You've heard of a banana republic. Now, welcome to Malaysia's Durian Democracy. The author takes on the thorny ( and occasionally horny) realities of Malaysian politics and its woes; and tries to show that behind that sharp image, Malaysia, still has some succulent, touching, and very genuine goodness in it. Not an easy task indeed, but then again, Malaysia has always been a hard nut ( or durian?) to crack.
I think we have a very serious problem in Malaysia. I think there must be a spreading contagion of zombies, threatening to turn our population into the undead. And I don't think we have some sort of hot chick ready to blast away, guns blazing, saving us from our fate. At least not in Malaysia. Oh well.
Now before you scratch your head in bewilderment and wonder if you got the right blog or whether your suspicions of my mental soundness were true, allow me to explain. I have not, in fact, seen any zombies. However, I can deduce that there must be some sort of grey matter hungry creatures lurking about because of the SHEER AMOUNT OF BRAINS DISAPPEARING FROM OUR COUNTRY.
Malaysia's human capital leak ( or should I say flood?) is getting worse and worse every year. According to the World Bank,the number of skilled Malaysians living abroad has tripled in the last two decades with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for either OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries or Singapore.
What those numbers mean is that if you are in a room with five people now, one person out of your gang will be gone. Poof! into another land where every Ali, Ah Kau, and Muthusamy has turned into a Tom, Dick and Harry; where people try to become darker instead of fairer; where air conditioners turn into heaters. Or they could have just gone down to Singapore. Yawn.
According to some very reliable sources, the push factors for the human resource flight are career prospects, compensation and social justice. Some Malaysians also cite better living conditions, weather, accessibility, public transport, transparent governance blablablablabla. Basically, Malaysia sucks.
And I dare say that again in big bold capital letters. MALAYSIA SUCKS.
Oh yes, the government is terrible, and as transparent as a rock can get. The public service definition of fast would have put even the Tortoise from the story the Tortoise and the Hare to shame. Yes, this is a country where Pizza Hut arrives faster than the police. Malaysia is a baking oven half the time, and the other half it's drenched in the torrential downpour. It's a place where you order roti canai and you can't even tell whether that waiter at the mamak shop is nodding or shaking his head. ( oh right, forgot about India.) It's a place where you ask "Excuse me, could I have a size L sweater please?" and instead of hearing "I'm sorry ma'am that item is currently available", we get two words: "No stock!". In a nutshell, so many things are terrible about Malaysia.
Enough with the complaints. For a moment, just forget about all that. Just humour me a while more, and play along. Close your eyes, and imagine your parents. They've taken care of you for years, nurturing you, providing so many good memories, a place to stay, food to eat- they've given you a life. Now imagine if they became sick. Suppose they become afflicted with Alzheimer's. They go crazy, don't recognise you as their child, forgot who they were, and start making a mess of the house. Do you abandon them? Or do you try to find a cure for them, help them?
Malaysia is now in that situation. Malaysia is like a senile parent, asking some of her children to get out of the country, telling some they don't belong here; she rages and messes up things, making life difficult for her children; she bogs them down financially, denying them some opportunities to advance their career. She has forgotten who she is.
And so have we. For a moment, just try to remember all the things our country has given us. Those late night mamak stall adventures; those times when we used our hands, fork and spoon, and chopsticks all in the same meal!; the ability to swear in four languages and seven dialects; to have our ears perk up at the call of the ice cream man; to have our dogs howl at the monotone drawl of the "Old Newspaper" guy. So much beauty in our country.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
That beauty deserves a second chance from us all. Rather than leaving, rendering the country poorer and at a loss; why not stay, contribute, do something. Help Malaysia remember who she is, heal the country of the disease; instead of blaming the country itself and abandoning it to its fate. You see, that's the whole problem with this country. Capable, educated people look at the situation, put up their hands in resignation, then pack their bags and leave. It only worsens the situation. This is our country, why not look at the situation, and resolve to do something now or in the future? Gandhi, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Martin Luther King were all pretty well to do people who could have jolly well left, or carried on with their own privileged lives. They didn't. And for that, we have a better world today.
I know there are difficulties, I know there are reasons to leave. And most of all, I know, Malaysia sucks. But the real question is: what are we doing about it?
I'm not saying don't ever leave for studies, for a job, for a trip. By all means, go ahead. But just remember, wherever you go, you are Malaysian, and for all the bloody diseases that plague this stubborn patient of a country, she's still alive. Malaysia lives. And she needs to be cured.
A Dream Of The Sea
Yesterday, I had a dirty dream. (No, you dirty bugger not THAT sort!) I dreamed of a sea of yellow clad figures. There was a huge clamour, voices rising above the din of the lightning storms, calling for a better future for the nation. They invoked a calm in me, like a sea of bright, smiling sunflowers, radiant and hopeful .... Until an ocean of blue dots came swiftly, and clashed with the yellow. From my bird's eye view, it was like blue drops of paint plunging into a vat of yellow, smearing and mixing into dirty swirls. The blue, the yellow, mixed and matched, back and forth.... Till oddly enough... the world was red, a dirty red that sullied my vision.
And then, I awoke.
Sweating from my "premonition", I hurriedly clutched my mobile phone, profusely apologizing to the SIM card within for switching from DIGI to Maxis.Yellow to red. From clean.... To the stained.
