While all upright and honest people of Malaysia rejoice over the release of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, there are also some who immediately seize the opportunity to criticise him for what he had done, or not done, during his 16 years in Umno.
This line of criticism is not new. It began on the day when Anwar was sacked on Sept 2, 1998. It continued while he was under arrest and detention.
Of course, those who refrained from criticism while Anwar was under detention should be commended for their moral and humane consideration. No human being should be criticised verbally or attacked physically while he or she is prevented from replying or retorting. This should serve as a minimum rule of engagement in civilised politics.
However, even as it is now, this line of criticism is not immune to counter criticisms.
In 1982, there were other reformists in the Chinese education movement who joined the Barisan Nasional through Gerakan. They were Penang's current Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Gerakan's Deputy President Kerk Choo Ting.
They all did this with the reason that it was easier and more practical to reform the system or establishment from within. That was also the reasoning of Anwar Ibrahim when he decided to join Umno in 1982.
Nothing essential and substantial within the establishment since has been changed since 1982. On the contrary, it is getting increasingly corrupt and oppressive. Ultimately, it led to the tragedy of Anwar Ibrahim.
At least, Anwar can summon enough moral courage to fight the system which he had found to be not reformable. He has left the system and become an ordinary, albeit very influential, citizen instead. We should welcome him back to the people's fold and not continue to harp on history.
What we should criticise and condemn are people who know that the system is getting increasingly corrupt and oppressive, but still stay inside for personal gains. Why can't we find enough courage to hold self-styled reformists like Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Koh Tsu Koon, Kerk Choo Ting and Gerakan itself accountable for staying inside the system?
When we criticise Anwar for not fighting for the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA), etc, why can't we ask what have Abdullah, Koh, Kerk and Gerakan etc done so far? Why has Abdullah done in his 30 years of politics in Umno? Do we mean to say that Abdullah had nothing to do with the ISA, UUCA, NEP, etc?
We should direct our criticisms against those who know that the system is corrupt, oppressive and unreformable but are too selfish to depart from it and to give up their perks and privileges. They are perpetuating a rotten system by misleading malleable people into believing that the system is either still good or reformable.
All human beings err but we must encourage those who have realised their follies and only criticise those who persist in their wrongdoings.