Monday, August 31, 2009

Do We Really Need 1Malaysia?

Do we really need 1Malaysia? If you answered “yes”, then here’s another question for you - What have we been all this while for the past 52 years? Have we been many Malaysias? Bumi Malaysia, Chinese Malaysia, Indian Malaysia and Lain lain Malaysia? The idea scares me. And I certainly do not want unity as suggested by the powers-that-be.

In fact, "unity" is really an extremely dated, superficial and abstract concept — a "nice" word that means nothing in real terms. "Unity in Diversity", "mutual trust and respect" — these are all terms that are being tossed around by a government that has thrived on political manipulation and sloganistic garbage for far too long.

As a people, we are getting pretty smart. And we are surely smart enough to know that the slogans have never been translated into concrete action. And therefore one really wonders at why such words and terms are tossed around at all.

A few years ago there was a "Courtesy Campaign" — all over there were slogans, banners, ads. And since then we have, in fact, become more rude, apathetic and surly people. We are not nice, we do not smile, we do not say thank you. Every time I let a car cut in front of me in traffic, I wait and look for some acknowledgment, but it never comes.

No. I am not interested in 1Malaysia. I am tired of slogans. I just want simple truths. I want real hard work. I want some rigorous thinking. I want honesty and integrity. I want excellence in place of the mediocrity we thrive on.

I want to know why Teoh Beng Hock was called in for questioning at 5pm and questioned through the night for more than 10 hours. I really want to know why Teoh Beng Hock was found dead. I also want to know what happened to A Kugan I want to know why Kartika was sentenced to whipping for consuming alcohol in public and then put on hold to agonize over the carrying out of her punishment. I want to know why we punish shopkeepers in Shah Alam for selling beer when Muslims buy and consume it.

I want to know why we want to ban the Michael Leans To Rock Concert. I want to know why we banned Muslims from the Black Eyed Peas Concert because it was sponsored by Guinness Anchor. When did we become this insane? Why is this happening here in Malaysia? Is this part of a new strategy for "mutual trust and respect" to "renew Malaysia" for this great journey ahead? "People First. Performance Now"? Really?

And in this new 1Malaysia of mutual trust and respect, I want to know why we still have detention without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA). I want to know why my friend who was arrested in the ISA rally on 1 Aug 2009 was kept in the lockup two days after his arrest. The law says that once arrested, you must be either released or charged within 24 hours. But there was no charge, no release, no hearing during his first 24 hours of detention. This is against the law.

And I want to be able to explain to my very angry nieces and nephews why, even with their finest results, they could not get a place in local universities.

A demonstration last week appeared to encapsulate my worst fears for 1Malaysia’s future. A 50 man group marched to the Selangor State Secretariat last Friday after prayers in Shah Alam. Carrying banners, excoriating several PAS elected` representatives as well as a severed cow’s head, the men were objecting to the relocation of a Hindu temple to their neighborhood.

The inclusion of the cow’s head was deliberate and provocative, transforming the demo into something more sinister and evil. This was not a spontaneous outburst. It was cold blooded transgression and crafted to cause maximum offense to Hindu Indians who revere the cow as a sacred animal.

It’s worth noting that our Police force stood by and allowed the demo to proceed despite its incendiary tone. You can watch the incident on Youtube. Had it not been for the online media and bloggers, the incident would have remained undocumented or watered down or swept under the carpet.

Why just 1Malaysia?

I am not interested in 1Malaysia. I am instead interested in the idea that it is our diversity that is our strength. Not even unity in diversity. Just diversity and inclusiveness. The idea that we are many stories, many ideas, many possibilities, many bodies, many interpretations, multiplicity — all converging and diverging as well. I am interested in the alternative possibilities, the alternative stories, the alternative histories.

But right now, all this is meaningless. Even what I’m writing is mere rhetoric. Right now, I really just want to know why the government has suddenly decided that after 52 years of being a proud harmonious nation, we need the 1Malaysia propaganda to unite us as a nation.