MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Redeeming our Merdeka

COMMENT “At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya, to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty – a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.”

This was part of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s speech on Aug 31, 1957 before he led the newly birthed nation of Malaya to shouts of “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”

Now 57 years on, have we truly and fully achieved those lofty ideals of justice and liberty spoken of by Tunku?

As we commemorate this Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day 20 days later, it is difficult for us to muster any sense of celebration.

Not only are we still mourning the loss of MH370 and MH17 which is pushing our national carrier to the edge of collapse and the likely loss of thousands of jobs, in the last couple of weeks we have witnessed a flurry of assault on freedom itself.

Regressing in our freedom

The government-controlled institutions of the police and the Attorney-General has charged various opposition politicians with the Sedition Act and the Penal Code for simply expressing their views, views that are deemed offensive to the sensitivities of the monarchy, race, religion and even Umno!

A dark cloud of oppression has drifted over our nation this Merdeka day. Instead of progressing in the pursuit of our founding fathers’ ideals of justice and liberty we are regressing, and at an alarming rate.

Since the conclusion of the hotly contested 13th General Election, we have seen a spike in racially and religiously provocative statements and actions from politicians, NGOs and individuals.

Filled with hatred and bigotry, they threaten to tear apart the Malaysian social fabric. Insensitive actions by religious authorities to seize the Holy Scriptures of another faith, the seizing of dead bodies at funerals and the gate-crashing of a wedding to question the religion of the bride are all displays of arrogance and bigotry.

Instead of celebrating the colours of our diversity in culture, religion and languages, their vision is that of a mono-ethnic, mono-religious and mono-language fabric, where there is no room for other colours and ideas to blossom. A very dull shade of grey in my opinion.

We have become a less tolerant society, not just of our inherent ethnic and religious differences but also with those who are deemed “foolish” in their actions.

The swift and often overly harsh actions of the authorities on the infamous sex bloggers who wished Muslims Hari Raya with Bak Kut Teh, the 10 nudists at a Penang beach, the two semi-nude models in Ipoh and the investigation into a 17-year-old boy who clicked “Like” on a pro-Israel page, shows a lack of tolerance for those whose actions are not in keeping with the majority of the populace.

The condemnation and rejection of society would have suffice in most cases without convicting them as criminals. Is there no room for us to make mistakes or room for forgiveness?

Are we truly free from the shackles of suspicions, prejudices, intolerance and hatred after 57 years of Merdeka? My answer is a resounding NO! We are still bound and if we don’t wrestle ourselves free, our future generations will live as slaves to hatred and bigotry in an environment of despotism, corruption and injustices.

But we have a choice. to either choose despair or to choose hope.

Is there still hope?

Hope shines the brightest in the darkest moments. A German war theorist, Carl Von Clausewitz said, “Two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.”

Instead of hanging our heads down in despair or booing with anger from our seats or worse, being apathetic on the sideline, we need to come into the playing field to take hold of the game and ensure a victorious result. Judging from the performance of both teams in the political divide, we are heading for a no-win situation.

The leadership of Najib Razak (left) and his cabinet has been at best directionless and at worst, absent.

When relationships in our communities are strained by extreme talks and actions, silence.

When we needed statements that would unify, all we hear are more divisive statements. If allowing this nation to be torn apart is the ruling coalition’s strategy of staying in power at all cost then we are doomed as a nation.

On the other side, the coalition that had held so much promise and hope is disintegrating before our eyes, not because of the doing of their opponents but their own coalition partner over what should have been a straight-forward issue, the appointment of the Menteri Besar of Selangor.

Makes us wonder, if they can even agree on the chief ministership of a state, what hope is there of them agreeing on the prime-ministership of the country.

We can see in the horizon bumpier and thornier issues they have to sort out like the hudud and seat increase/delineation issues. Many who had hoped for a functioning two-party/coalition system of government that holds each other in checks and balance, we are in despair.

What hope do we have left? What choice?

It is our choice

I still choose to believe that Malaysia is still worth fighting for. This is the land where our forefathers came and pitched their tents and called it home. This is our home regardless of what some may say and God willing, this will remain the home of our children and their children for generations to come.

I still believe that the majority of Malaysians deep down in their hearts are decent, honest, peace-loving and wants to live in mutual respect and in harmony with each other. We are not hearing much of their voices in this readership-driven mass and alternative media that strives on the sensational and provocative.

Bad news sells better than good news. Unless the media begin to take responsibility its role in nation-building and give equal weightage to all voices, be it extreme or moderate, the extremists will always have the upper-hand in driving the perception of the masses that everybody is an extremist and thereby sowing the seeds of suspicion and fanning sparks of hatred among the people. We need more moderate Malaysians to speak up, loud and clear.

We can make a difference in our daily lives if we consciously chooses to repair our bridges of friendship with each other, with those who are from a different ethnicity, religion and social background as us. Find opportunities to make those connections in the market, at work, while waiting in a queue, at PIBG meetings, during festivals, during bereavements, etc. You’d be surprised that many are not much different from us.

Malaysians untainted by bigotry are a wonderfully gracious lot. It takes effort to know each other but it’s worth it.

We need to take ownership of our nation and start seeing the government and their agencies as servants, elected and appointed to serve us, the citizens. We are entitled to good and honest services from them and if it is not forth-comng we have a right and a duty to demand it.

We need to actively engage with our elected officials and hold them accountable for their promises made during elections. Find out where their service centres are and when they are available to meet the people.

Speak up not just on your own issues or problems but also speak for others in your community and proposes solutions. YB should stand for Yang Berkhidmat and only if they served us properly they have earned the right to be called Yang Berhormat.

If you want to do more to restore hope and make a difference, start organizing or join small citizen groups to foster good neighbourliness that transcend race and religion.

Reach out to the less fortunate together and unite for safety and security in your area. You will be amazed what a small group of people with diverse backgrounds and skills can achieve when they are united by a common vision and shared values for a better Malaysia.

There will be those who can lead and mobilise, those who can support and give, and those who can contribute ideas. Alone, not much can be done but when they come together, nothing is impossible.

Change comes from within

We must not allow circumstances to drag us into despair, becoming victims but we must pull ourselves up, encouraging ourselves and each other that there is still hope and it is up to us to flame that hope into flames of change.

Change comes from within, from the little steps we take towards it, from teaming up with others who share the same dream and from being courageous.

Benjamin Carson, a renown neurosurgeon commented, “There are a group of people who would like to silence everybody and have everybody go along to get along, but that's not going to be very helpful for us in the long run, in terms of solving our problems. And somebody has to be courageous enough to actually stand up to the bullies.”

Let not the speeches of our founding fathers on Merdeka Day 57 years ago be empty rhetorics and let not others determine our future but let us be captains of our soul and our destiny. Let us avail ourselves and redeem our Merdeka.

THOMAS FANN is a concerned Malaysian who has chosen to engage with the forces that are shaping our nation’s destiny. An idealist with a pragmatic side, he believes that all of us can do something positive for all of us.

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