Maafkan kami | Selangor Times
Issue 118


Maafkan kami
Writer: Fahmi Fadzil
Published: Fri, 01 Jul 2011

I’m not sure if you’ve been following the news, but earlier in June I was kind of in the news as I had to apologise for some things that I had tweeted in January.

I can’t really talk about the matter because – as my meticulous lawyer advised – I shouldn’t do anything that may jeopardise the settlement. And so I won’t. But what I would like to do is to maybe just go through some thoughts about the idea of saying sorry.

What does it mean for someone to say “I’m sorry”? What does it take for people to say sorry? And in fact, how does apologising affect the wider society?

First of all, what is an apology? It is, as my laptop’s dictionary puts it, “a regretful acknowledgment of an offence or failure”. I guess we can also see it as an attempt of correcting an erroneous stance, position, or observation by first stating one’s cognizance of said error. It is, in effect, a confrontation with one’s self, whereby the idea of “the self is the measure of all things” is disputed, challenged, and replaced.

Basically, someone proved you wrong and you’ve accepted it.

But what is the value of an apology, particularly in our Malaysian context? In these turbulent and interesting times, do apologies really amount to anything more than that feeling of “I’m right and you’re wrong”? Is it about “bragging rights”? Or is there something more to this acknowledgment?

I propose that there is, and that it is virtuous action in the form of accountability, transparency, and responsibility for one’s actions. It is, in my thinking, about integrity and credibility – something that often appears to be in high demand in the high-octane contact sport that is Malaysian politics.

To me, when someone says sorry, that person is taking responsibility for the statement or action that he or she had made. What does “taking responsibility” mean? Perhaps it means that whatever after-effects of that statement or action is attributable to him or her.

This involves another concept which is thought to be rather mythical these days: honour. When you own up to your mis­take(s), you are also saying that you have caused your honour disrepute, and that your honour is an important quality of your self that must be restored.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit romantic and too bushido-like (I’m seeing Japan’s Tepco administrators saying, “We are extremely sorry for the grievances we’ve caused the world due to the Fukushima nuclear plant’s near-meltdown”), but I think you get my point: that some things are worth more than any ringgit figure we stamp on it.

And this brings me to my next point: the act of apologising has many ramifications beyond the act, and this demands consideration as much as the idea of the apology itself.

Forcing a person to grovel in public may potentially be damaging not just to the person making the apology, but also to those who thought up the act; likewise, letting someone off with a gentle slap on the back of the hand leaves little room for thinking about the mistake that was made.

In this sense, an apology is also about the image that one wants to impart beyond the act itself. “It is not only you, but all of us must learn from this” I think is the key takeaway from the act of an apology.

Ultimately, an apology is about justice – as much as it is to those wronged as it is to the wrongdoers. Just remember that while justice should be blind, it should never be without heart.


 Selangor Times



Also by Fahmi Fadzil:

Awaiting local, federal elections

THE Malaysian political scene feels like it fits right in with the work of absurdist playwright Beckett’s play entitled ‘Waiting for Godot’, where two characters – Vladimir and Estragon – wait patiently for the arrival of Godot, who never arrives.

New beginnings

Farewell 2012, Hello 13GE

WHAT a year it has been! Who would’ve thought that much of these past 11 months would have sped by with such ferocity?

Reconsidering elected representatives

What is the role of a member of Parliament? A state assemblyperson (ADUN)? A local councillor? 

The day after...

In my last article, I wrote about the need to imagine the hours, days, weeks, and months following the 13th General Election (a most enigmatic event, whose precise date is and will forever be a mystery... until it is called!). 

Change must come but not with violence

A few days ago, I read an article by Liew Chin Tong, the MP for Bukit Bendera, entitled “The Last Mile” (The Rocket, July 2, 2012).

Let’s keep thuggery out

I have been working for Nurul Izzah and Parti Keadilan Rakyat since October 2010.

Cleaner, freer, fairer, better

It’s been a good nine months since the epic Bersih 2.0 rally of July 2011. I still remember the days that came before that mammoth gathering - the tension, the stress, the uncertainties, and most of all: the unyielding desire of the rakyat for free and fair elections - and realize that, given the special circumstance that we are in today what with polls being weeks or months away, those thunderous days may not be repeated verbatim.

Tale of two gatherings

This past week saw several different yet, from my point of view, important gatherings of people standing up for what they believe in. I want to write a little bit about two gatherings in particular, and highlight what we may (hopefully) learn from each.

Of sacred cows and secret condos

It’s been a while since my last article appeared in Selangor Times - things have been moving a tad bit faster than usual; even now I’m writing in between completing other tasks, but no matter.

What a year!

“Buka tutup buka tutup mata, dah habis satu tahun.”

TTDI residents ready for futsal 'match'

A few Fridays ago, I received an email from my neighbourhood security-watch committee about a new project that had suddenly mushroomed in our little corner of Taman Tun Dr Ismail: a futsal court.

Neighbourhoods under siege

OF late I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbourhoods – all these places where we grew up, started our own families, and basically watched the nation go by.

Cleaner, fairer, better?

PRACTICALLY everyone who is reading this already knows about the July 9 rally organised by the Bersih 2.0 coalition. I believe that many of us were there on the streets on that historic day.

Times of change

Of late, we’ve been inundated with talk about withdrawal of subsidies and subsequently the change in the price of sugar, RON95, gas, electricity, etc – some of which has happened, and some of which (for whatever economic or political reason) has not.

Sarawak, show us the way

The recent Sarawak state elections were such a learning experience for many Malaysians. Irrespective of whether we were active participants in the political battles on the ground, or just curious observers reading the news on Twitter, it is clear that Sarawak – and the rest of the country – can never be the same again.

The Malaysian resistance

These are “artistic impressions” of thoughts circumambulating the increasingly controversial Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
project. I chose to say “increasingly controversial” because we all know we need this infrastructure and thus any opposition to it appears to reject a very public need.











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