By Howard Lee
Whenever the Merdeka season ( 31st August and 16th September) come around, for the twenty to thirty days leading up to it, there’s almost always a certain buzz of togetherness, unity and solidarity that saturates the airwaves and TV screens.
We hear words and songs denoting the aforementioned, and see short films and documentaries flooding our Facebook newsfeeds and TV screens depicting the rose tinted picture of the multiracial and multicultural Malaysia that gets pushed to tourists abroad.
And for those few days, many among us suspend our cynicism and anger, and temporarily believe what we see to be true.
This year is no exception. This year, or since the last Merdeka season, unlike the last decade or two has seen our nation brought to her knees like never before; and for DAP supporters and political observers alike, the departure of Sdr Karpal Singh and Sdr Wong Ho Leng struck the chronological second and third of a quadruple blow to our nation, in between MH370’s unsolved mystery and MH17’s demise. If there’s ever a year that Malaysians need a bit of love to help us get back on our feet; I think this year would be it.
A ‘beginning’ stalled from ‘being’ for 57 years
The 2014 Merdeka celebrations this year was given the theme “Malaysia, Where Love Begins”; I won’t argue with that as a statement per se, but there’s a lot to discuss as to what happens after ‘it’ begins. You would have thought that with all that has happened, and everything we’ve been through together as a people, some of that Love that has ‘begun’ may have developed beyond the stage of merely ‘beginning’.
Our founding fathers started the nation-building process more than 57 years ago, by fighting for and declaring independence from our colonial masters; the union was further strengthened with the joining of our Borneo brothers and sisters to perfect the beginning of Malaysia.
That then, truly was a nation where Love began. Unfortunately, what began with the greatest of intents, aspirations and hope is today still stalled at the stage of ‘beginning’; and worse still, our nation is seemingly getting further and further from what our forefathers began.
Love = Silencing of political opponents through archaic laws
Firstly and sadly, with the Sedition Act now being the ‘old toy’ that Najib the prime minster has developed a ‘renewed appetite’ for, we see many of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) front line elected representatives systematically being picked off one by one. Rafizi Ramli, N. Surendran, Khalid Samad, R. S. N. Rayer, Teresa Kok , Tian Chua are also facing trial for sedition, and Nizar Jamaluddin is now charged with criminal defamation against Najib.
Putting the undeniable notion that the ruling party exploiting the power of incumbency as well as the judiciary to silence the minority party aside; Nizar’s case calls to question the increasingly severe case of BN’s insatiably escalating hunger for power, with the PM suing dissenters using government functions such as the AG chambers and crown prosecutions.
Again, a civil libel suit by the PM will not render Nizar disqualified to contest in the next GE. So, would it not be fair to interpret that, the charge of criminal defamation against Nizar is used to suit the BN’s ultimate goal?
It is not just too obvious that they’re not really that bothered whether PR leaders go away behind bars? Does it not seem that they are but hell bent on getting as many PR leaders disqualified from contesting in GE14 as possible? Or perhaps they are now framing a nice juicy talking-point for the GE14 ceramah circuit, on the number of disqualified and despicable PR leaders from contesting because they are seditious; and attacking the new line up of 2nd rung leaders whom they will paint as inexperienced and unqualified to govern.
Is this an example of Love?
Love= Support in silence toward stokers of hate and peddlars of bigotry
Since the last Merdeka season, we have also seen the rise in prominence and the increased occupation of valuable media space by organisations like ISMA and PERKASA.
We are seeing unprecedented stoking of bigotry and racism through the questioning of great sensitivities that were answered by the Federal Constitution as well as past efforts, including citizenships of Non-bumiputeras, being peddled by these quarters to attract support.
The BN government seems not to care much about reprimanding them, worse still questions on whether or not these organisations are funded by the federal ruling party is answered with deafening silence.
Worse still, though no longer surprising and society is slowly but sadly becoming more and more desensitised towards it, that we have senior cabinet Ministers repeatedly uttering words of bigotry and making racially divisive calls almost on a predictably seasonal basis.
