Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (MIS) sounded quite euphoric about Tony Blair and his lecture at the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture. I was there and I felt no sense of 'chagrin' at the title of the lecture; "The Rule of Law", only amusement and disbelief.
MIS's obsequious review consisted of statements like how the subject was presented "winningly.... and poignantly" (sniff, sniff, pass me my handkerchief dear). It was dribbling with purple words like crisp, articulate, erudite, intelligent, maturity. Hold on, are we reading about a prophet of peace?. Of course MIS is not placing Blair on a pedestal because when you do that you end up smelling his feet.
MIS is depressed because his country has not spawned anyone of Mr Blair's calibre, a statesman: as in a political leader who is respected because he is wise, honourable and fair minded. Let's see if The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair fits this bill.
During his premiership, he presided over the dismantling of civil liberties mainly in the name of the War on Terror. The Police for instance have been given new powers to raid any home. Under SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act), people are not allowed to demonstrate within 1 km of Parliament Square, where the Mother of all Parliaments is located. Under SOCPA anyone can be arrested for any offence - even for spitting on the pavement. He will be fingerprinted, photographed and required to give a sample of his DNA to be stored indefinitely for police records. So, what happens to the sacrosanct rule of innocent before proven guilty?
Under Blair the Executive takes precedence over the Legislature. Parliament is often sidelined as policies and policy initiatives are announced on TV or radio or press releases. It has been described as a 'sofa government' where no minutes of meetings are made. Information Officers in the Civil Service were replaced by Labour stalwarts who made sure only the good news is published. Bad news is spun for the Government's good. Presentation takes precedence over content (and truth). MIS wrote , "It was not so much what he was saying that struck me but rather how he was saying it" I rest my case; for the moment.
MIS's Hotspur was the 'statesman' who waged 5 wars in the first 6 years of office. He is the 'liberator' of the Balkans, then Iraq - taking his country to war under false pretences. He is also Africa's saviour, whose debt cancellation is less than what his government spends in a week savaging Iraq. MIS and his entourage are incensed about injustice and inequality in their homeland. What is his take on the tens of thousands slaughtered by the Anglo-American invaders? Where is the justice and equality?
But to MIS, Blair is an articulate, erudite, intelligent, matured speaker (and man). So was Hitler, Mussolini and a host of other tyrants. This is the statesman who left office with the stench of the cash-for-honours affair and who holds the record for being the first PM to be questioned by the Police over the issue.
So enamoured is MIS with this guitar-toting 'pretty straight kind of guy' that he cannot accept Dr Mahathir to be in the same league as his Blair. Dr M it seems 'left Malaysia deeply divided, distrustful and greatly crippled' . I would say DITTO, DITTO and more DITTOs for the United Kingdom! You can repeat that for USA and the rest of the West with the Great Economic Tsunami of 2008 . MIS's choice of Blair as a hero and statesman speaks volumes about the integrity of the human rights industry in Malaysia..
To those cretins who invited Blair to the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture, may I suggest an invitation to Frances Webber who wrote an article on "The Blair Legacy" in the website of the Institute of Race Relations (http://www.irr.org.uk/) - just to set the record straight. There's a little gem in that article: "Since 2005, immigrants needed permission to marry (unless they marry in an Anglican Church)." The Court of Appeal in 2007 overturned that ruling and hence no non-Anglican immigrant will have to live in sin.
WHAT OTHERS SAY OF BLAIR
I would have to say that one of the most brilliant prime ministerships of modern times was brought a cropper by the Iraq War. He'll never recover in my opinion. It's been ruined for all time. That is tragic. Kendal Myers, US State Dept (Daily Telegraph)
He did change the country. Unfortunately, because of Iraq, he transformed it into a more dangerous, paranoid, despised and ridiculed country. Blair's reign will be remembered for one disaster of epic proportions, one appalling legacy. Piers Morgan (Daily Mail)
It is de rigueur and fashionable to slag off your country, its governance and if you're really macho, its religion as well. Who has the right to anoint any leader as a statesman and condemn other leaders to the bin of iniquity? A statesman is one who is respected because he/she is wise, honourable and fair-minded. Name me one and pigs can fly.