MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Energy wasted on political garbage


Why do we spend so many kilojoules of energy splitting the nation instead of building it? Instead of putting our energy to good use, we waste it on garbage politics. Energy recovery from garbage politics is practically zero; the chances of converting household garbage to energy are much higher.

We were an energy resourceful country once, ranking highly in the world in whatever we did. Even words expressed by our leaders meant something on the world stage. When former Australian prime minister Paul Keating called Dr Mahathir Mohamad “recalcitrant”, we beamed with pride. Not that we knew what it meant at that time.

Today, words expressed by our leaders show the state of our union. Our behaviour as Malaysians attracts worldwide attention for different reasons, mostly negative. One word like “Allah” can divide a nation and more non-recoverable energy is wasted in posturing, debating, making press statements, organising webinars and venting frustration through social media.

Energy wasted on religious issue

Rather than building bridges, energy is used to protect one’s turf. The politicians use religion to win over their segment of voters, and the people in religion use politics for cover against perceived threats. Such is the state of our nation.

The “Allah” issue could not have come at a worse time. With the Covid-19 pandemic still not under control, the economy in the doldrums, people suffering from job loss, the state of emergency and political instability, we would have expected the leadership to lend a steady hand and help extinguish the fire quickly.

Trying to win the hearts of certain communities over the right to use the word “Allah” does not augur well for Malaysia. Some view it as a needless battle of polemics and others see it as infringing on one’s religious faith. Whichever side you are on, it’s a waste of energy debating an issue that can be settled amicably through strong leadership, dialogue and understanding.

It took 13 years for Jill Ireland to get a judgment, and it will take another few more years for the appeal process to come to court. By that time, our neighbours like Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines would have overtaken us in controlling the pandemic and rebuilding their economy.

Energy wasted on ICERD issue

In September 2019, then prime minister Mahathir informed the United Nations General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify all six of the human rights conventions, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

But in November, many Malaysians learned that the government had reversed its decision and would not be ratifying ICERD due to backlash from groups who fear it could dilute privileges for the Malays.

It was reported that a member of a UN committee, Gün Kut, a Turkish national tasked with monitoring the implementation of ICERD, said that Malaysia was seen globally as accepting racial discrimination by not ratifying the international treaty.

He questioned how ICERD could become extremely politcised in Malaysia when it is an international convention for the protection of individuals against racial discrimination. Fifty-five out of 57 Muslim nations have ratified ICERD, including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran and Palestine.

A mass demonstration was organised by Malay-Muslim groups, including PAS and Umno, to protest against ICERD even though the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had decided not to ratify it. Police estimated that there were 55,000 attendees. Time wasted on ICERD, four months.

Energy wasted on khat issue

According to the education ministry, khat calligraphy serves as an aspect of language arts to enrich students with knowledge on the history, art and heritage of Bahasa Melayu. If khat is taught, they would perhaps help Malay students understand that the word “Allah” has been used by Christians in Borneo since the 1700s. But I suspect that part would be redacted, very much like the history of the formation of Malaysia.

The introduction of khat in the school curriculum was seen by the non-Malays as a form of Islamisation of the education system and a threat to the independence of vernacular schools. There were also questions as to why khat was given priority over mathematics and science subjects. Energy wasted on khat, three-and-a-half months.

Energy wasted on Maruah Melayu issue

How can you forget the very public display of Malay dignity in October 2019, co-organised by several public institutions and mingled by political parties? There were accusations that the public universities were hijacked by political parties to promote their agenda for their Malay audience.

Fast forward, where is Maruah Melayu now? With the pandemic affecting the economy, the state of emergency declared, fear of a vote of no-confidence, everyday circuses by Malay parties squabbling for power and positions, there is little dignity left to salvage. Time wasted, six months and counting.

The failure of Malaysian leaders since Sept 16, 1963 to reach a broad consensus on what type of nation we want to be has dragged on for so long. Every issue, whether big or small, is politicised and sensationalised.

I would like to think that there is light at the end of a very long tunnel for Malaysia, but for now, it seems distant. For Malaysia, it’s best to conserve its energy on positive things rather than making an issue out of every molehill. It’s hard to recycle political garbage into useful energy. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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