Anyway, on an entirely unrelated note, there has been a whole hue and cry concerning the yellow BERSIH rally coming up. With so many articles and learned professors condemning the act, I feel compelled to point out the flaws in their arguments and insert my two cents worth on the way.
Firstly, the BERSIH Rally is a peaceful rally organised by over 80 NGOs, with the support of Pakatan Rakyat component parties, DAP, PAS and PKR. The allegations of many are that the rally is politically motivated. But they have all ignored that if Pakatan Rakyat feels it should support efforts to promote free and fair elections, there is nothing wrong with that! They have made it sound as if whenever a political party throws its support behind an event, it automatically ceases to be beneficial, and becomes political propoganda. That said, following this flawed sense of logic, the Tak Nak campaign, OneMalaysia campaign and many others have automatically become a political weapon by virtue of their affliation with BN.
Secondly, the BERSIH Rally has 8 demands, demands that are perfectly reasonable.
1. Clean the electoral roll- Ensure dead people are deregistered, introducing automated voter registration upon reaching eligibility.
2. Reform postal ballots- Letting all Malaysians who cannot be there physically vote.
3. Use indelible ink-To prevent electoral fraud. Even Afghanistan uses this!
4. Minimum 21 days for campaigning- Allows Malaysians to properly evaluate policies. Our first election in 1955 had 42 days!
5. Free and fair access to media- Media access for opposition parties too. After all, you need to know them before you can decide on them.
6. Strengthen public insitutions- Reform the police, judiciary, and Election Commission. All the "suicides" in MACC, the court decision of "unknown" on the Teoh Beng Hock case should more than demonstrate the need for reform.
7. Stop corruption- No vote buying, and beyond.
8. Stop dirty politics- I don't think I can make Malaysian politics sound any dirtier than it is.
Instead of evaluating and acknowledging these demands, our government has gone all out to condemn BERSIH as illegal and illegitimate. The Election Commission on the other hand, has stood beside Government officials to speak out against the rally, whereas the EC is supposed to remain and appear neutral at all times.
Destroying our image?
Thirdly, many have spoken out saying the Rally will destroy the country's image, causing us to lose revenue in terms of tourism and so on. Now, these tourists are mainly from Europe. To these tourists, demonstrations, strikes, protests are a way of life, a part of their functioning democracies, it is part of their freedom of assembly. To say that one protest will scare away these veterans who have seen, and probably participated in many, is foolish and capitalizes on ignorance. If the Government were to ban such a rally, what with its reasonable demands, then it would depict the country as draconian, undemocratic and unreasonable. Should the Federal Reserve Unit retaliate, the Government would have proven itself to belong to the likes of Gaddaffi. Instead, the Government should allow the BERSIH Rally, to prove itself a cut above the rest of its Muslim peers in the Middle East. In any case, I can't imagine our nation's image being destroyed any further after that whole ridiculous Obedient Wives Club debacle.
Danger to Lives
Regarding the "massive danger to public property, and lives", this is clearly an argument that presents only one side of the case. The protesters are normal citizens like you and me, this country is theirs as well, and their friends and family are all watching. They have nothing to gain by throwing Molotov cocktails around, as some commentators would have us believe, and everything to lose by violence. Besides, most of these confrontations results from FRU actions as reported by SUHAKAM regarding the 2006 Bersih Rally, where police struck the first blow, and resorted to I quote, "excessive force". Has the Government made any provisions at all to protect the citizens, any directives to the police not to strike at protesters? I'm afraid not. It seems to me that the danger imposed is not from the protestors, but rather by the Federal Reserve itself. Irony in its highest form.
As for the so called economic losses, money is like water stored in a bottle. Tilt it one way, the water will follow it. But the amount of water remains the same. If people cannot buy goods, go to cinemas etc on Saturday in Jalan Maharajalela, they will buy goods a day or so earlier or later, go to watch Transformer a week or so later. Or at worst, they will turn to an alternative location to purchase the goods. Furthermore, logically whenever thousands of people congregate at one spot, business booms and not drops. The protestors, being Malaysians, standing in the heat, will have need of food and drink. This will cause an influx of customers to the hawkers there! The same applied during the Hindraf rallies a few years back, hawkers set up stalls along the route to the King's Palace. In any case, this rally is only one day long. The point is, the "massive economic losses and depriving people of their livelihoods" argument is completely flawed.
After the audience with the King, the BERSIH organising committee agreed to hold the rally in a stadium instead. Prime Minister Dato Najib agreed, having offered the option prior to this. And now, the BERSIH rally has been rejected of its request to hold the rally in Merdeka stadium. In addition to that, the National stadium and Bukit Jalil stadium have also been declared off limits, because Bersih 2.0 is an illegal entity. Illegal, despite the fact that S. Ambiga is a respected former member of the Bar Council that was given an award by Hilary Clinton in recognition for her human rights efforts; despite the fact that over 80 legitimate NGOs are backing the rally.
Depriving Bersih of stadiums, after having made an offer to supply them with one, is treachery of the highest handed order. It also shows how desperate, and afraid BN is of the power of the people. Ironically, all this demonizing of BERSIH has only brought greater publicity to it, and proven the integirty of S. Ambiga, who has remained calm despite name calling from even the Prime Minister himself.
Bersih this, bersih that.... BN best be concentrating on its efforts to clean up... Or be cleaned out!