Talk to Hanif, not sue him

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has given former IGP Hanif Omar an ultimatum to withdraw his statement or face legal action.

Lim Kit Siang is the DAP supremo. He and other DAP leaders are very upset about the statement made by Hanif Omar, a former IGP who claimed that the DAP, after May 1969, had wanted Peninsular Malaysia to be carved out into two – the eastern part for the Malays and the west to the non-Malays.

Lim quickly gave Hanif an ultimatum to withdraw the statement or face legal action. Some other DAP leaders even demanded police investigation for sedition.

I would like to suggest to Lim and DAP to refrain from taking any action against Hanif. The man who served us well over many years to protect us from communists and extremists during a difficult time in our history must be allowed to give his recollections of events that happened over nearly 40 years ago.

There is no reason to think he made his remark to stir trouble or to deliberately malign DAP or Lim. The election is over. There is no reason to doubt his explanation that a Special Branch report was given to him which led him to make the statement.

The Special Branch report could be false or without basis, and we can even concede that Hanif could have made an erroneous conclusion from the report.

But to sue him?

Hanif is a well-respected policeman. In the eyes of many of us, especially amongst the Malays, he would not deliberately “manufacture” a lie that would endanger the safety and security of this country. He has given more to this country than many other “reformists” combined.

What can the court decision do? Regardless of the outcome, supporters of Lim will hold steadfast to their idol and his reputation will be untarnished. Equally, those who believe in the integrity of Hanif will continue to support him.

In the process, however, the court case will add more fireworks and the country will go through more turbulence than we are experiencing now.

The Malays are just starting to get used to having a DAP finance minister, a communications and multimedia minister, a commodities minister, an energy minister; a transport minister, a deputy defence minister and so on.

The Malays are just getting used to having a finance minister issuing his press statement in Mandarin. The Malays are just getting used to having a non-Malay attorney-general and a special emissary to China who is a DAP leader.

In physics, we learn that when there is an overload or surge of electricity, we experience a blackout. In politics, too, we must not put too much “new experiences” on the people lest they may not be able to comprehend and accept the new changes.

I suggest Lim call Hanif for tea and explain his bewilderment or even express his anger at the remarks; and I am sure Hanif, the gentleman that he is, will oblige with his own explanation.

Two men in the late 70s should be able to talk without acrimony and diffuse a difficult situation so that we have less “surge of electricity” in our politics.

Lim may be thinking that a court case will vindicate and prove him “right”.

Being right is not enough for the future of this country. The leaders need to be humble and wise too. We need to be willing to compromise and talk to one another when we have difficult moments. Humility and wisdom are in short supply and the new Malaysia needs that from their leaders.

Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.