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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Going beyond the Merdeka mirage


Malaysians celebrate Merdeka. It is a worthy thing to do but do most people  know why? Many may give the right answers but  not the right reasons.

The tragic MH370 and MH17 have tempered the mood for celebration. On the social front, it is the gradual demise of the Merdeka nation and democracy that despair many.

The devolution of freedom in the country with unprecedented numbers of citizens and politicians charged for sedition brings a gloom worse than the annoying and health‑destroying  seasonal haze and diminishes our sentiments of Merdeka.

Malaysiakini itself faces a legal suit over something inconsequential.

Then there are the 3 R's of ridiculous religious restrictions.

The people of Sabah in celebrating Malaysia Day are making a change and instead of performing the annual ritual in an open public place, will retreat into their churches to pray.

They feel 'colonised' by foreigners given instant citizenships while many of their kin languish in the rural areas still clinging to their red identity cards like many Tamils here who are bona fide citizens and should have long been recognised as such.

The sons and daughters of the soil  in Sabah and Sarawak complain of their lands being stolen from under their noses.

Christians are being 'technically converted' into Islam while getting their new MyKad because they bear the word 'bin' in their old identity cards as Bob Teoh divulged in his recent informative article.

Merdeka ratified the birthrights of many born in the country, so if you are one of the disenfranchised you'd be hard put to sing glorious praises of Merdeka or Malaysia but find it more meaningful to appeal to God who hears the cries of the oppressed.

Deception of equality
Malaysia may be developed in 2020 but only by economic definition. Many still live below the poverty line and corruption is endemic, a characteristic of third‑world countries with some European first‑world exceptions.

'Selamat Hari Negara' sounds corny when the mood of the nation is sober.

Merdeka is not the time for clumsy commiserations either.

It is a time to celebrate a day when the country was delivered from bondage to a foreign political power.

As benevolent as the British were and who helped develop the country and bestowed an educational system and bureaucracy and plantations second to none found anywhere in the world, nevertheless the British Foreign Office failed  to regard its colonial subjects as equals.

Colonialism old or new will never get the moral mandate in our contemporary times and neither will a government of injustice.

Merdeka ushered in a new nation of equals. But in reality all Malaysians are not made equal.

It is the same deception the pioneering Americans used when they said all men are created equal but only meant all white men. They had to wage a civil rights campaign to recognise that African Americans had the same civil rights, years later after fighting a bloody civil war.

The independence of a nation, the achievement of self‑rule, the birth of a democratic nation, the hope of a nation, the freedom of the people's participation, political liberation and much more ‑ have all been lost in the governance of a country by the same old political alliance for 57 long years, a political bloc which many of us once supported and believed in.

Loyalty to any political entity has its conditions and limits though. Like former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, many Malaysians are compelled to withdraw their support when they feel disappointed that  those in whom they had trusted have let them down often brazenly.

That is why the majority popular votes went to the opposition in the last general election but unfair electoral delineations prevented a change of government.


Electoral reform still pipe dream

There is nothing more brazen than to make a promise and break it and for PM Najib Razak to say he will repeal the Sedition Actbut has not, and instead further adds insult to injury with the charging of unprecedented numbers of patriotic citizens including opposition politicians merely doing their jobs, is indeed a bold but bizarre act of brazen political self‑condemnation.

Such political brashness often has a peculiar way of haunting its perpetrator even as former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam recently cited the venom spewed against Mahathir in blog comments for his audacious ways and suggests his former boss 'keep quiet.'

But if anyone thinks the public will get fed up, withdraw their support and there can be a change of government, they need to face the reality of the electoral giant of unfair boundaries that stand in the way.

Mahathir may have more success in getting what he wants albeit he faces a more dangerous challenge this time than voters getting the desired results.

If track record is any indication the personal political games have begun and there can only be one winner.

On winners in the ultimate electoral war, not the Mahathir‑Najib sideshow,  a cursory look at the electoral maps of parliamentary seat delineations gives one the quick impression that they are skewed to retain the status quo ad infinitum.

If anyone doubts my claim they should check with Tindak that can provide the scientific evidence. So when Malaysians place their naive hope in the ballot box they are unwittingly hoping against hope.

The opposition will win some battles but not the war.

All is not fair where the rules of the electoral game are not fair and Bersih can create as much drama in the streets as it wants, but until the electoral reforms are done democracy is fudged and general elections under the existing delineations will appear to be one big con.

For this reason there can never be regime change until the electoral boundaries are fairly re‑delineated or you see a critical mass shift in old voting habits which seems as likely as getting the haze problem solved.

This may be the mission of the new Merdeka to deliver the country from neo‑colonialism made possible through a skewed electoral system.

