Friday, May 31, 2013

The Real Reason for the Crackdown

Adam Adli. Tian Chua. Haris Ibrahim. Tamrin Ghafar. Safwan Anang. And now Hishammuddin Rais. One by one, these politicians and activists have been hauled up by the authorities in a crackdown reminiscent of 1988’s Operation Lalang. 

The real question of course, is why. 

Now this may seem like an obvious answer to you, after all they all probably have played a part in calling on people to go to street rallies, or have had a hand or two in organizing them. The simple logic now is that the authorities are simply clamping down to ensure no more rallies will take place. 

I must disagree. Let us take the rally reason at face value. Tamrin Ghafar, Hishammuddin Rais and Tian Chua have had very little to do with organising rallies. In terms of calling on people to rise and take to the streets to protest, they are only part of a growing chorus of NGO activists, politicians and ordinary citizens. 

In any case, rallies have gone on for a very long time now, from BERSIH 2007 all the way to the recent Suara Rakyat 505 Amcorp Mall rally. Barisan Nasional has managed to largely ignore them with the administration going on as normal, and have learnt valuable lessons that any crackdowns can only result in a terrible political backlash. 

And if indeed there was to be a crackdown to prevent rallies, why the selective persecution? Why not hit out at the big players? Blogger Chegubard has made his stance and involvement in the Amcorp Mall rally very clear by his presence on the stage, yet has not been arrested.

Yet a crackdown still happened. And is still happening. Why? Has the government simply not learned? Have they grown a sudden fear to rallies? 

I believe the situation needs a closer examination. Not all arrested so far called upon the rakyat to rise and take the fight to the streets. Not all were involved in organizing rallies. Yet the Home Ministry went right ahead knowing full well there would be a huge political backlash in arresting the above names. Again, the crucial question is why?

All those arrested thus far do however, have something in common: they all spoke out against racism at a May 13 forum at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Adam Adli called the May 13 riots a result of sedition by UMNO members and said they were used as an excuse to hold on to power in the aftermath of the devastating 1969 election results. Tian Chua boldly stated that unity has never been a real problem in Malaysia, but disunity is actively caused by UMNO itself. Again, he labeled May 13 as a means to hold onto power, calling it a “toyol” to scare people. Most revealing is Tamrin Ghafar’s speech, where he revealed in his capacity as an ex-UMNO insider that the May 13 riots were part of a coup d’├ętat to overthrow Tunku Abdul Rahman. He even implicated Mahathir Mohammad as one of the key players. Similar exhortations to relook at history were made by Haris Ibrahim and Safwan Anang.

I believe it is not rallies UMNO fears but a growing trend of historical revisionism. Should the spectre of May 13 be torn apart as an UMNO-orchestrated plot, Barisan Nasional would lose its status as a bringer of “stability” and a preserver of “delicate race relations”.  Previously such thoughts were restricted to the minds of academics such as Kua Kia Soong, but recently such reflections upon history have gained traction in popular imagination.

As George Orwell once said: “He who controls the present, controls the past. And he who controls the past, controls the future.”

The real fear of UMNO is not rallies. They have dealt with them aplenty before from 1988’s protests, 1998’s Reformasi to 2007’s BERSIH. The real fear of UMNO is the revision of the “gospel truth” they have taught people as the history of the nation. Once the May 13 spectre loses ground, what would happen to the older voters who previously may have feared a change in government based on concerns over racial clashes? What would it say about BN’s smear campaign on Lim Kit Siang, who was not even in the Peninsular at the time of the riots? 

And what other hidden histories will be revealed? Perhaps the next issue to catch people’s attention will be the struggle of the left wing parties under PUTERA-AMCJA against the British (See Fahmi Redza’s documentary “Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka”), which would then portray UMNO not as independence fighters but as British sycophants and collaborators. With such a huge blow to BN’s prestige as the Fathers of Independence, what sort of impact might that have on Malaysians?

No doubt such thoughts are haunting the minds of the authorities. As another quote from George Orwell goes: “In times of universal deceit, the telling of the truth is a revolutionary act.”

To put it simply, UMNO fears the truth.

