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Principles vs personalities

MATTHIAS Chang seems to have a way with people. Bear in mind that Chang’s greatest claim to fame, in the public’s eye, is to have been political secretary to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for a brief period. Now ask yourself, how many political secretaries have been so publicly scorned by others?

Additionally, Chang has gone on to outdo himself by riling up a presiding judge, resulting in the present predicament he finds himself in. I don’t know what happened in the courtroom, but from Chang’s account, it seemed like Chang felt he was being bullied. He therefore stood up against the bullying by stepping out of the witness stand and informing the judge that he would appeal against her conduct. He thereafter refused to apologise, resulting in the finding of contempt against him.

Now, I am no fan of Chang and his convoluted conspiracy theories. However, I respect his right to believe as he does, and to propagate his beliefs through as many blog posts or self-published books as he may so wish. Having said that, Chang most definitely does not fit the image of a pitiable “victim” of the system. This is not least by virtue of his long association with the fourth prime minister. For the record, I am no fan of the fourth prime minister, either.

Herein lies the dilemma. Can we disagree with, or even despise, Chang — which I don’t, but evidently many readers in blogosphere do — yet support his stance to stand up against bullying in the courtroom?

(Pic by Cory Thoman / Dreamstime)

Principles vs personalities

Was Chang bullied? I don’t know. Does bullying happen in the courtroom? At times, yes. Hence, notwithstanding the personality of Matthias Chang, can we still stand in solidarity with him to say that bullying in the courtrooms must stop?

Perhaps Chang is not someone who many would feel compassion for. True, the nation is facing bigger issues than Chang’s incarceration. But this question as to whether we can accept a principle — despite less-than-savoury personalities being involved — is a question that can be extrapolated to a bigger context and platform.

For example, can I embrace 1Malaysia, yet be opposed to the Barisan Nasional (BN)? Or can I affirm the need for a strong opposition even if I am fully persuaded that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is an unfit character?

These questions pit principles against personalities, and too often we get caught up with specific personalities and forget the principles involved.

Larger political issues

Anybody recall the now-distant claim by Anwar that he could procure sufficient Members of Parliament (MPs) to jump ship to effect a change of government? There was not much protest from opposition-minded citizens at that time. For better or for worse, there were MPs and elected members of state assemblies who subsequently jumped ship, but not in the direction intended.

(Pic by Leonardo Barbosa
Now, everybody is raising a hue and cry over the issue of the “frogs”. Are people against the principle of changing camps, or merely against the personalities or political parties involved?

How about the constant calls to royalty to get involved in various affairs of state? “Daulat Tuanku,” the citizenry shouts, hoping to receive a decree that would put an end to dirty politics or lop-sided elections, or even commercial contracts entered with Apco.

But these very citizens are scathing in their criticism of the BN for apparently not upholding democracy. Now, how can self-proclaimed democrats resort to the feudalistic practice of appealing to a sovereign ruler to resolve issues of state? Isn’t that an inherent contradiction? Is the principle of democracy or the personalities involved more important?

Ideally, principles should always trump personalities. After all, we have observed how even a ruler as wise and learned as Sultan Azlan Shah can make decisions that may not necessarily reflect the rakyat’s aspirations.

The principles that govern the BN are apparent, notwithstanding the fact that some of us may disagree with a whole load of them. Across the divide, the opposition has thus far cobbled together a collection of impressive personalities. But personalities aside, what kind of principles underscore the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s words and actions?

There are some who aspire for the 13th general election to finally be the moment when the BN is no longer in power. But unless we want more of the same principles at work in government, it might be best for citizens not to be so beguiled by our like or dislike of the personalities on offer.

Chan Kheng Hoe will never go to prison instead of paying a fine. It’s a matter of principle.

Read previous Reductio ad Absurdum columns

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2 Responses to “Principles vs personalities”

  1. 2nd class says:

    An excellent article. Most people judge based on their emotion. I would say politicians always try to control voters by raising issues that arouse their emotional response without going into the truth and principles. This applies to the opposition as well. Many bullied Chang because of his association with Dr M, NOT relating to his stands or what he believes.

  2. Andrew I says:

    Hence, notwithstanding the personality of Matthias Chang, can we still stand in solidarity with him to say that bullying in the courtrooms must stop?

    Here’s a short answer to that: no.

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