Tuesday 26 October 2010

I am not now
 That which I have been.

     Nothing defines the people of Malaysia as much as their ability to suffer discomforts with a quiet nobleness of the spirit. Among these Malaysian the ability of the Malays to endure many of the disappointments perpetuated upon them by their own UMNO is legendary. For over fifty years the Malays allowed UMNO to be their alter ego oblivious to the harm done to the Malays and the country by UMNO in the name of the Malays. The other races had to put up with whatever was thrown at them by Barisan Nasional. Any attempts to openly challenge the unfairness of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country could only be done at their own peril lest the numerically advantaged Malays consider such moves as a threat to Ketuanan Melayu. After all the Malays held power albeit through UMNO. So there has been a tacit stand off and a racial divide encouraged by UMNO between the Malays and the non-Malays. This situation serves UMNO’s policy of divide and rule that have enabled them to stay in power for twelve general elections. UMNO’s interpretation of “Malays” is largely confined to Malays in UMNO and that too confined to those who are in the corridors of power and their cronies. Among UMNO politicians the esteem of Ketuanan Melayu is profitable but upholding the principles of it for all Malays, troublesome. UMNO is also unable to comprehend that as we move globally ethnicity is no longer a viable option if you seek longevity to your political rule in a multi ethnic country like Malaysia.