Sources:
Adam Adli's speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_nZDttvnNI
Tamrin Ghafar's speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgUZb3CbxdU
Tian Chua's speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5Z42GERS3Y
Haris Ibrahim's speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilAltTFL350
Hishammuddin Rais's speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIAErK_sIwo
Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka by Fahmi Redza: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4Sn3C2QTeRs

To My Future Self

Author's note: I wrote this letter a while ago to remind myself what is important. With all the frustration spilling over from the recent crackdowns and GE13 results, many people have either given up or become disillusioned. This letter has been a source of strength for me all this while. I hope it helps someone out there too.

NOTE: I've included a voice recording of the letter too directly below just in case you're a more auditory type of person. I know I'm probably a tad bit dramatic, but hey, a guy has got to express! Besides it's am in the morning and I'm running on coke now. (The soft drink not the drug la!) Many thanks!



Dear Future Self,


If you are reading this letter then you must be upset, dejected or disillusioned with the cause. Perhaps there has been an incident where you have realised your ideals are well, less than ideal. Or perhaps reality has just given you a giant slap on the face and somehow you do not know what is right or wrong anymore. Or maybe it's one of those moments where you look back, reflect, and think, how can there be any hope? What can man do against such reckless hate?

You will no doubt, go through a period of deep thought, reflection and meditation as you ponder upon the meaning of it all. You will tear yourself apart thinking of a barrage of questions that will assault your conscience. You will cease to know what is right and what is wrong, what is black and what is white, what is dark and what is bright.

You may even contemplate retreating into your shell to recover. You may even think of just resigning and let others do the fighting. You may feel tired, burnt out, and wonder out loud if all your efforts were for nothing. People don't seem to listen, situations don't change fast enough, or your dreams are shattered.

If all this strikes true in your heart, then it is now my duty to remind you why you began caring in the first place. It is my duty to make you remember.

Remember who it is you are fighting for. Remember who it is you started this journey for. You began it with the jeering insults of your schoolbus mates, racism thrown at an innocent child. You began with witnessing the injustice of a disabled girl being made fun of for being different. You began with the heartwrenching sight of that old woman, rummaging through 7-11 garbage bins to fend for a living, abandoned by her children.

"Splash in the Sea" Taken Jan 2012. (C) OKJ. Click for larger image.
You started your awakening with the bedroom conversations of your parents as you pretended you were asleep, where they spoke of the state of our nation, migration and resignation. How you pained to transform the sighs and cries into glimmers of hope.

You began your journey in the streets and trains, where you silently watched Malaysians from all walks of life passing through with busy lives. On the rubbish-strewn reclaimed beaches, gazing upon long forgotten mansions, wondering what it was like in a golden age long past. In the canteen where you used to sit with that policeman's son, and where you always lied and pretended he would ever pay you back for treating him to breakfast, because he could not afford it.

Remember the tears from BERSIH where it was not the tear gas but the realization of a lost freedom that drove you to despair. Remember the sorrow in that Orang Asli man's quivering voice as he confessed to you that sometimes, in between being ignored and being taken for being stupid, he felt life was not worth living. Remember.

The politicans will continue to bicker. The ideologues will continue to spout. Life will go on. But you cannot just "move on". You must move forward.

Can you make a difference? Yes. And no. I don't know. Can you tell what is right and wrong? Again I have no answers.

You are asking all the wrong questions. Instead of asking all this, why do you not also wonder: Am I going to do nothing? Are you going to give up, seriously?

The Gandhis, Mandelas, Martin Luther King Jrs of the world have suffered far more than you. No meaningful change was ever brought about without rejection, dejection, frustration. The night is always darkest before dawn. Remember, remember, never surrender.

Now get off your ass and get to work.

Always with you,
Your naive, idealistic and eternally stubborn younger self.

"Horizons for Hope" Taken Jan 2012. (C) OKJ. Click for larger image.



Monday, May 27, 2013

Alone

"Solitary Confinement", taken at Vienna Zoo, 31 July 2011. Copyright of OKJ. Click to see higher quality image.
Somehow, despite being surrounded by people all the time, I cannot help but feel alone.

It's not that I don't have great friends, I do, good friends who I know will be there for me should I need them. It's not that I'm a loner, far from it, I enjoy the company of people, eating, laughing, singing together.

Perhaps alone is not quite the word for it. 

I've always been a rather odd one out I know. Friends say I'm a 40 year old living in a 20 year old body. Given my old fashioned taste in music, I can't say I blame them, haha! But it is more than that. I can go crazy,  enthusiastic and childlike at times ( ask my younger brother). I can be carefree, funny, and happy-go-lucky when I want to be. 