Merdeka mirage

Until there is a level electoral playing field the sort of political change Malaysians dream of will remain mission impossible and the Merdeka Dream a mirage.

But it is not the time for throwing in the towel but a grim determination to pursue the Merdeka Nation not with reckless politics of personal ambitions but the sacrificial politics for the common good.
Someone should tell certain Selangor PAS opponents that, because I believe PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail deserves to be the new menteri besar and certainly qualifies to be one and it makes me happy to see a dignified and intelligent woman hold that high office in a nation dominated by male egomaniacs.

Gerrymandering together with malapportionment is like a double‑edged sword.

Until old voting habits change with enlightenment and education among the 'fixed deposit' voters that could affect the disadvantages of gerrymandering, and unfair electoral boundaries are rectified, regime change is but an impossible dream and fair elections elusive and all our efforts to gain political power to serve the people futile.

We are sad to see so many patriotic citizens dedicated to serving the nation in politics continue to be charged for sedition for  the most trivial of reasons. The government denies it is selective prosecution but that appears incredulous.

It does not matter who is charged but that anyone is charged defeats its defence.

For the first time in my life I went out and bought a Malaysian flag with a pole to celebrate Merdeka.

"So big, ah!" said my 94-year-old father as someone raised the beautiful flag up for me.

"Make sure it points upright toward the road," the right way to place the Jalur Gemilang, I instructed him.

The flag flutters proudly at the gate of my father's house.

"Wah, so patriotic, ah," a friendly Indian lady neighbour remarked as she sauntered by in a Malay neighbourhood where few flags are seen.

The truth is the flag we fly on Merdeka Day means more to us than we know.

We see government departments draped in countless flags but ritualistic and obligatory acts are different from matters of the heart.

If we fly just one flag and keep in mind what the Jalur Gemilang and its symbols of stars and stripes mean we might begin to appreciate the true meaning of Merdeka and what nationhood requires.

And the symbolic importance of the people's flag.

All that we aspire in making Malaysia a just and progressive nation can be learned from the simple Jalur Gemilang ‑ the symbol of a free nation of equals represented by the equal stripes and stars.

Sedition a dead idea
 

Sadly people go through the ceremonies and political rituals without giving heed to the significance of what they they do.

In a democracy sedition is a dead idea let alone a crime. Only the act of siding with the foreign enemy to destroy the sovereignty of a country ‑ not necessarily its government ‑ can be deemed sedition.

Sedition is the act of treachery to a country and only credible as in a time of war.

In a democracy every government exists only to be criticised and challenged and be held accountable and any notion any citizen can be charged for sedition in the ordinary process of participating in the democratic process is misguided and bizarre.

This betrayal of a country is the real act of sedition, not those patriotic and conscientious citizens who speak out and act to defend the integrity, honour and glory of the nation.

A nation is more important than any government and the ideals of a nation should be upheld as pre‑eminent like its highest law the Constitution which sadly has been altered beyond recognition from its original.

That is why the Jalur Gemilang is to be flown above all other flags and the symbols it represents ought to be upheld by all especially the government in setting the example for everyone.

Below is the translated English version of the meaning of each of the components of the Jalur Gemilang, adopted by Mahathir Mohammed's administration in 1997 to inspire growth and success.

Your Red represents steely will
Your White represents clean and kind character
Yellow of the sovereign, the country's protector
Blue for all of us in unity
You have reached the heights of the world
You have travelled the wide waters
Bearing the spirit of independence
We are members of its successful will
Fourteen stripes across
For each of the states of Malaysia
One voice, one spirit
So its sovereign citizens solemnly swear
Stripes of Glory, beneath your care
Stripes of Glory, we unite
Unity and loyalty
Are the noble values of the Malaysian people
Stripes of Glory, how proud we feel
Stripes of Glory, proclaim our vision
Red, white, blue, yellow
Are the stripes of our resolve (2x)
Flutter‑on, flutter‑on, flutter‑on
Stripes of Glory!


This lovely ode to the national flag says it all, and I seem to have fallen in love with it for the ideals it encapsulates and am glad I made the discovery this Merdeka.

Long live Malaysia, a nation hijacked and worth saving. Long live the victims of injustice for the celebration of Merdeka is the reminder to pay tribute to every single Malaysian who has in the spirit of Merdeka acted in the best interests of their country wherever they are and are persecuted and prosecuted unjustly.

May God bless Malaysia and deliver her from bondage in our remembrance of Merdeka and the subsequent birth of a new country with Sabah and Sarawak.



STEVE OH is the author of the novel Tiger King of the Golden Jungle and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally uprigh

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