May 20, 2015
Ambiga Sreenevasan on Human Rights @ ASEAN People’s Forum
“What have we done to deserve this stifling of various freedoms by Putrajaya? (Government of Malaysia).”What a great question for us to ask ourselves and ask of this Barisan Nasional Government.
We love our country, pay our taxes faithfully (albeit, grudgingly at times), volunteer for social causes, donate to needy causes, celebrate our diverse cultures and faith, live peaceably and in harmony with our neighbours and thank God for our many blessings as Malaysians. And what do we get in return?
We get plundered, lorded over, insulted and told to migrate if not happy by our public servants. Yes, please don’t ever forget, they are our servants! The word ‘minister’ was from the Latin word for ‘servants’. Let’s get that right from the start, lest we forget who the real boss is in a democracy.
When we want to protest about how we are treated we are told (by our servants) we have to get permission. When we speak we have to worry about 3 a.m raids by Police with balaclava and sub-machine guns. We draw cartoons or make satirical videos but must not offend ‘she with the big hairdo’ or get charged with sedition. We tweet but the King of Twit (The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar) monitors our tweets and sends his hounds after us.
Meanwhile we have delusional Ministers telling us not to worry. We have the best education and universities in the world. Our Manglish is better than our neighbour down south. Our Proton is better than BMW. We have the best democracy in the world. Yeah, best my sweet charity. We don’t hear them boasting that we are Number 1 in corrupt business practices or that we conduct one of the worst election processes in the world.
Yet in everyday life all these self-congratulatory claims make no sense. Many of our graduates cannot get employed and when they do, they are paid RM2,000 a month or thereabouts. Our median monthly salary is RM1,500. Minimum wage is RM900, for many, before ‘deductions’.
How come after more than five decades of this government’s ‘management’ of our economy, over 4 million households and almost 3 million singles still qualify for Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) handouts. That’s almost 23 million of our 30 million population, 76 percent.
Where has all our wealth gone ? 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, Port Kelang Free Zone, MAS, Perwaja, Maminco, etc? To add salt to our many financial injuries, they tax us with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) because otherwise the country would go bankrupt! Cost of living is going up but our income is stagnant because we cannot compete. We cannot compete because they have messed up our education system, or to put it another way, they have messed up our children’s future!
Food costs will go up because we are a huge net importer of food and the Ringgit is sliding south against the US dollar. Our nasi lemak and wantan noodles have already gone up if you have not realised by now. And we have another minister assuring us that with GST, prices of goods will go down, if not, cook more at home or in your dorm. Cook with what? Our rice, flour, sugar, beef, milk, fish and vegetables are mostly imported with US dollar.
Hello? You do not need a CGPA of 3.85 to know that, it is just common sense . Pride does not feed hungry stomachs
Blessed with arable land and good weather all year round, we should be exporting food worldwide. But no, we will have none of that. Instead of growing and cultivating edible crop and livestock, we cut down our thousand-year old forests and replace them with oil palm with which we cannot fill our stomach with (unless you want a quick death) and depend on cheap foreign labour to harvest.
My beef with oil palm is that it does not enrich the workers, only the already filthy rich tycoons. Maybe some of us are proud of our billionaires making it into Forbes’ top billionaires list but pride does not feed hungry stomachs.
To compete with other producers globally we use cheap foreign labour not only for our plantations but also for our factories. Paying them minimum wages, we suppress our own Malaysian workers and we do not bother with increasing productivity and investing in innovation so that we can earn higher income, so that more of us can “afford” to pay income tax and not ‘qualify’ for BR1M.
When our ministers boast of the millions qualifying for BR1M, it’s like saying, “Hooray! Look at the huge number of poor people we have to help.” How retarded can we get?
So again, we ask ourselves, what have we done to deserve this? Actually, come to think of it, we have brought this upon ourselves. We have faithfully voted in this same government all these past 13 general elections, in 10 of which we gave them two-third majorities to amend our federal constitution over 700 times. Malaysia Boleh (Malaysia Can).
Yes, perhaps we got the government we deserve. But better late than never as they say. As Malaysians we deserve better, much better. The next time we cast our votes, we should vote for a better future, remembering what a lousy management we have had for the past five decades. We should vote to take back our power to sack non-performing public servants and install competent, honest and selfless servants.