten the sour, deny the obvious, and simply take the safe line and go on the” play safe” track?
Historical events undeniably happened and each of us will definitely have our own interpretation on each event especially from the political perspective.
But that is not wrong!
In fact, this nation of ours is now in a state of flux and more often than not, confusion reigns.
Anyone writing his or her memoirs, touching upon what has happened to our nation in this decade will definitely have much to say and comment upon – the various events that have plagued, and is still plaguing our nation and people.
I personally am writing my memoirs.
Surely no one in his or her right mind, expects me to say that all has been ok and fine, all hunky dory and kudos to everyone in seats of power!
Please, please, think again!
Tommy has written his memoirs and we may have different views. Nevertheless, that does not give anyone the right to call for banning the book.
It’s a worrying trend where there is no room for dissent and diversity of views.
Of course, we cannot condone seditious acts, and libellous actions. But then again, no one has taken real action on some misdeeds and misinterpretation of facts by some people although they have been viralled on social media.
Double and multiple standards again?
I am quite sure there are those within and outside of Malaysia find what has been happening and is continuing to happen in Malaysia is rather scary and they are concerned about it.
So, let levelheadedness prevail. Please don’t behave like the proverbial cicak kudung, the house lizard that has somehow lost part of its tail and twisting around in a directionless way.
We have already seen the compass of governance gone and still going awry.
Tommy’s memoirs can add to the collection of diverse views on some of the past events and facts cannot be denied.
Do read the book.
It will be an eye opener with some new lights being shed.
Please do not be blinded by exposure of truths which may not be in line with our own personal perceptions. – Feb 10, 2021
Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz is former minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.