Did Raja Petra Kamarudin accuse Rosmah Mansor of being at the murder scene when Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot and her body blown up? Everyone seems to think so, going by the outrage that befell him after his interview with TV3 two weeks ago. But he said he himself had never directly accused her of being there. He didn’t.
In fact he has said so — that someone told him she was there — many times in the three years since the statutory declaration became public.
Someone had told him Rosmah was there. It’s a nuanced statement he made — he wanted to goad the authorities to investigate the allegations, he says — but instead, the authorities turned it against him by alleging that he had given false information.
They’re twisting the facts, but so, too, did everyone else who reported on RPK’s sworn statement; they attributed the allegation to him, especially in their headlines.
MalaysiaKini on 20 June:
RPK’s No Holds Barred column in Malaysia Today the next day, carried the MalaysiaKini story in full. His headline was “Rosmah at murder scene”, but it was on his column, over his byline, and at first glance, a casual reader would assume that it was RPK saying so.
Even Lim Kit Siang, writing in his blog on 21 June, said in the second paragraph of his blog:
In a statutory declaration on June 18, 2008, Raja Petra accused Rosmah as among three individuals who were present when Altantuya was murdered on Oct 19, 2006.
But Kit Siang also went on to say that RPK “had been informed” — the crucial phrase on almost every sentence of RPK’s statutory declaration, but which everyone doesn’t remember.
Other blogs did the same: a random example, I Am Malaysian whose headline was “RPK says Rosmah involved in Altantuya case”.
The nuance was lost. Perhaps subconsciously people wanted it to be true. RPK had built up a reputation of revealing nasty things about top people, and producing documents to back up what he said. With that in the back of their minds, people probably ignored the thought “someone told RPK” and just preferred to believe “RPK said”.
His reputation of authority — if RPK said it, it must be true — is what gave the document credence, and that is what the authorities seek to destroy.
When he went on TV3 saying “I never said Rosmah was there” and news headlines and blogs in the following days said “RPK Makes U-turn”, it was easy enough for many to accept that he was a turncoat. For example, Sin Chew said this week that RPK was a fallen hero.
But all that had happened was that RPK and Rosmah had traded one smear for another, tit for tat.
“RPK makes a u-turn” was relentlessly sold to the public in retaliation for “RPK said Rosmah was there”. It’s his reputation that they’re after. Facts don’t matter, it’s public perception that the establishment wants to control.
RPK himself has tried over the past three years to distance himself from the direct allegation, but has made little impact on the general public — let’s face it, an anonymous source saying Rosmah was there just hasn’t the same cachet as RPK saying Rosmah was there.
Barisan Nasional politicians know the power of the smear. It is one of their favourite weapons, especially in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad who uses it in combination with twisting the facts to suit his convenience. The press, but especially Bernama, are used as accessories after the fact, in regurgitating what officials said.
They know that one vivid phrase or one vivid image, constantly repeated — even if it is a lie — will stick in people’s minds, and will take years to undo, by which time it is too late.
With so much at stake, RPK’s reputation for telling the truth, and revealing the truth, must be destroyed. And they’re willing to lie in order to do it.