But I don't think that's quite it either.

Rather, I believe it's because of what I believe my life is about. Friends sometimes call me crazy, obsessed or say that I care too much. My mom freaks out everytime I go to some rally or write some article criticising the government. One of my best friends used to say: "Why do you get so upset? It's not even really affecting you." Another unfortunate love interest felt rather neglected when I seemed to love my country and perhaps not pay as much attention to her. 

But that's just it. I feel "alone" at times because I feel that so very few people understand what it is to have one's life revolve around the prospect of serving a greater cause. To many, politics, socioeconomic issues and the fates of others are very separate from their own conception of self. But to me, it is everything. 

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in people. Not gossip or the celebrity stuff, but the happiness, the welfare and the livelihood of people. I started blogging because of the gross injustice I felt that was inherent in the Malaysian education system. I study history and economics because I want to learn as much as I can, so that I can broaden my perspective and look upon today's issues with an eye as  to not repeat the terrible past.  Heck, I remember how I used to make my birthday wishes and prayers: "May all people be happy. May the cruel be kind and please help them realize there is a better way for all of us." 

Looking back at my application essays to the US, my whole application rested on sociopolitical concerns. Even my speech competition was based on a speech I made about racism. 

Perhaps that is why I sometimes feel.... not understood. Not misunderstood, no, but just... not understood. I must sound like I'm spewing nonsense now, but it's just that I feel there is this core to me, this core that does not belong to myself but to something bigger than little puny me. 

Maybe one day, when I am going to risk my life or getting arrested, I will find someone who will not say: "Are you mad?" But rather understand that, yes, I am mad, I am mad about the injustice, I am mad about the hypocrisy, I am mad about the hunger, the racism, the corruption, the poverty. 

Maybe one day I will find someone who instead of holding me back, will simply hold my hand and walk with me. 

Until that day, perhaps I will stick to long lonely drives home, listening to my heart beating in the dark. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another May 13 in the Offing?

May 13 has arrived and passed with no major incidents. For many Malaysians who sit uneasily with the date, there is a culpable sense of relief. However, is the threat of a nationwide disturbance over? Is it possible still in this day and age for something on the scale of the May 13 riots to reoccur?

Before moving on let me just clarify that this analysis is not meant to monger fear or accuse the government of anything. It is a hypothesis based on my historical analysis of post-election trends in Malaysia, and as with all hypotheses, is unproven and certainly not set in stone.

This article seeks to analyse and answer two main questions:
  • How possible is it to have some sort of disturbance that will spark unrest?
  • What form might it take?

Through a careful examination of past incidences of civil unrest in Malaysia, 3 incidents in particular stand out for their scale, their impact on the political narrative of Malaysia, and their nature. The 3 incidents I speak of are the May 13, 1969 riots, the 1987-1988 Operation Lalang and judicial crisis, and the 1998 sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and the subsequent Reformasi movement. In considering the events leading up to, during and following the events, 3 key traits stand out.

1. Internal UMNO struggle
Firstly and perhaps most importantly, all 3 incidences have taken place in the foreground of internal UMNO struggles. In Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s thesis of May 13, he posits that the riots were in fact a coup d’├ętat initiated by the ascendant Malay capitalist class under Razak to replace the Malay aristocratic class lead by Tunku Abdul Rahman [1]. The validity of Dr. Kua’s statement is subject to debate, but the swift and stunning reversal of fortunes that Tunku Abdul Rahman suffered cannot be discounted as coincidence. Even if the riots were not facilitated by the top leadership of the right wing of UMNO, Razak certainly made full use of the opportunity to grab the reins of government. Recently, Gerakan veteran Dr. Goh Cheng Teik and ex-UMNO strongman Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar came out to clarify that May 13 was indeed an internal coup orchestrated by irate UMNO members against Rahman [2][3].

The 1987-1988 Operation Lalang also had similar internal rumblings. In fact, the judicial crisis roots lay in the dismissal of UMNO as an illegal organization due to complaints from Tengku Razaleigh’s UMNO Team B [4]. The same goes for the mass arrests that followed the Reformasi movement. Again, it was an inside UMNO fight between then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad [5].

Time and time again, UMNO leaders especially those from the right wing have shown that they are more than willing to externalize internal struggles to distract people from the real issues and to eliminate opposition. Come this October, UMNO internal elections will be held, and it will be a titanic clash between the reformers under Najib Razak and the Mahathirists under Muhyiddin’s tutelage. The first shots have already been fired by Mahathir, calling Najib’s performance a “disappointment” and openly stating before elections that given a slim victory Najib should give way to deputy Muhyiddin [6].

