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Time for change

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It is janji tidak ditepati – think of the rampant corruption, rotten education standards and faltering national unity. And so, it is our duty and responsibility to bring about change, asserts P Ramakrishnan.

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this Aliran function. We are happy that so many of you have turned up not only to hear Datuk Ambiga speak but you are also here in a symbolic manner to show your concern for this country and express your solidarity for efforts undertaken to change the destiny of this nation. Thank you very much.

Friends, we kept our promise. We said that Datuk Ambiga will be here to speak to all of you and today she is here. Inilah janji ditepati – sungguh-sungguhnya!

Our promise is different from the Barisan Nasional’s misleading and false ‘Janji ditepati’. Their slogan should actually be ‘Janji tidak ditepati’ because their promises have not been fulfilled concerning the core issues that matter most.

Let me very briefly touch on three areas:

Rampant corruption

They promised to wipe out corruption but today corruption is rampant. It is pervasive and encompassing. Its tentacles are everywhere, in almost every contract, in almost every procurement of the Defence Ministry, in almost every agreement involving projects that are given out to cronies.

In 1994 – 18 years ago – Tun Dr Mahathir amended the Umno Baru Constitution to clean up money politics. He correctly understood where the problem of corruption was emanating from. But this action did not wipe out corruption.

In fact, he was a victim of corruption itself. On 9 September 2006, he failed to be elected as a delegate of the Kubang Pasu Umno Division and blamed money politics for his defeat. It was such a devastating and humiliating defeat for him.

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He had been Kubang Pasu Divisional Chairman for 30 years, president of Umno and Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years but corruption is no respecter of personalities. Mahathir’s name was No 1 on the candidates list but he came out ninth out of the 15 candidates who contested.

Judging by this, you may say, corruption is safe and sound in this country! Indeed it is.

Rotten education standards

They promised us world-class education that would put us on the world map but we are not even within the ranking of the 200 top universities around the world. It seems that we only produce unemployable graduates!

Marina Mahathir pulled out her children from the national schools claiming that these schools have become Malay schools. National schools are no longer what they used to be in inculcating character and ethics, building up friendship that went beyond race and creed, cultivating social graces that respected the elders and the teachers, eradicating arrogance and boorish behaviour.

That was possible because the composition of the teaching staff then reflected the multi-ethnic make-up of this nation. It allowed for different thoughts and views to be shared which enriched the experiences of students. That ennobling feature of school life is no more there.

Our education system – instead of improving under the various Ministers of Education – has nose-dived in terms of standard and stature. All the well-known and respected schools have lost their lustre and have become ordinary school buildings! That’s how rotten the system is now!

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Alarming threat to national unity

They promised us Bangsa Malaysia by 2020 – the emergence of a citizen who will simply be identified as a Malaysian without reference to his ethnicity. Unfortunately, the person who mooted this noble idea abandoned his ideal mid-way. He is now the patron of Perkasa that spews venom and hatred which threaten our national unity.

Our national unity is not Umno’s paramount consideration. The racial slurs in schools, the racial indoctrination undertaken by the BTN, which condemns the other ethnic communities as irrelevant and immigrants and not deserving to be treated as equal citizens are indeed worrying trends of bigotry. Through actions and policies, we are kept apart for political expediency.

It is a political ploy to project the Malaysian situation as Malays vs the rest. This is the game played by Umno and Perkasa. We must not fall into this trap.

It has never been Malays vs the rest. The reality is Umno vs the rest. Yes, Umno has no monopoly over the Malays. Every Malay is not an Umno member. Umno alone does not represent the Malays. Let’s bear that in mind.

Time for change

If we want all this to change – rampant corruption, rotten education standards and alarming threat to our national unity – the BN must be defeated; Umno must be turned into an opposition party. That would be a redeeming factor. Only then will there be hope for this nation.

Government servants until recently used to retire at the age of 55. Umno has ruled this nation – mind you, it has not governed but ruled for 55 years. It is time for them to retire. For the good of this nation we must force this retirement upon them.

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Friends, it is truly time for change. It is time for citizens to empower themselves. We should be the one to decide who will form the next government. Let Umno and the BN come with their bags of money and all kinds of promises to buy your vote. Accept the money and give them a good hard kick and send them packing.

For a change, let’s give the Opposition a chance. Let’s see how they will perform. If they do not live up to our expectations, let’s kick them out and bring in the BN. But they deserve a chance at least once.

Whatever happens, in the final analysis, it will be we who will be deciding which party will govern us. Let’s hold on to this right.

This is the only way to drive home the fact that we, the voters, are the masters, and the politicians will forever remain our servants.

Friends, we are the torch-bearers of freedom. It is our duty and responsibility to bring about this change. We must not fail ourselves.

P Ramakrishnan is the immediate past president of Aliran. He presented this speech at the forum ‘Elections and Democracy’ in Penang on 7 October organised by Aliran.

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