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We can forgive the typical Malaysian his sneer and scepticism when he hears politicians promising change. We can even understand it if he has despaired that things will ever get better.
With all the news we have been getting lately, many are wondering whether we are on the brink of becoming a failed nation.
- A policeman shoots a child dead. We are shocked, but then we remember that there have been many extrajudicial killings before and that, in many of the cases, there have been no closure for the victims’ families.
- The government sets up an independent panel to inquire into the latest shooting, and we are reminded of the royal panel that probed the VK Lingam tapes and got nowhere.
- The government announces its intention to go for nuclear power. This scares us, because it is the same government that lost jet engines to thieves and the same government that spent millions of ringgit buying a submarine that had to be repaired before it could dive. Can the same government ensure the safety of a nuclear power plant?
- A local warlord raises the spectre of another May 13, and we recall the kris wielding of the current home affairs minister and, before him, the current prime minister.
- We wonder if Umno will ever stop threatening racial violence every time it feels cornered. But we have no doubt that if clashes do happen, it is the opposition politicians who will be rounded up and imprisoned without trial.
To the Chinese community, the ruling regime is best described by two idiomatic expressions: “hu zuo fei wei” and “hu e bu quan” (literally, “acting wildly in defiance of moral law or public opinion” and “spending money like soil”).
Both characteristics are sustained by hypocrisy.
We are told that 1Malaysia is a sort of road map leading towards a great sense of unity among Malaysians, that the project embraces everything that is good—a determination to wipe out corruption, a more open government, etcetera, etcetera.
So far, the fight against corruption seems more like a campaign to put opposition politicians behind bars.
We may have to wait forever for the result of investigations into how Khir Toyo got the money to build his mansion, to name only one case.
As for a more open government, one wonders if the prime minister—or his wife—even understands that openness must go hand in hand with robust debate.
The media must be allowed to air the widest spectrum of views on current affairs and perennial concerns. Instead, media organisations must take directions from Mrs Prime Minister, whom no one elected to office.
Can a political leadership that staunchly defends race-based policies, media censorship and other draconian laws and that speaks the political dialect of lies, evasion and self-denial be capable of guiding us to a happier future?
The answer may lie in a funny story currently making the email rounds. It goes like this:
A little boy waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store is approached by a man who asks, “Son, can you tell me where the post office is?”Given our seemingly hopeless situation, should we give up the fight and forget about seeing change for the betterment of our nation?
The boy replies “Sure. Just go straight down the street a couple blocks and turn to your right.”
The man thanks the boy and says, “I’m the new pastor in town. I’d like for you to come to church on Sunday. I’ll show you how to go to heaven.”
The boy replies with a chuckle, “Oh, come on! You don’t even know the way to the post office.”
Perhaps we should remember the following words of Martin Luther King Jr:
“Our survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.Perhaps it is time that we reward our failed government with a broom and replace it with a wiser government that exercises power prudently and with a conscience.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.
And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride your back unless your back is bent.”