     UMNO has now assumed the role that was once the prerogative of the Sultan. They have deposed these Sultans in everything but name effectively evolving over the years to where it has now placed its own President to live in splendid isolation in a palatial palace call Sri Perdana in Putrajaya surrounded by all the trappings of wealth and power. This ostentatious lifestyle is rippled down to all levels within UMNO. This financially challenging lifestyle is impossible to maintain on the meager salaries of Politicians  - be he the Prime Minister himself – and meant that they were all susceptible to corruption on a grand scale.
     What has changed is the realization by the Malays that far from advancing their cause UMNO was legislating their leaders and cronies into positions of power and immense wealth at the expense of the Malays. Ketuanan Melayu, Bumiputra status, and the oft stated goal of poverty eradication and economic restructuring to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function remained secondary to what UMNO wanted for itself:  power, money and more money. Hideous and copious amount of money. And the people doing all this were the Malays – albeit the Malays in UMNO – but nevertheless Malays!
     If you were Malay what would you do? Without the Malay votes they will certainly be no victory in any General Election for UMNO. For the first time since it came to power, victory for UMNO is not guaranteed – because by any measure you care to use:
·      Be it respect for UMNO from the Malays.
·      It’s inability to eliminate corruption, nepotism
       or money politics within itself.
·      Or its failure to uphold transparency and
       accountability in Government:
By any measure you care to use, UMNO is in decline. So what will the Malays do? Will they put race before nation and give UMNO their vote because if they do not what relevance has UMNO got left without Malay support?
     In 2008 the Malays did what they had to do. They voted for change! The Malays had enough of Mukriz being bailed out to the tune of RM1 Billion Ringgit. Enough of the billions of Ringgits spent on MINDEF tenders that promised much but delivered little to the country but plenty into the deep pockets of cronies of UMNO. Enough of the obviously loop sided lucrative privatization projects and one sided IPP agreements favoring cronies of the BN elites. Enough of the blatant use of power by Barisan Nasional that deprived the Malays in Kelantan and Trengganu out of their fair share of Petroleum Royalties. Enough of seeing Malay politicians amassed amazing fortunes while in office under the guise of Ketuanan Melayu and Bumiputras privileges and unashamedly displaying these ill-gotten gains for all to see. There was an embarrassment of riches taken from the national coffers for the account of UMNO politicians who were Malays.
     The Malays had enough of the arrogance and abuse of power by Malays in UMNO. Enough of the ISA being the solution for every imaginable slight against the Barisan Nasional government. Enough of Memali where Malays were killed by Malays. The Malays were embarrass that the Malay dominated Police Force have become a corrupt money grabbing force taking from all and sundries – a mirror of what Barisan Nasional was doing to the country but on a grander scale. What the Malays know now was that the threat did not come from the non-Malays. It came from within. From UMNO.
     All this and many more disturbing instances of UMNO inability to feel the pulse of the increasingly agitated Malays manifested itself in the results of the 2008 elections. Barisan Nasional lost four states. Five with Kelantan  - a state they would never have. Numerically more people voted for the opposition then for Barisan Nasional. Barisan Nasional lost its two third majority. Pakatan Rakyat presented itself as a credible and effective opposition in Parliament! The Malays have moved on. They now wanted political parties that can deliver service – not reward the loyalty of their own members through self-enrichment and autocracy.
     This triggered the non-Malay to voice their desire for change in the way they were treated as second class citizens in a country they call their own. And yet amongst the non-Malays years of conditioning by UMNO has meant that the special position of the Malays was a no go area. Anybody going there had the ISA to contend with.
      But as the Malays began to understand the scale of UMNO’s duplicity upon them the Malays and the non-Malays began to understand the plight both of them were in.  They were all being treated as second-class citizens by a Barisan Nasional government intent upon making capital out of a contrived situation that allows them to have a heady mixture of power and wealth. A toxic combination that has caused much pain and duress for the people of Malaysia and as all toxic mixtures ingested internally will do, will also eventually cause the demise of Barisan Nasional itself.  
     That the Malays and Non-Malays were to come together was a fait accompli because their fight was against a common foe – Barisan Nasional. But it took the 2008 general elections to define their coming together as allies. And events since then have only served to tighten up loose ends.  None polarized this more then the thought that the office of Prime Minister could be a place of refuge for criminal acts  - as demonstrated by Najib’s refusal to prove his innocence or guilt in the Altantuya’s murder –and yet this same Najib Razak requires that Anwar fronts up in court over the sodomy two case.
     This double standard now brought into sharp focus the unsustainable argument that any body should deserve special privileges or attention by virtue of ethnicity, gender or any other criteria.
     This was the ‘change’ whose time has come for Malaysia. Change that transcended race, religion and political affiliations. Change that was not advocated by the needs of any ethnic or religious groupings but change that was driven by the need to evolve our country to become a decent and better place for all its people. This time there were enough numbers to make UMNO and its Basrisan Nasional partners to think the unthinkable. The possibility that Barisan Nasional might lose the coming general elections. That Barisan Nasional has to change its thinking after over fifty over years of winning is in itself a by product of change after Pakatan Rakyat’s election success in the 2008 election. There is no going back.
      The people are no longer living in denial in their outlook of all things happening around them. They are critical of all issues and will pass comment and judgment on what they perceive must be done to ensure positive change in Malaysia.
     As a result we can see change happening around us. There are four States under Pakatan Rakyat. Four States where good governance can be seen to be the order of the day. In Penang, Transparency International has recognized the anti-corruption efforts by the State Government. While the federal government employs restrictive laws like the Official Secrets Act, Printing Presses Act and Internal Security Act, the Pakatan Rakyat’s state of Selangor Information Bill will do the opposite. It will return to the public their right of access to information.   ”It is a landmark bill and gives bite to the people by recognizing they have a right to demand information from the state,” said Elizabeth Wong, a democracy activist-turned- legislator, who is the prime mover of the bill
