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Friday, August 30, 2019

62nd Merdeka – 'New Malaysia' is a fiction



"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 
"Mahathir is PM. There's disunity in the nation. People are wary of their future and the economy.
"I'm chugging beers while listening to the Blues Gang sing 'Apo Nak Di Kato' live.
"In 1989 as it is in 2019." 

– An astute Twitter post
COMMENT | Merdeka this year is especially disheartening. You would think that the way Pakatan Harapan political operatives talk about this “New Malaysia”, they would have something to show for it. 
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng talks about how the greatest challenge facing the Harapan government is the lies and slander perpetuated by its opponents.
“The people have nothing to gain by following those who preach national division through racial and religious extremism,“ he proclaimed while ignoring the reality that the biggest proponents of race and religion-based dialectic is the party with the smallest numbers but which control the levers of power enabled by non-Malay powerbrokers who just want to hold on to power.
Seriously, these kind of lies and slander rhetoric are the stratagems Harapan used when they were the opposition in all its incarnations. Move on. The greatest obstacle to a "New Malaysia" is the reality that Harapan political operatives lack the will, imagination and the cojones to carry out the reforms that they promised their base would “save Malaysia”.
Contrast Lim’s Merdeka message with that of PSM leader S Arutchelvan’s piece on wage inequality. What I like about the piece is that it is about the rakyat or at least that demographic of the rakyat which nobody seems interested in. It was not about maintaining political power but rather about how a certain section of Malaysians live. We often forget about that. If this isn't a great way to acknowledge Merdeka, I do not know what is.
"New Malaysia" is a fiction. A lie created by political operatives who have no interest in genuine reform but who coast on the propaganda that they need more time. If you are someone who rejects racial and religious politics, you are someone who has no time. The demographics and social policies are against you.
Forget about the backtracking, the lies, the racial and religious provocations (carried out by this regime), the substandard ministers, the inept policies, the rhetoric designed to mislead the rakyat, the cowardice of the non-Malay political wing, the mendacity of the Malay wing, or the hubris of the main power players in Harapan.
Forget about all that and just think about how the base is expected to fall into line because Umno/PAS may come back to power. This is what Merdeka is about this year - fear.
Fear that the Umno/PAS combo will return. Fear that if we push out the Harapan government even though they were carrying out the agenda of Umno/PAS, we will regret the day we decided to abandon Harapan. Fear that the lies and slanders will destroy the coalition because the reality that lack of political will is what is destroying Harapan isverboten in this "New Malaysia" doublespeak.
Fear that Mahathir, the grand poobah, is attempting to destroy DAP and Harapan when the reality is that political operatives in Harapan are not carrying out their duties and more importantly, their campaign promise to constrain the political power of the prime minister when it comes to policy and the direction of this country.
The only people who are not afraid are the racial and religious far right. What have they got to be afraid about? 
They have the machinations of Harapan political operatives which would keep the racial and religious ideological foundations of this country intact. They have non-Malay political operatives who are afraid to stand up for issues that are a threat to national security and policies which would ensure that we remain a competitive and a viable economy in this fast-changing geopolitical landscape.
For them, Merdeka this year is pretty awesome. They lost power but they are in a far better position because the ruling government is mired in internecine conflicts and has no genuine political will to carry out reforms which would diminish their social, religious and political power. This is truly a great Merdeka for them.
But if you are someone who has not drunk the Kool-Aid or at least someone who is white-knuckling it after swearing off the Kool-Aid, you may have come to the realisation that these people who promised you – us – a new deal, really want to give you back the old deal without the Najib family. 
The old maverick is wondering why Umno is still around. Really? Isn’t Bersatu merely an echo of our past attempting to take form as Sauron after his fall? 
I spoke to an MCA political operative the other day who funnily enough had some sympathy for DAP. “Now they understand what it is like being in the federal government,” he said over a cup of coffee in a shabby part of Kuala Lumpur. The kind of place that was something back in the go-go days of the first Mahathir era. It was oddly disconcerting to have this conversation because it seemed like deja vu.
“I am out of the game now, Thaya. It will be interesting to see how long they last but I think they should put up a fight. The problem is that we (the MCA) laid everything at the old man’s doorstep. We should have fought because that is what the Chinese voted us in for. I don’t mean this in a racial way but rather we should have fought for everyone who believed in a secular Malaysia. Look, even Malay leaders understand that race-based policies lead nowhere.”
I told him that he could still fight the good fight but he said that there are young people who should do the resisting now.
Make no mistake about it. I do not find it hard to love this country. Contrary to what people think, I think that this is a great place to live in. But I am old so when I define this country, I define it in terms of lost opportunities. I hope young Malaysians still define this country as to what is possible.
Maybe Merdeka this year is for the young people. The people who could really save this country we all love. You see, we never really needed a "new Malaysia". All we needed was a Malaysia whose political operatives - and the people who voted for them - learnt from past mistakes.
Happy Merdeka, Malaysia - whoever you are.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan. - Mkini

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