2. Need for consolidation of power
The second trait is a need for constitutional/ law changing. As we all know, the last time UMNO was in government with a minority of the popular vote was in 1969 [7]. Post-1969, constitutional amendments made the EC beholden to Barisan Nasional and various laws such as the Sedition Act were strengthened (See Andrew Yong’s article in Loyarburok for easy understanding) [8]. Similarly, in 1988 the threat from the Semangat 46’ coalition formed posed enough of a threat to the UMNO hegemony of power that the Mahathir felt it necessary to cripple the judiciary and rob it of its independence[9].These changes in law to consolidate UMNO dominance have however, often been met with significant opposition. It is because of the backlash that comes with these changes in the institutions and dilution of the rule of law that such exercises have needed to be preceded by mass arrests/ unrest preventing any coordinated response. The Reformasi movement of 1998 was rife with similar arrests, but with a firm 76.56% of seats BN could comfortably continue its gerrymandering, mal-apportionment exercises [10] One must also bear in mind that due to 1998 being led by Anwaristas, it took on a different nature.

At the end of this year, there will be a re-delineation exercise that threatens to entrench BN firmly in power, no matter what the popular vote turns out to be in GE 14 [11]. Civil society, opposition politicians and proactive citizens have already begun raising awareness of the exercise. The rakyat, especially urban folk are acutely aware of their rights and attendance at rallies such as the 8th May Kelana Jaya rally have shown that from here on escalation of civil action can be only grow [12].

It would require a major distraction on an unprecedented scale to divert attention away from the re-delineation exercise.

3. Incitement of racial sentiments
The third trait that has preceded such incidents is the exacerbation ( or in some cases manufacturing) of racial sentiments. This has largely been the domain of the government-controlled mainstream media. In 1969, the mainstream media reported Labour Party processions as shouting “Malai-si!” and provoking the Malays [13]. However, such accounts are doubted and are contradictory to the foreign press accounts that reported the procession as a show of “discipline” and “genuine restraint” [14].

In 1988, Utusan Malaysia blew the issue of Chinese educationists out of proportion. What followed were the mass arrests of not just prominent members of Dong Zong but also of activists and opposition politicians [15] In 1999, BN blew up fears of Islamization, loss of non-Malay rights etc to secure a win despite losing the popular vote of Malays to the Barisan Alternatif [16].

Now the racist rhetoric has reached an all-time high. From Utusan Malaysia’s “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu” (What More Do The Chinese Want?) , an ex-judge’s warning of backlash against the Chinese, to PM Najib’s “Chinese Tsunami”, all UMNO media seems to be blasting out racism at every avenue. [17] [18] [19]

A Negative Cycle
The need to change laws, racial sentiments and UMNO internal struggles are all interlinked and form part of a negative cycle that has occurred since May 1969. The government starts to lose popularity and its grasp on power starts to loosen, thus facilitating the growth of opposition movements. The government then needs to consolidate its position, and the bending the law to suit such needs is its ultimate tool. To bend the law however is to invite dissent. At the same time, the loss of popularity also sparks internal divisions within UMNO itself. Faced with signification obstacles, such power struggles are then externalized in the form of a national crisis to distract from the real issues and to decapitate any unified response. To provide a raison d’etre for such a national crisis, the mainstream media exacerbates and incites racial rhetoric. And when the so-called “spontaneous chaos” ensues, fear takes hold of many and allows the ruling coalition to remain in power. This standard operating procedure is not endemic to Malaysia but is something common in the politics and history of many other Southeast Asian countries with similar problems with diversity and nation building such as Indonesia and the Philippines (See People Power revolution and the fall of Suharto’s regime) [20].

It is my view that given the volatility of the current political position and the fulfillment of all three key traits, a national incident is bound to happen. However, despite the incitement of racial sentiments, it is my opinion that any unrest will not be of a racial nature. Unlike in 1969 and 1988, the issues raised by the opposition and civil society have been part of national consciousness and not ethnic-specific [21]. The opposition platform is also multiracial, unlike in 1969 where it was largely non-Malay, and has enjoyed multiracial support [22]. The racial baiting by UMNO-controlled media has also been met with incredible shows of unity from Malaysians from all walks of life [23].