     We can feel the change. All around us there is an under current of what moves us all from one day to the next. Exposure of power abuse, massive financial frauds done with the connivance of those in high public office, the use of the judicial process for the benefit of the rich and powerful are all exposed in the public domain through the Internet. Many feel each exposure across the nation. As we share the exposure of yet another abuse we are drawn closer by our shared experiences. We cannot wait to meet friends, acquaintances, work mates and even strangers to ask them “Have you read about….?” And with that nod that you get in response you become one with them! You are one with me we are two! And we are all carried on a current of euphoria for the next few days with the belief that better things will come our way as each day dawns.
     We can hear the change! Everywhere we go, and to whomever we meet, in conversation with people we constantly hum the refrain of “Vote Pakatan Rakyat” A few years back the chant of REFORMASI! REFORMASI! REFORMASI! Was everywhere. Now it is NO ISA. NO ISA. NO ISA….and do not forget ALTANTUYA! TEOH BENG HOCK,….and many more names and catch phrases that we now know by heart. It is all around us everyday and sometimes in our quite moments alone we whisper it to ourselves and allow the sounds to vibrate through our thoughts and we get comfort from those words. It feels good because we know that change is on the way – it is with us even when we are alone.
     And then there is real change! There is a fledging and effective opposition in Parliament able to put the fear of God into the Government. They will shout if that is what it takes for them to be heard. The people are privy to leaked documents stamped ‘RAHSIA’ via the Internet and with thanks to Malaysia Today, RPK and the many bloggers on the Internet. Information, data and details of wrong doings by those in power are there for us to digest and comment on. Any and all pronouncements by Ministers and those in Public Office are scrutinized and taken apart for any untruths and inconsistencies. We are now privy to anything that our Politicians do and do not do. Promises not kept. Personal indiscretion committed. What we do not know now we will know later in all its glory and details. This change makes for very careful Politicians who will have need to think before they do. Politicians who before could arrogantly ask for a Government Department to “close on eye” to their business malpractices will now only do so if they have a death wish
      But this change has not totally reached the very people that matter. Politicians of all persuasion are playing catch up with the aspirations and hope of the people. Politicians on both side of the divide are still engrossed in scoring points over each other rather then focus on starting the process of putting into place the foundation for good governance. Pakatan Rakyat has more then a fighting chance to form the next Government of Malaysia. It would serve Pakatan Rakyat well if they could present to the people of this country a viable alternative to the form of government now being practice by Barisan Nasional. For now this would seem to be a bridge too far for Pakatan Rakyat to address though it is not for lack of trying. There seems to be a lack of urgency on Pakatan’s Rakyat part to present to the people of Malaysia their proposals for good governance and  what they intend to do if given the opportunity to govern this country and what they will do upon taking power.
     We are not interested in the obvious – abolish the ISA, punish those that had abuse the power vested in them by their electorates, fight corruption – no…all this will come as a matter of course. What would be watched with interest is what changes will be invested by Pakatan Rakyat to get the best people to govern our country. Sans race, sans religion, sans gender, sans any barrier but to choose only what is best for our country! This should be Pakatan’s Rakyat priority to ensure their way of doing things will be better  than that of Barisan Nasional.  
     What will happen now in terms of focusing the direction of these changes will depend upon the leadership within PR. For now PR has not come up with a positive spin on what they want to do after BN. They still seem to be savoring the victory of 2008. They are more focus on sniping at the BN on a personal level and scoring dud points in exposing private misdeeds of these BN Politicians. What they need to do now is to express their readiness and ability to meet the hope and aspirations of all the people that call Malaysia their home. We know that each race will still have to be addressed separately in order to give them their own comfort level – but more important is the need to educate each race to understand that we are Malaysian first. Ethnicity comes second. It is always the weak and the disadvantaged within our country that needs to be taken care of first – after all is that not the hallmark of a civilized people? As a people we now need to educate our political masters of these needs. The nobleness of spirit to sit quietly when things we dislike are done to us must no longer be our way of doing things. “We must become the change we want to be” Mahatma Ghandi.
   I am pleasantly surprised when the boys talking in fluent Malay across the fence turns out to be an Indian and a Chinese. These are the Malaysians that will grow up to be one people. But their time is still far away. We must work now to make that there is change by the next election so that our children will grow up in a Malaysia that is ready for them. If we do nothing to effect change then it would be a tacit acceptance that there is no hope left for our country. Whatever the way out, peaceful or violent, our people will have to become the change they want. The Malays are no longer in a defensive position despite each policy announcement regarding 1 Malaysia nor are the non-Malays threaten any longer by them. For once we are all together as Malaysian.   
     For me the most profound change has been the meeting of minds for all of us that call Malaysia home. It is still unnerving for me to discuss the failure of UMNO to champion the Malay cause with anybody else but a Malay and more unnerving still to put these thoughts into the public domain. By the same token for the other races to put their dissatisfaction about their respective political parties and leaders would have been unheard off until recently. The Barisan Nasional politicians have only themselves to blame that this is no longer the case. 
     The abuse by Barisan Nasional Politicians knows no ethnic divide. Each ethnic groups realized that they were not in isolation in having bad politicians amongst their midst. And keeping it within their ethnic groupings did not help matters much. And so it was open season for all Barisan Nasional Politicians. And this communality in purpose drove people to cross the racial divide to find strength with each other in their fight to change the Malaysia they know into one they want and aspire to.
‘I am not now
That which I have been’
George Byron

This is the article I wrote for Kee Thuan Chye as per his note to me appended below...
Hi Hussein,
I've been reading the posts in your blog and found them edifying.
My publisher, Marshall Cavendish, has asked me to bring out a new edition of the book "March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up", which I wrote and edited, first released in September 2008.
We're calling the new edition "March 8: Time for Real Change".
I'd like to invite you to write a chapter for it addressing the theme of change in the post-March 8 context.

1 comment:

  1. Hussein

    Good on you. You are one enlightened Malay and a towering one at that. One with such conviction that it is so refreshing. As Hishamudin Rais said, the bonsification of the Malay minds is near its end with more Malays being enlightened by your writings. Good on you, Mate.