Monday, May 14, 2007

50 posts to Independence - No. 26 18

Update: Ooops - just found out I couldn't count ... backwards, that is. This post should be Tag No 18 ;-) thanks walski69

I have been tagged by blogger freelunch 2020 who incidentally has ‘disappeared’ or rather (less dramatically) quit the blogging world for greener pastures. So it was rather a pleasant surprise to receive a note from her to be Tag No 26 18, despite the fact that I was on standby for someone who couldn’t make it – sob sob sob! only on standby, always second best - ;-) but ah well, always ready to oblige a lady.

It’s about 100 days more to our 50th year of Independence as a sovereign nation, and what would I, as a Malaysian, write to describe how I have judged Malaysia's progress.

If our nation is a ship, then I could say there would be 10 significant landmarks KD Malaysia has passed, these being in 1957, 1963, 1965, 1969, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1998, 1999, and 2004. Some have been good while most have been traumatic.

(1) a joyous Merdeka where we shrugged off the reins of our erstwhile colonial masters.

(2) the merger of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, but with Brunei refusing to join the party on the last minute, and the ensuing Konfrantasi with Soekarno's Indonesia and even an avaricious Philippines attempting to grab Sabah - thanks to Commonwealth support (UK, Australia, NZ, Singapore, then part of Malaysia, etc) and the personal sacrifice of many Malaysian and friends, we came through safely.

(3) the traumatic expulsion (no, not a secession) of Singapore with an expectation by Tunku that the wee Island would crawl back after a couple of years in the ‘wilderness’, but Lee Kuan Yew proved him wrong

(4) the tragedy of May 13 currently with new information revealed in malaysiakini which showed the unjust deaths of innocents because of insidious power struggle

(5) the Memali tragedy where religious fanaticism saw local jihadists and police battling it out in the village of Memali, Baling, Kedah – ‘twas Malaysia’s frightening glimpse of religious fanaticism at its most violent.

A tragic lesson - religious parties should remind themselves not to go around condemning other Muslims as apostates and egging people to become martyrs by opposing the 'apostate' government.

(6) Ops Lallang where the government demonstrate either a major misuse of power or a necessary pre-emptive nib in the bud of nascent inter-ethnic chaos - but because the incarceration of opposition leaders and social activists stretched beyond the needs of neutralising potential sparks of ethnic unrest, I would assess Ops Lallang overall as a misuse of power.

(7) the humongous UMNO schism resulting from the Mahathir-Razaleigh acrimonious power struggle resulting in the brief rise and rapid flop of Semangat 46

(8) the expulsion of UMNO deputy president Anwar Ibrahim, when then the fairy godmother transformed him into a kind of political Cinderella, where overnight he become the world’s greatest political reformer, brilliant economist, cultural savant, etc etc, but which divided the Malay community.

Since then, time for him has passed the midnight deadline, though the merc is still a merc and not yet a pumpkin, and dash it, no Prince (you know the Prince, don't you?) has yet to ask him to try on the magic glass slipper!

(9) the Chinese punishing the DAP in 1999 in the same manner they had punished the MCA in 1969 – where the unthinkable happened with Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh being booted out of Parliament via the ballot box.

The DAP had committed the ‘sin’ of flirting with an Islamic PAS. DAP’s supporters certainly showed their anger at Lim Kit Siang’s disregard of their worries about PAS’s Islamic agenda. The Chinese Malaysians have had a habit of punishing severely Chinese-based parties for ignoring their concerns.

(10) the rise of PM Abdullah Badawi as the nation’s leader in his own right with the MCA (prematurely) honouring him with the Chinese (historically/culturally) highest honour of uprighteousness, as a new Malaysian Bao Gong – Ong Ka Ting has since acted dunno, about who Bao Gong was … er … is?

But as we approach our 50th anniversary, I would like to give you all some hopes, a sort of half a glass full rather half empty in this great (potentially anyway) nation of ours.

Where are the three imperatives of democracy, equality and justice? I could throw in a fourth, fraternity or Bangsa Malaysia but that will come naturally when there is equality with justice, where no Malaysian will be marginalized and left behind or by the wayside, like the villagers of Kelantan, the poor Indian rubber tappers and labourers and the Sarawakians and Sabahans of the interior.

Democracy – definitely far from being practiced at 100%, indeed very much far from that aspired state.

Yet ........ yes, yet in the well-known obscenity of the pork barrelling and dodgy government tactics in various recent by-elections, I detect in these underhanded conduct, through corrupt pecuniary influence, the desire to win an election via the ballot box.

Leaving the unfair conduct aside for a sec, I see the ballot box still a sacred cow where only the campaigning had been bull-poo-ish-ly dodgy. And if the pork barreling had been over the top, it demonstrated in a perverse way the ruling party had been scared of the ballot box and therefore worried of losing.

On that I dare say, with a ballot box still respected, we haven’t yet deteriorated into an Idi Amin-ish state.

Pork barrelling per se is quite common in western democracies as well – currently Australian PM John Howard has been doing the porky rounds except that in western democracies, they pretend it’s finely developed policies. Additionally they are of course less crude, but then in Malaysia, refined subtle pork barrelling may escape the target recipients' notice. It's a function of voters’ preference, so suck on that if you want to win – via the ballot box of course and not through another Memali.

But what I have been annoyed with has been the unfair obstructions placed in the way of the opposition and the mainstream press’ obedient and obsequious toeing of the party line.

But I say we still have hope for democracy.

Equality – the first thing jumping into our minds is that damn NEP. But quite frankly I am not against the NEP per se as its uncorrupt form and fair and correct implementation will bring about a better fairer life and equal opportunity for the disadvantaged.

But leave this policy pimple aside – let me ask the Chinese: are you doing alright despite and in spite of the NEP? Apart from Chinese-dominant Singapore, is there another ASEAN nation where Chinese in general can still bear their Chinese names and practice their culture? And, glory be, have their own Chinese medium schools? Traumatic and tragic as it was, we have even survived May 13.

These are a few I can think of – so readers please contribute.

Yes, certainly we can improve but looking at the current status quo, there’s hope. What we need to do now is to bring along the poorer Indians and the people of the interior and the marginalised sectors of the Malays.

If we think there’s greater polarization in our country today, particular over rights, I would attribute that to Malaysians becoming more aware of their rights. This awareness is still in a raw crude form where parochial interests reign (contaminated no doubt by lots of avarice from certain groups). Given time and with good leadership ;-) we can develop this awareness of rights into an all more encompassing, civic and compassionate value.

Justice – like democracy, it’s a bit ragged at the edge but our judiciary and police can improve – there are such signs (eg. Justice Ram). I won’t delve too deeply in this area as there other bloggers who can better expound on it.

But to summarize, while it’s not a full glass, it’s half full. So bloggers, let’s keep hammering at those policy makers and implementers and make them know BLOGGERS ARE WATCHING.

So, as KD Malaysia sails past new landscapes along with changing time-scapes, we Malaysians experience changing perceptions and values. The only certainty in our world is change, and we have somehow managed the changes reasonably, though there’s vast room for improvement. We have been blessed with a nation that, while not perfect, is not too bad - we see that there are core elements of democracy, equality and justice still prevailing, which we can build on. There is hope.


And I tag Dr Darren Hsu to be Tag No 27 17 in this 50 posts to Independence.