Therefore any incident will take on the form of mass arrests in the name of stability and national security. Already 28 Pakatan Rakyat leaders who spoke at the Kelana Jaya rally have been/ are going to be called up on charges of sedition [24].  Yesterday, a group of NGOs lead by Haris Ibrahim’s ABU has called for a 1 million Malaysians to rally against electoral fraud in Kuala Lumpur (Note: Contrary to what was reported, in his official statement Haris Ibrahim never called for toppling of a government, see his blog for details)[25]. This is the Catch 22 situation faced by every pseudo-democratic government, where in order to remain in power they dilute the institutions of democracy, but in so doing radicalize the populace and further erode their mandate to power. Faced with an escalation of civil disobedience on this scale, it would be an easy thing for the government to crackdown on activists, politicians and intellectuals in one fell swoop.

Many a politician used to justify any repression including use of the Internal Security Act by stating that the majority of people in Malaysia seemed not to mind as most people voted BN in elections. In the days of Operation Lalang, this was the case. But this time any action by the BN government will be without the support of the popular vote.

There is a word used to describe the act of a minority cracking down on freedoms without consent of the majority: tyranny. Whether or not such tyranny will continue to work in this day and age, will depend on the strength of will of the rakyat. Not the work of NGOs, not the ceramahs of politicians, but the voice of the ordinary citizen in speaking out against injustice.

Again, this is pure speculation on my part but is nevertheless based on a close analysis of long term historical trends in Malaysia and throughout the SEA region. In fact, for the sake of this country, I hope that this entire analysis is rubbish, and that I will be proven absolutely wrong and a pessimistic idiot. One can only hope.

References
[1] Kua, Kia Soong. May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969. SUARAM, 2007.
[2] “May 13 was not an ethnic phenomenon. It was a political occurrence, only those who were members of Umno or associated with it were involved.” – Dr Goh Cheng Teik
“Ex-Gerakan stalwart backs Hadi's May 13 stand” Malaysiakini. May 1, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228701.
[3] “…the incident was a mini coup planned by Umno men.” – Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar.
Kuak, Ser Kuang Keng. “Ex-UMNO man defends DAP against May 13 charge” Malaysiakini. April 30, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228497.
[4] [9] Means, Gordon P. Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation. Oxford University Press, 1991.
[5] Hartcher, Peter. "Outdated political thuggery embarrasses Malaysia". The Sydney Morning Herald. February 23, 2010. Available at http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/outdated-political-thuggery-embarrasses-malaysia-20100222-ornl.html.
[6] Zurairi, Ar. “Dr M questions BN strategists, says Umno to decide Najib’s fate”. The Malaysian Insider. May 7, 2013. Available at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/dr-m-questions-bn-strategists-says-umno-to-decide-najibs-fate.
[7] Drummond, Stuart & Hawkins, David. The Malaysian Elections of 1969: An Analysis of the Campaign and the Results. University of California Press, 1970.
[8] Rachagan, S. Sothi. Law and the Electoral Process in Malaysia. University of Malaya Press, 1993.
[10] Swee-Hock Saw, K. Kesavapany. Malaysia recent trends and challenges. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006.
[11] “Constituency redelineation to be done at year end, says EC”. Malaysiakini. May 10, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/229751.
[12]Su-Lyn, Boo & Ding, Emily. “Thousands pack Kelana Jaya stadium for Pakatan rally”. Malaysian Insider. May 8, 2013. Available at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/thousands-pack-kelana-jaya-stadium-for-pakatan-rally.
[13] Abdul Rahman, Mohd Daud. Ke-Arah Keharmonian Negara. (Towards National Harmony) Jabatan Kerajaan, 1971. (State Department)
[14] “Malaysia: Requiem for a Democracy?” Far Eastern Economic Review May 24th, 1969.
[15] Kua, Kia Soong. 445 Days Under the ISA- 1987-1989. Suaram Komunikasi, 2010.
[16] Lin, Juo-Yu. A Structural Analysis of the 1999 Malaysian General Election. Tamkang University, 2002.
[17] Zulkiflee, Bakar. “Apa lagi orang Cina mahu?” Utusan Malaysia. May 6, 2013. Available at http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Pilihan_Raya/20130507/px_03/Apa-lagi-orang-Cina-mahu?.
[18] Aw, Nigel. “Ex-judge warns Chinese of backlash for 'betrayal'”. Malaysiakini. May 12, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/229909.
[19] “Malaysia GE13: PM Najib blames polls results on 'Chinese tsunami'”. Straits Times. May 6, 2013. Available at http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/se-asia/story/malaysia-ge13-pm-najib-blames-polls-results-chinese-tsunami-20130506.
[20] Slater, Dan. The Architecture of Authoritarianism: Southeast Asia and the Regeneration of Democratization Theory. Stanford University Press, 2006.
[21] Among the issues brought up were corruption, high cost of living etc.
Manisfesto Pakatan Rakyat.  Pakatan Rakyat website. April 19, 2013. Available at http://www.pakatanrakyat.my/files/ENG-Manifesto-BOOK.pdf.
[22] Ong, Kian Ming. “Here’s proof: It's a Malaysian tsunami, not Chinese only”. Malaysia Chronicle. May 10, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=98901:heres-proof-its-a-malaysian-tsunami-not-chinese-only&Itemid=2.
[23] “Youths point the way towards unity” The Star. May 12, 2013. Available at http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/5/12/nation/13102027&sec=nation.
[24] Ramendran, Charles. “Cops to haul up rally organisers and speakers”. The Sun Daily. May 9, 2013. Available at http://www.thesundaily.my/news/692938.
[25] Anand, Ram. “1 million street rally planned for KL”. Malaysiakini. May 14, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/230049

