Posted on August 7, 2008


When the Olympic Games opens in Beijing today, a dream of many years will be realised. Following the successful hosting of the 1990 Asian Games, on December 1, 1991, “a ceremony was held in Beijing to mark the occasion of China’s formal application to the IOC for the right to host the 27th Olympic Games in 2000.” The entire nation put heart and soul into this but in September 1993, Australia’s Sydney was chosen as the host of the 2000 Olympic Summer Games. Those of us who followed this drama felt in our own hearts the disappointment of an entire nation. To have come so far only to lose by a mere two votes was a massive blow to the aspirations of a nation of one billion people.

But you could say they were down but not out. Fast forward to July 13, 2001 and we saw “a jubilant and sleepless night in Beijing, capital of the People’s Republic of China and winner of the bid for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008.” So this evening when the Olympic torch comes into the Bird Nest Stadium a dream which started in 1991 and almost put down in 1993 will at last be culminated.

For the best sportsmen and women of the world, a parallel journey shall also be culminated when they march into the stadium. A rower from Britain checking into the Olympics Village two weeks ago spoke for all competing athletes: “This really is an athlete’s dream. We are finally here. It is the Olympics! Yes, it really is worth four years for this.” LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Here in Malaysia, we are not now hosting the Olympics. Nevertheless for many of us in the nation, there is a competition that is no less significant than the sports drama which is unfolding in Beijing. A little community in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia has become the focal point of the nation and on its tiny shoulders may rest the future direction of Malaysian politics.

It is to Permatang Pauh that a candidate for a parliamentary by-elections, his family, his supporters and his political partners have come. He has traversed a considerable distance of many years, suffering heartache and disappointments, suffering whole series of setbacks, physical and emotional, but yet like the people of China, not giving up. LAWAN TETAP LAWAN was his battlecry and these same words are still ringing out and being heard by many in the country.

Attempts are made today as they were made ten years before to thwart his march to wrest control of the government which sets the political agenda for the nation. What dismays Malaysians like myself is that those who hold political power are wanting to join battle with him in any other way or ways except in the arena where political battles must be fought and won. Their main strategy seems to be to put him out of contention to contest elections which give Malaysians a chance to vote for or against him. For over ten years he has been denied a chance to contest a parliamentary seat. Most of that time he spent in prison. When he emerged from prison after six horrible long years, he had to serve a ban on holding or contesting political office. The general elections was called when that ban was still in effect. Now after the ban has expired, prison beckons again. The same charges are brought against him. Every ten years the man is said to be commiting sodomy. The powers that be say that this is not politically-motivated.

I say political battles must be fought in the political arena. At the federal level, the action takes place in the constituencies and in parliament. World-class athletes may make as much claims as to their prowess and their being the best as much as they wish but the real place to prove it is in the stadium. So it is with political contest. Let it take place in the right places. If I claim I have the support in parliament, then why do I avoid a vote of no confidence? If I claim the man is a political has-been, then why would I have made it impossible for him to contest the recent general elections?

The powers that be must face the man they have been avoiding for more than ten years. (What is the point of Asafa Powell winning the Olympic gold medal in the 100m dash if Usain Bolt, the current world record holder, is not in the same race?) Fight and win by contesting in the right arena. Win not by fraud or abuse of the institutions of state or wrongful deployment of the taxpayers’ money or abuse of postal votes but only by the free choice of voters. (Win without the use of performance-enhancement drugs.) Win by letting your political rival contest freely. Win fair and you win indeed.

I say political battles must be fought in the political arena. For now, that arena is in Permatang Pauh. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Posted in: Perspective