|Me at 66...a little bit tired and a little bit frayed around the edges ,|
Those of you who are of my age (sixty-six) or older have gone through almost the entire life time of our nation – from it’s birth at Merdeka in 1957 to the reality of NOW as the possibilities for the implementation of the GST is being debated in Parliament and in the Public domain with gusto. Does this GST debate suggests that our country is now able to discuss openly all matters of national concerns without fear of favor….or does it reflect a country deeply divided between those who are for the government and those who are against! The answer to that is moot.
What I want to do today is to discuss in general terms the Malaya that I was born into in 1947 and the Malaysia that it has become in 2013…not in tedious detail but in general. This will not be about race about religion or about politics. This will be about my country, my nation….my Malaysia.
The Malaya that I first became conscious of was then fighting a life and death struggle against the communist. The Malaysian Emergency was declared the year after I was born – in 1948 - and lasted until I was eleven years old. I still remember the police road blocks we encountered every time we traveled in our Borgward Isabella, the food rations that the army was provided with (condensed milk in tubes, cream crackers), the proliferation of new villages to incarcerate the Chinese population and the presence of the British much in evidence around us.
I remember living in Alor Gajah, Tampin and then Johor Baru where we stayed at Jalan Straits View and I started school at Sekolah Ngee Heng. From there we moved to Pengkalan Chepa where I attended Sultan Ismail School and then to KL and Gurney Road School…and from there to MCKK.
During all these times Malaya is a haze somewhere in the background of my thoughts. What mattered were school, family life, cousins and relatives.
My first memory of anything to do with politics was because my Uncle was then staying at 22 Jalan Kia Peng and his neighbor was Abdul Rahman Talib – a Minister in the Malaysian cabinet. His son Fauzi was later to be a school mate at MCKK but at that time we were already conscious that a minister in the government was an important post and Tunku, Tun Razak, Tun Ismail, Tan Siew Sin, Sambathan, Sardon Jubir, Ghazali Shafie, Khir Johari, Bahaman were names that became familiar to me….but only because they held important posts in the government…not because there were in any political parties.
It was only while I was in London in 1969 when May 13th happened that I became acutely aware that amongst Malaysian there were Chinese, Indians and many other ethnicity and of course we Malays. That each of us is different in many ways and had cultures and a way of life that accentuated those differences not diminish it.
I struggled for a while to define these differences especially because as a Malay I started to have feelings of being threatened as a race by these differences – especially by the economic strength of the Chinese. To me then the Chinese economic strength threatened to engulf the Malay race in Malaysia….and it became my feeling then that the May 13th incident was a manifestation of what the Malays wanted done to claim back from all the other races, especially the Chinese, our own Tanah Melayu - Malaysia.
There were other worries – when will the killing stop, is my family safe in Malaysia and what happens now …..But all this fade away as race became a defining concern for most Malays.
It took a long while for my rising awareness of the Malay plight to change from one of wanting the other races, especially the Chinese, to be taught a lesson that Malaysia belongs to the Malays and you are our guests for as long as it is our pleasure, to one where I started to question if UMNO was managing the NEP for the interest of the Malays or for themselves!
Gradually and eventually it gelled into what it is now – an understanding that we are all Malaysians with the same right to live, work and die in Malaysia and a firm commitment that meritocracy should rule our nation in all things Malaysians…except amongst those in the minority and less privileged than us for whatever reasons, for those who are unable to take care of themselves, for the sick, the poor and for the aged……and we need to treat with respect and dignity everybody who are Malaysians.
Fast forward to today!
Our politicians are defined by one line that have stuck in my head from the time Mahathir unleashed Ops Lallang in October 27 in 1987 not only on the 106 persons arrested under the ISA but more tellingly, upon the people of Malaysia – for what happened then affected all of us – our way of life, our freedom and our future. What struck me was the arrogance of Mahathir! It seems to me then and now that Mahathir and our politicians is defined by this one thought!
Aku peduli apa?
And that arrogance defined how Mahathir, his successors and UMNO do politics in the twenty-two years that Mahathir was our Prime Minister.
My awareness of the massive corruption, nepotism and cronyism came only later when I bought myself a computer and became familiar with the Internet – and this happened less than a decade ago - in fact until about six years ago I still had to depend on my son to sent an email for me!
But today I am computer savvy – not yet as street wised as most of you – but I know how to surf the net and I have my own blog…not yet up there with the heavenly kings of the Internet, still computer challenged in matters of technical computer speak, but for now, steady as she goes.
So what of the Malaysia that I now know?
One worry dominates my thoughts! Are we back loading our future to the extent that our children and our children children’s will be forever burden with paying for our failure to be responsible and accountable for the things our government now do in our name today?
Are we to defer to a later date the costs of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and the plundering and pillaging now done by our politicians? Is it too late to do anything?
Is the collective failure of UMNO and our other politicians to provide a better future for our future generation inevitable and acceptable in the context of politics now or are we as a people saying enough is enough to these politicians and take it upon ourselves to change what needs to be changed so that there is a future for our people?
These, to me, are the fundamental questions that need to be asked and answered by all of us if we are to make some sense of all that is happening in the name of politics in Malaysia to day. What we do today will decide our future, but for most of us, the future is of no concern because it is not of our time. And this is especially so amongst our politicians and amongst those we call our leaders.
Observe our leader of the Opposition and head of PKR. Just this week he seems to lead the charge against the Chief Executive of his own Selangor state for arbitrarily, so it seems, raising the salary of the most senior of the State executives.
I do not care a rat’s arse if Khalid did or did not raise the salary of these executives (deserved or otherwise) with or without consultation with the Head of PKR in that State or with or without discussing it with the Economic advisor of the said state! What I care about is that these three should have show some decorum, common sense and responsibility in ensuring that when any decision of such importance are being made, it will be done in a manner that shows that these leaders lead by example! Instead time and time again by their actions I fear for the future of our nation if PKR should ever be in government at Putrajaya!
Our Prime Minister is no better! He does not have the ability to understand that his wife should not have use of the government jet for ANY reason what so ever – approved or not approved by Cabinet! If, in so simple a situation he is unable to think for himself what is right and what is wrong, how can we trust him to do what is right for our country.
The world is okay but our country is fucked!
I no longer believe what my government tells me while my faith in the opposition has been sorely tested by its inability to build on the massive support from the electorate as evident in the 51% popular vote it obtained in the last general election! So where do we go from here?
Can we hope that the changing political arena will empower the people to gain strength and take matters into their own hands to bring change that we all aspire to? Or will the diminishing political capital of UMNO bring about chaos and cause the rise of Islamic fundamentalist and Malay activists and not moderation and economic reform powered by people power?
These are the questions that occupies my thoughts even as I am assailed by the continuous chatter on the net about the follies of our politicians and their trivial pursuits to advance their own personal and political crusade….pay hikes for Selangor reps, the EC chief proud but stupid admission to gerrymandering (forgetting his oath to do his duty to ALL Malaysian), rate rise that simply does not gel in a time where the public are already burdened with rising costs and diminishing income, murals in Johore, changing day of rests to suit one religious factions without due consideration to others, bumbling Ministers, the plights of the Penans, the GST……anything else but the plight of the people of Malaysia!
Anything but the plight of the people…….