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sometimes I Hate Being Chinese


The current trend of racialising election results is extremely worrying. 


  • PM Najib: "Elections results... due to a Chinese tsunami."
  • Utusan Malaysia headlines: "Apa lagi Cina mahu?" (What more do the Chinese want?
  • Mohd Ali Rustam, ex-Melaka MB: "The Chinese are ungrateful and racist!"
  • Papagomo, influential pro-BN blogger also today called the Chinese ungrateful, implying Chinese should go back to China. A reader whose comment was liked by many also commented that the Chinese should be slaughtered like pigs.


The truth is that statistics show that the urban Malay vote also experienced a huge shift to PR, and since PR actually won the popular vote, 3.1 million of those votes were actually Malay.

A Malay friend of mine actually messaged me to apologise on behalf of the Malay community. I told him there is absolutely no need to apologise. Unlike some people in power, I know better than to stereotype people based on the color of their skin. Unlike some people in power, I know better than to emulate Hitler and condemn a whole ethnicity. And unlike some people in power, I know Malaysia, now more than ever, needs unity.

Sometimes I can't help but hate being Chinese. Why can't I just be Malaysian?



Monday, May 6, 2013

Democracy Is Not Dead, You Just Haven't Found It Yet

Dear all,

I must say that I'm as appalled as anyone else about the allegations of massive electoral fraud. So many people are incredibly upset and I understand. But mourning and being angry is not enough. In fact, I find all the black profile pictures in a sad way rather amusing. And I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I see people giving up, or looking ahead to the next elections in another five years to push for change.

I find all this rather morbidly amusing because the people being incredibly upset, many are also the ones who on a normal day, would rather go to a music concert than a protest, would rather watch the Sports news than update themselves on Malaysiakini, would rather stay at comfy urban homes lamenting the "stupidity" of the rural folk while never bothering to visit them or reach out to understand. 

Even better yet are those who look forward to next elections in 2018, resigning themselves to “Lain Kali Lah”, as if democracy consists of a once-in-five-year vote and nothing else. 

For god's sake wake up. Democracy is messy. Democracy can be deeply flawed or a tyranny of the ignorant masses. But one thing democracy is not is a hollow, rare concept. 

Democracy happens every day around us. Start caring about the issues, start advocating and educating people about them. And I don't mean clicktivism. The urban-rural divide needs more than Facebook statuses and black profile pictures (though it doesn't hurt). Go to Sabah and Sarawak and feel just how separated and marginalized they feel when they speak of the Peninsular. Go to the kampongs and help the folk realise why even though all seems hunky dory and life goes on, change could mean longer term benefits for all. If you’re not the activist type, then do something else. Volunteer for PACABA and get everybody you know to register as a voter. A cook? Bring some food for the PACABAs and campaigners. Do anything but do something! And come on, demos kratos, people power is not contained in a tampered, delible ink-stained, pencil written ballot paper! 

"Democracy is dead!" some proclaim. No, Democracy is very alive. You just haven't discovered what it really is yet.