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LETTER | The passing of lawyer and activist, Haris Ibrahim is a sad day for Malaysia.

Indeed, a true son of the nation, a bright shining light has expired, extinguished by a cruel sickness.

All he has lived for, stood and acted on, his ideas and ideals for a better Malaysia will not be in vain.

His bold legacy, the paradigm of patriotic, passionate and popular activism, must live on beyond the man, who bravely soldiered on despite his illness.

Haris eventually lost the crucial fight to that merciless sickness, cancer.

News of his death on Aug 5 has dampened the hearts of many Malaysians worldwide. We grieve and mourn his demise, many among us have never met him.

While countless Malaysians will not forget his role in combating corrupt governance before the ascendancy of the Pakatan Harapan government, his founding of the People's Parliament and efficacious ABU (Anything but Umno) political war cry, among other political acts, played a pivotal role in critical regime change.

However, I will always remember him as the “one who stood by me” in that hour of darkness that saw 15 policemen visit Malaysiakini’s office to investigate my comments on former PKR MP Nurul Izzah Anwar's “no compulsion in Islam” statement.

On Nov 5, 2012, Malaysiakini published my article which attracted a police report and subsequent threat of charging me for sedition and later changed to Section 298 of the Penal Code.

Haris, after reading my response following the police raid that I would stand by every word written responded unreservedly in my support, and so did hundreds of Malaysiakini subscribers and Malaysiakini’s editor, Steven Gan who refuted the sedition allegation.

Here are pertinent extracts from what Haris had written at the time on his People's Parliament website:

"On Nov 5, a letter penned by Steven Oh appeared in Malaysiakini.

“Yesterday, 15 police officers descended upon the office of Malaysiakini to investigate that letter.

Malaysiakini, it seems, is now being investigated, in connection with the publication of Steven’s letter, in relation to a possible offence under Section 298 of the Penal Code of ‘uttering words … with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person’. Malaysiakini’s story can be viewed here.

“Today, Steven sent an open letter to Malaysiakini to say, amongst other things, that he stood by what he had written in that now infamous first letter.”

Haris also said this in his second letter:

“I love the Malays, I love the Indians, I love the Chinese, I love the Sabahans, I love the Sarawakians and to speak the truth in love about their welfare is to love Malaysia and that is why I write.”

“When I read Steven’s letter the day it was published, I felt an intense love for this man who, due to an increasingly unreliable memory, I cannot say if I have met, and was left in awe of his eloquent and courageous articulation of the sad truth of what has become of this nation.

“As I read his first letter again today, I was reminded of the innocent pronouncement by a child, whilst in the midst of adult hypocrisy, of the emperor’s stark nudity in Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.

Andersen’s story ends thus:

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last.

“Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said.

“But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people.

“That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, ‘Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist’.

“Like the emperor in that story, the authorities here will not want to see the truth in Steven’s words.

“Expect then, that Steven may face charges. What about you?

“Read every paragraph in his first letter and ask yourself, ‘Is there no truth in what this man has said?’.

“And if he has spoken the truth out of love for every Malaysian, must he face the onslaught of the authorities on his own?

“I stand by every word that Steven has uttered and I reproduce his words here as if they were my own.

“Steven, I am with you.”

‘Selfless Malaysian’

My bitter regret is not having made a concerted effort to see Haris while he was alive.

I have never met him in person. I would have liked to give him a huge hug not because he stood by me but because of his ideals and selfless sacrifice for the nation.

All of us who love Malaysia, the unique land for all, who love one another including foreigners and refugees, every man and woman of peace, shared a kindred spirit with Haris, a true towering Malaysian.

Of Malaysians who have achieved fame and fortune, there is no dearth but Haris stood in scarce company, perhaps even alone, in the hall of true, upright, brave and selfless Malays, a proud Malaysian, as he might have preferred.

Covid-19 disrupted my plans and when I visited Malaysia a week ago, I lost my voice. I had hoped to meet Haris but it was not to be.

In April last year, I contacted Haris on Whatsapp. Not once did he talk about himself, his cancer or health struggles.

Instead, he sent me relevant words on Malaysia. Our exchange was sparse, understandably so, because of his condition.

Once, he asked if I had voted, with a photo of himself, frail and proud of the black ink on his finger. He lived for his beloved country and others.

"How are you, bro?" was his last personal post I got months ago. It was always about others.

His life, legal career, his future, everything about him was always about the future of the people of all races, religions, stations in life, and diverse communities he accepted.

Haris is no more. Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan, every Malaysian, friend or foe owe him an indelible debt in showing us what it means to be an altruistic human being and true hero.

I hope Malaysia will honour the legacy of this incredible “People's Man”.

Goodbye, Haris.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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