Friday, March 22

What are friends for?


LATELY, some bullfrogs found a home at the drain outside my apartment. Whenever it rains, they will start croaking … all night long. Their throaty serenade is monotonous – no, certainly not a lullaby, and it keeps me wide awake the whole night through.

When I related this to a friend, he said the bullfrogs were probably looking for a friend or a mate. The croaking is consistent in one and the same deep bass tone all through – no music to the ear for many but at least a genuine friendship call – forever true and as unchanging as the tuba-like pitch of a Basso Profondo.

I responded, without even thinking: “What are friends for?”

So I decided that if the birds that nested on my balcony were friends, I could also treat the polliwogs in my backyard as guttural serenaders albeit at the expense of losing a good night sleep on my part.

Strangely, the next night, they croaked a little softer and soon the hoarse chorus died off – probably the bellowers had found everlasting friendships and were on an amorous adventure with their soulmates!

As the saying goes, there are big ships and small ships but the best ship of all is friendship. No one knows for sure if this applies to bullfrogs, but in realpolitik, we know for a fact that the opposite is often the rule, not the exception, as true friendship can be fleeting among politicians. And this week, the drama of “reluctant friendship,” supposedly shown by PKR to its political chum DAP over the snap election in Penang – was played out in full public view.

Following PKR’s cool response to his party’s call for an early vote, DAP Selangor chief Tony Pua fired the first salvo when he wrote on his Facebook post: “Sometimes, you wonder what type of friends you have. When they were in a crisis, you backed them to the hilt, come what may. Then at a time when we would appreciate their support, they leaked everything to the media first, leaving you completely naked. Or announce to the whole world openly before they bother talking to us.”

His outbursts provoked a swift repartee from PKR.

“Don’t expect PKR to ask ‘how high’ whenever DAP screams ‘jump’,” retorted PKR legal adviser Latheefa Koya.

In a Facebook post mid-week, Latheefa did not mince her words about what she thought of Pua’s whine, saying:

“Firstly get your facts correct – who went and unilaterally announced for snap polls? Who also unilaterally announced the death of Pakatan Rakyat? Who also announced the formation of Pakatan Harapan – all to the press before the final decision? Don’t strip first and then complain about being left naked!”

Looking at the circumstances surrounding Pua’s protestation, I believe he was referring to DAP’s friendship with PKR during  the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis in 2014 whereby DAP claimed it had fully supported PKR’s bid to oust Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim by forcing a by-election in what was known as the Kajang Move.

The friendship Pua and his party are expecting PKR to reciprocate is the unconditional show of support for the snap election in Penang to serve as a referendum on Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s leadership in the wake of the corruption charges brought against him and which DAP claims are politically motivated.

Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle said there are three types of friendship. First, the higher friendship based on virtue and has nothing to do with politics. It’s a friendship between two virtuous men. Secondly, the friendship grounded on utility and usefulness – in other words, political friendship. And thirdly, at the lower level, friendship grounded on pleasure.

The second Aristotelian friendship aptly describes Pua’s expectation of friends – utility and usefulness from political friendship.

It had probably been a whole lot easier for DAP or Pua to have decided to stand by PKR in the Selangor Menteri Besar impasse. Support for PKR in that instance had led ostensibly to the opposition pact retaining their grip on power in that state. It was mutually beneficial.

On the other hand, it’s harder by far for PKR to support a snap election in Penang as there are questions to answer.

The party has to justify whether such an election is necessary and why it’s necessary. Will it hurt the opposition’s credibility? Will the opposition lose some seats? Will it help Lim Guan Eng out of his personal corruption charges? How can PKR help DAP sail through the crisis with an early election? Most importantly, is it the wish of the people to have a snap election?

There are hundreds more questions to answer before PKR – if it is responsible and transparent – could make a decision to or not to support the snap election.

Friends tell the truth even when it hurts because they care enough about you. Proverbs 27:5-6 states: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Pua may like to know what true friendship is via a Biblical model – David and Jonathan.

Jonathan was the son of King Saul who wanted to kill David because he was jealous of him, knowing David would replace him on the throne of Israel. Jonathan came to know about his father’s intention and he was such a loyal friend that he alerted David of the danger and literally saved his life.

Jonathan knew he would be next in line to the throne if David was taken out of the way and could have easily betrayed David and had the throne of Israel for himself but Jonathan’s love and loyalty for David was shown in his selfless act in saving David’s life. To Jonathan, his friendship with David is more important than the throne.

After Jonathan saved his life, David showed such respect for Jonathan that he bowed down three times before Jonathan even though David knew God had anointed him to be the eventual king. David, the future King, bowed to the son of his enemy, King Saul.

David and Jonathan kissed each other and wept together – but David wept the most.

This is the kind of friendship we are talking about. Pua’s kind of friendship has apparently been a marginal concept within the field of politics.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said: “He (Pua) has always been there for me through thick and thin and I will always choose to vote in favour of friendship and that is the most important vote we should safeguard.”

Probably Nurul’s kind of friendship could be left to ethics or morals. At best, it will play an organisational role in the definition of justice and an essential virtue.

Proverbs 27:9 states: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”

And may this heartfelt advice prevail in the “friendship” between PKR and DAP so that the people will ultimately be blessed from their decision-making.

As the world is in turmoil, what we least expect is the acrimonious breakdown of another “friendship” that will cause us more pains and worries.

“Are you upset, little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry … I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow and I will always be here to take care of you.” – Charlie Brown to Snoopy.

Indeed, there are many Snoopies around that need Charlie Brown.