It seems that the incitement of racial hatred; the politicisation of racial majority as superiority and minority as inferiority; and the insolent, racist and unconstitutional provocation of certain ethnic groups against others, are perfectly fine if used by leaders of the ruling party and/or their supporters. The reality is that those who challenge the unlawfulness of these insolences with the word of law, are the ones who gets penalised and punished through archaic and outdated laws.
Is this what the government is referring to when it says Malaysia is where Love begins?
Love = Enriching the rich, squeezing the middling, and forgetting the poor
We keep hearing BN politicians harping on about how we should thank BN and be ‘syukur kepada nikmat yang dibina oleh BN’ for having built a great environment for Malaysians to get rich.
The same environment that they built to enrich is now systematically restricting the poor from getting out of poverty.
The same environment that is perpetuating the harsh reality faced by those exhausting themselves in the rat race simply to survive existence; the same environment that imprisons the youth and the middle class within the middle income trap with no prospects of escape.
This is in essence, the very system that is enabling the minority group at the top to amass the vast majority of the wealth whilst the vast majority of the people live on whatever crumbs left by the proverbial daily banquets of stinking filthy rich.
Just to take Perak as an example, we may have had the 3rd highest GDP growth rate amongst all states, but our GDP per-capita is at 11th place out of 15. Our household average income is shockingly at 12th place.
The GINI Coefficient and the GDP per capita VS GDP growth comparison both clearly shows that income disparity in Perak is getting out of hand. Why is the state government so single-mindedly focused on growth, when all the figures including the GINI Coefficient and its trend over the last decade suggests that we need much more focus on distribution?
What with the rising costs of commodities and implementation of GST squeezing consumption down, the several near-saturation bubbles we see all over Asia including ourselves, capital mobility and availability hitting a slump with the US Federal Reserve’s ever delayed but inevitable tapering of QE3 a financial and economic storm is well and truly brewing.
All in all, we must but accept, the people of Perak will have to cushion ourselves from the inadvertent steep fall that our economy will experience at least once over the next four years.
We may be growing as a state economy, but that growth is not being translated into income growth for Perakians at large. The connected and the cabled regardless of integrity and merit gets increasingly richer, whilst the poor and the talented either stay to stagnate where they are or, leave for pastures greener.
Is this, fellow Malaysians and Perakians, an example of our nation being a place where Love begins?
Look to the dreams of our founders to chart the future of a Malaysian Malaysia.
Yes, it’s a pretty dark and dank picture to ponder upon on this auspicious day in 2014. But, the beauty of being a political front liner under the ticket of DAP and PR, is that we practice the politics of conviction and not the politics of compensation. BN may misinterpret our stand hence their continued dishing out of criminal convictions to our frontline leaders; but we WILL NOT falter and we WILL press on.
For me, Malaysia needs to, and can be more than where Love begins. It must become a place where not only does Love grow, but a place where the Love that begin and grow, crystalises in to the ambition set forth by the Rukunegara; a MALAYSIA that nurtures the ambitions of:
- achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society;
- preserving a democratic way of life;
- creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
- guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and
- building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
(pre-amble to the Rukunegara, verbatim)…
If these ambitions are realised, the fanfare and artificially induced buzz on TV and radio about togetherness, unity and solidarity will no longer be needed nor necessary, as we will truly be a Malaysian Malaysia that is beyond its beginning and is ‘already in Love’ and matured in our national siblinghood regardless of ethnicity, class and religion.
It may be 57 years since our colonial master relinquished control over the peninsular, and the government is 52 years late to say today in 2014 that Malaysia is where Love begins, where many across the federation still face oppression and suppression. We as a nation is a far cry from the slogan and the reality serves as rude and painful insults to the memories of our founding fathers. The Rukunegara’s preamble tells us what to aim for. So let’s begin today, and realise those ambitions. Let’s now stop talking about beginning, and start consummating, showing and acting on that Love that was borne 52 years ago.
Happy Merdeka & Happy Malaysia Day.