03 June, 2016

a matter of face

Before you envisage grand schemes to change the government, you need to change yourself.

The Asian concept of face is difficult to shake off. You do not want to be seen as a troublemaker, or a voice of dissent. You seek people’s acceptance. You may be one of the nation’s most vocal critics, but only in the privacy of your own home, or in the coffee-shop.

Unfortunately, the nation’s leaders mistake your silence for approval. Your silence emboldens them and their supporters. The confidence of the leaders, whom you blame for corruption, injustice and abuse of power, grows, while you become more disgruntled. Why blame the government? You had a hand in their ‘success’.

When it is election time, how many of you vote? Just because you are overwhelmed by the nation's long list of problems, you cannot use the excuse that “Nothing will change. What’s the point of voting?”.You are wrong. When you do not vote, someone else is using your vote, and using your name, to cast a vote.

Worse still, how many of you have not even registered to vote? Your apathy contributes to Malaysia’s current problems.What is required to wake you up from your comatose state, and make you do something? Use your right to vote. If you are not registered, do it now, so you can exercise your right in GE14.

Do you think that the people who are now vocal have always been critical? They were once, like you, minding their own business, until personal tragedy struck. The people whose family members died in custody, or who died in mysterious circumstances. There are those whose businesses were wrecked by a crony’s friend being awarded a contract at the last minute.

Or whose children were kidnapped by converts. Or people who were sacked from their jobs because they took part in a union protest.These people were probably one of the most timid or shy people, before they spoke out publicly. Why wait for personal experience before you speak out?

Selfish attitude stopping change?

Why is it always your rice bowl that you have to protect? Don’t those who speak out have their own rice bowls to think of? Perhaps, it is your selfish attitude which is stopping change.When you do not contribute to the national debate, how can you expect your country to become a better place. There are those people who warn others not to speak up, because they claim that it is a ‘sensitive issue’.

Why can’t a non-Muslim speak out about hudud or syariah law? Despite the claims that syariah law is only applicable to Muslims, look at how it has affected people like M Indira Gandhi from Ipoh, and S Deepa from Negri Sembilan. Remember, too, the Indonesian called Halimah, who was working in Penang, and prosecuted for khalwat. She wasn’t even a Muslim, but her life was wrecked.Why do many Malaysians say that the issues which affect the nation are “not my problem”? Do they not realise that the money that is being siphoned into the pockets of politicians and cronies, is theirs?

They seem to ignore the fact that the money stolen by the politicians could be used to make significant improvements to the lives of all Malaysians, not just a few cows living in condominiums in Singapore, or sons living in luxury London homes.When race and religion are used to divide the nation, many people turn the other cheek. The signs of division, in our society, are there; halal lifts, halal trolleys, complaints about the dress code for women, not just Muslim women, the vicious attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, child custody cases, body snatching from funeral parlours, and khalwat raids.

Will you only react when things reach a critical stage?Why do we expect others to fight our battles for us? We moaned about the death of Karpal Singh and said that there would be no-one to fight the government’s intended implementation of hudud.We moaned about Anwar Ibrahim’s incarceration, and said that no-one else would be able to galvanise the opposition to fight the government. Are we so incapable? Now, we place absolute trust in former PM Mahathir Mohamad to sort out Najib Abdul Razak and his government. Have we forgotten that Mahathir is the root of our problems?

It is this attitude of depending on others to fight our battles that will prevent the induction of change. We must change our attitude first, before we can possibly expect a change in government.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.Before you envisage grand schemes to change the government, you need to change yourself.

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