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Friday, August 31, 2012

We have become politically awakened


Organising a glitzy event at Bukit Jalil for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his cabinet, civil servants and selected others won't make pressing problems in the country disappear.
COMMENT
By Charles Santiago
All we heard and saw the last few weeks heading into the Merdeka Day were squabbles, open spats over Twitter, Facebook and pure disgust. And simply because the government has tried, in every possible way to hijack Merdeka Day.
Its Janji Ditepati or Promises Fulfilled slogan is pure propaganda, crafted to send a strong election message to the people as the country gears towards what’s most likely to be the most fiercely-fought polls ever.
Dissatisfaction over the government’s choice of slogans, logos and song clearly signals the sharp divisions in the society as Malaysia celebrates its 55 years of independence.
These are not the only issues we are concerned about.
A gutless democracy, discrimination against women and children, racism, curbing of civil liberties, trampling of human rights, rampant corruption and a government that would bend or amend every law and indulge in a dirty electoral process to stay in power are what the nation is gripped with now.
Organising a glitzy event at Bukit Jalil for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his cabinet, civil servants and selected others won’t make pressing problems in the country disappear.
Just days before Merdeka Day, we saw a repeat of a court ruling which shocked the public. A 21-year-old man who had raped a 12-year-old child escaped a jail term. This is the second case in weeks where another perpetrator walked free. In both cases, the court ruled that both men had great future and the acts were consensual.
This is outrageous. It sets a bad precedent and has failed to look into the welfare of the victims.
Over the last few months, the fight for power has intensified in the country. Whistleblowers were penalised. Corrupt politicians walked free despite strong proof of corruption amounting to billions of dollars and opposition leaders have been targeted in smear campaigns to break the increasing support for Pakatan Rakyat.
Political discourse in the country is almost non-existent and ruling politicians are happy to use devious tactics and gutter politics centering around the private lives of opposition leaders.
Hoodwinking the people
While the second quarter GDP growth of 5.1% has surprised even government optimists, this surge was largely due to pump priming of the economy. But can the government continue to maneuver the economy, if there is another downturn brought about by external factors, given its huge spending on mega projects and cash handouts ahead of the polls?
If all this is not enough, we have government-backed water concessionaire Syabas manufacturing a water crisis to hold the opposition-led Selangor government hostage in order to force the state to agree to building a water treatment plant which would cost Malaysians billions of dollars.
Our stand is that there are other pressing problems like Syabas looking at ways to reduce the amount of water wastage lost to leakage and theft, which is about a third of total production.
While the government is busy scheming and trying to devise new strategies to hoodwink the people, including using the Merdeka Day as a bait, it has failed to realise that Malaysians are becoming politically more vocal.
The thousands of people who turned up at Dataran Merdeka yesterday in yellow t-shirts to show support for Bersih, a coalition demanding free and fair elections, and other groups is a clear sign that Malaysians will not allow the government to indulge in shadow play.
And the success of the protest is a signal that as Malaysia enters its 55th year of independence the society, no matter what the government says, is sufficiently mature to hold peaceful political rallies. It also illustrates that the society is politically awakened to ensure their demands are met.
And this is what Najib and his government must remember on this historic day.
Charles Santiago is the member of parliament for Klang.

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