May 24, 2016
Malaysia: Light and Political Change will come but Quando’
by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
Once upon a time, not long ago, many Malaysians – the majority, in fact- believed that change was possible through politics. That was our age of innocence and naivete.
No longer now it seems, given the current plague of scandals and chicanery, and the burgeoning tools of repression and authoritarianism exercised by a government desperate to prevent the fallout from the twin crisis of IMDB and donation to the Prime Minister’s account from spiralling out of control and toppling Najib from his position.
The fish rots from the head
The fish rots from the head. The rot has also set well into the rest of the body politic. No political figure or body either from or associated with the Barisan Nasional coalition has been immune from the sense of disillusionment, betrayal and alienation that is pervasive among members of the public as a result of what is taking place in the country. This can be discerned from the feedback; some expressed angrily, others sorrowfully, seen on a daily basis in the readers’ columns of the social media.
Today even this last outlet where Malaysia’s rakyat can find voice to express their innermost feelings and concerns on matters of the state and the political shenanigans of the day is at risk.This is because the Government through its minions in the civil service can punish by preventing us from traveling outside the country for “disrespecting or insulting the country’s leaders” according to the Immigration Department Director-General, Dato’ Sakib Kusmi.
“The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by the Government under the aegis of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. So, the government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document,” he was quoted in an email to a local daily.
His superior, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, clarified. “Only for people who commit offence (sic) against the Constitution, for example sedition, religion, race, and threat to national peace and harmony and national security.”
In less convoluted terms, what Nur Jazlan Mohamed, son of Dato Mohamed Rahmat, the notorious Minister and former Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia during the Mahathir Administration, who not so long ago seen as a relatively sensible leader with liberal pretensions until his promotion to higher office, is stating is that should the government deem you or what you say/write as a threat to the government – no matter how unfounded or incorrect the view of the authority – it has the right to take away your passport and prompto you cannot travel.
But according to the government – you should not complain. After all you still have your other freedoms and rights intact.
Hence, you can always fight this decision by challenging the government in our – above board and above reproach – independent court at your own time and expense. And while it is fought in the court of law, the ban remains. Meanwhile the Immigration Department and Home Affairs will conveniently pass on the defence of its position to the salivating posse of lawyers, eagerly waiting their call to national service for a suitable fee paid out from the taxpayers’ pocket.
Genesis of ‘Political Apathy’
Some analysts, after surveys on political attitudes and behavior, have noted how most young Malaysians appear to be apathetic about the country’s politics. In explaining this finding, they have blamed it on the history of ‘political apathy’ as well as on the country’s relative prosperity, Asian respect for authority, and the campus politics ban imposed in the 1970s to squelch radicalism.
In fact, the main culprit for what appears a tidak apa attitude towards politics and political change is the Barisan Government itself which has held the reins of power since 1957.
Clearly measures such as the travel ban imposed on Maria Chin Abdullah, Bersih chief, who was prevented from travel to Seoul to receive a human rights award, are not only to deter her and other NGO leaders.
They are part of the arsenal of anti-dissent weaponry used by the authorities to send a message to the larger population who may not be apathetic to what is taking place and who may be thinking of opposing the government. They are intended precisely to breed the apathy which is part of the mental conditioning required to ensure the sustained silencing of voices and shackling of minds that want a vibrant democracy.
The ‘apathy’ has little or nothing to do with cultural values and respect for our leaders and even less to do with the level of affluence of our society. But it has everything to do with making sure that the Barisan stays in power indefinitely and kills off dissent aimed at toppling a rogue or unjust government.
And increasingly this is being done by bludgeoning, hijacking or co-opting all the other levers and instruments of authority that are entrusted to facilitate access to our basic freedoms of expression, information, thought, assembly and movement supposedly enshrined in the Constitution.
Gone a long time ago is the separation of power of the executive, legislative and judiciary in Malaysia. Gone too are the checks and balances preventing the monopoly and abuse of power by the executive branch.
But as seen from the example of authoritarian regimes elsewhere around the world, ‘apathy’ can turn to outrage and action when it is least expected.The Indian teacher Yogananda said: “It doesn’t matter if a cave has been in darkness for 10,000 years or half an hour, once you light a match it is illuminated.”
Light and political change will come to Malaysia. The question is quando (when).
Here is a short clip from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about a country whose Late King purportedly donated USD681 million to Prime Minister Najib Razak. I am trying to obtain the entire presentation. –Din Merican