Saturday, July 30, 2011

Those who oppose your views are not Subversive

There are some who insist that a segment of Malaysians are out to tear Malaysia apart. They insist that stunts like the Bersih march bring disruption to city life and disrupts the peace and tranquillity of Malaysia. Worse there are individuals who feel that the status quo - Malaysia that is now is for them to protect and so they make police reports of this supposedly dangerous elements who call for peaceful protests and who encourage their twitter friends to attend the peaceful yellow rally. They see these inconvenient segment of the public as trouble causes and perhaps unpatriotic Malaysians.

In the 1950s America had segregation laws in many southern states. This segregation laws made it illegal for black Americans to eat, walk or take public transport together with white Americans. To many who grew up in the segregated America this was the norm. However there began a group of women in Montgomery who decided that this was wrong. Black people should not have to pay for their bus fares at the back of the bus and they did not have to give up their seat if a white American had no seat whether or not he was young or old. There were white drinking fountains and black drinking fountains, there were tables only for white people in some restaurants and there were colored seating in some restaurants. They began the Montgomery bus boycott which led to the arrests of Rosa Parks and other women which sparked the 250,000 people march through the Washington mall toward the Lincoln Memorial led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Were these Americans who marched through Washington DC unpatriotic subversive elements? A read of Martin Luther’s famous “I have a Dream” speech would show him to be a true believer of the American dream and a patriot at heart. In his speech he said; “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” Was it inconvenient and did it disrupt the peace of America in the summer of 1963? Of course it did. There were riots, there were police brutality and there were even some who made police reports about their fellow black brothers because they did not believe that this cause was worth fighting for. Afterall whats the big deal if they were treated as second class citizens at least they still have jobs and peace and a government that works. Its not worth protesting and disrupting business.
The truth is these men and women who bothered to stand up against the law of the land in the 1960s believed in their heart that this was an unjust and repressive law. Segregating citizens based on their skin colour was simply wrong eventhough it was the law of the land at that time. Where did they get this conviction that led to the famous Civil Rights movement that changed the shape of America forever? Believe it or not, it was a conviction based on the Bible that all man are created equal and that God shows no partiality. They acted on this believe and marched against Segregation Laws of their time. A Bible believing Christian always acts upon his or her Biblical conviction even if it goes against the law of the land. Asking fellow Christians to join in a peaceful protest for what he or she believes is being true to her own convictions.
My point is that criticising or marching against an unjust and repressive law is not unpatriotic at all. Simply put, patriotism is a love for the country and willingness to sacrifice for it. Those that decided to march on 9th of July for Free and Fair Elections were not unpatriotic. In fact they believed in the Malaysian dream set forth by our own founding fathers, heroes like Allahyarham Dato’ Onn bin Jaafar, a man before his time; and Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman Bapak Malaysia. If they did not believe in Malaysia, they would have long join the thousands of people who have fled our shores in search of a better future. The truth is these people love Malaysia as much as those who oppose Bersih and they should be given the right to express themselves through peaceful protest as much as the Ibrahim Ali’s who speak venomous racism or the Mahathir Mohammad who fights against anything that moves and breathes. We should protect the minority as much as we do the majority and their right to peaceful protest.
Don’t confuse the sovereign state of Malaysia for any political party. Malaysia as an entity is larger than that. She is the millions of faces with diverse religious, political and social believes with each to be respected and cherished. We must not let any political party hijack this Malaysian agenda for their own existence. The goal is building a better Malaysia and it means listening to every segment of society and protecting their rights to speak and express themselves. Peace may not always be achievable, but by pursuing justice for all, I believe peace is inevitable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

East Malaysia through West Malaysian eyes

I have been to East Malaysia many times on business trips but never really having had the opportunity to meet the ordinary people of Sarawak as I have had this past weekend. It was eye opening and a privilege I will not forget.

The Pakatan Rakyat machinery took off from the word go. The DAP machinery in the major towns no doubt was all ready for this day and their launch of Ubah was a brilliant branding exercise. The towns were ready for the picking as they saw crowds of thousands coming out to hear the new DAP candidates. To brighten the show, heroes from West Malaysia like the Lim father and son team and other YBs were there to share their stories of what happened in West Malaysia and how the Pakatan states were managed.

In the semi urban seats however where KEADILAN has to work, the mood was not as obvious to sense. There was no glitzy stage shows and appearances by Ubah the hornbill. However as our team began meeting the people in the coffeeshops and marketplaces we began to realise that there was a quiet hope for change. The wink in the eye, the pad on the shoulder followed by their assurance; “don’t worry, we support” was very much music to our ears. We walked into malay kampongs and they were receptive although it may be hard to discern gentle hospitality with “I won’t vote for the opposition” feelings. Orang Iban and Bumiputeras were angry because their lands were in the process of being taken away. One lady in a kampong going out in her crisply ironed BN shirt; came up to us and said; “I am paid to help them, don’t worry, I vote KEADILAN.” Later I discovered her house lies in the red line in danger of being taken by Taib’s government. I accompanied the local party chief to the police station to collect a permit and the officer downstairs, gave me a thumbs up, whatever that means.

I am hoping all this subtle winks and thumbs up and hoots from their cars are indication that the electorate is indeed ready for change.

The saddest thing however in my 3 days was visiting a malay kampong just outside Sibu town. The kampong was prone to floods and the ground was soft enough to have your feet sink in. In fact one of us in the team actually lost a shoe in the mud. Rotting timber lined the pathway to each kampong house and if you were unlucky, you would hear a crack and your feet would sink into a puddle of water. As you walk deeper into the kampong, some houses had no electricity.
A local told me, as he drove along a busy country road, that all this on the right and left were forest before but now all cleared. Virgin forest he had gone to as a child to hike in is now also gone. All this deforestation and haphazard development has brought about floods in the town.

We visited a family who had just lost their son, a 30 year old man. No clear illness was told to them but that he died of a disease which was only curable if he was sent overseas. The flat they lived in was 3 stories up. The dark stairway littered with rubbish and the stained cement walls unpainted. We visited the parents and the widow and her 3 young children. Many people lived in that dark apartment. A single short flourecent light lid the entire hall. It was obvious the family found it hard to make ends meet but now worse with another loss of a potential bread winner. We conveyed our condolences and took leave. My eyes opened and my heart wrenched.

Just 10 minutes away as we made our way back to the operations center, we passed by the massive bungalows in town. Most of them walled like little palaces. Huge glass windows to gaze on the bright sky but not the slums below. Many belong to timber tycoons or successful politicians.

This is what happens when corruption in government and unjust policies are allowed to fester for decades. Each wanting a piece of the pie without fair distribution to other less fortunate in society. I hope that change would come to Sarawak so that the people's plight might be lifted.