In an open letter, Yeo Yang Poh exhorts Malaysian to move forward and make a change to improve our nation while we can.
Dear Fellow Malaysians,
The curse of a realist (a euphemism for “pessimist”) is his inability to ignore the size of the dark cloud in favour of its silver lining. But this time around, even a realist such as I brings exciting tidings – that a new dawn is within sight, at last!
History is largely cyclical. The time has come for Malaysia to stride, be it quietly or vociferously, into the next cycle. But it will not happen by itself. We need to act, in consonance.
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I want to convince you that we must act now.
There will be those who simply refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. Leave them to their comatose state of being. There are enough of us to succeed without them, provided we work hard, and act in concert.
Fall of a decadent government
About a century ago, Chinese educationist and writer Yu You Ren described 3 premonitions of the fall of a corrupt regime:
(a) The people are impoverished, the country bankrupt. National wealth is put out of reach of the people, looted by the ruling elite and their cronies.
(b) Good practices are not promoted; bad practices are not curbed. Corruption thrives, and morals decay.
(c) Money has become King, in every aspect of life. National interests are sold for private gains. The filthy-rich few reign over the poor majority.
Venturing further back in time, a Qing Dynasty thinker, General Zeng Guo Pan, penned his version of the three characteristics of a collapsing regime, as follows:
- Right and wrong are turned on their heads.
- The meek have become increasingly submissive; the incompetent increasingly arrogant and doing as they please.
- Every wrong will be officially ‘justified’ using some illogical nonsense, and the common people feel resigned to their ill fate.
There are, of course, other warning signs as a government slides towards self-destruction. But the above will suffice in making the point.
Today’s Malaysia fits the picture
The state of affairs in Malaysia today fits rather squarely into the picture painted by the Qing
Dynasty scholars I have referred to above. Those worrying tell-tale signs exist in present-day Malaysian society for all but the willfully blind to see.
Have we not witnessed the induced death of meritocracy in the public sector generally, with the incompetent being perpetually promoted, and the capable sidelined (unless they toe the line and play the same game)? Are not racism and religious fanaticism more rife today than, say, 30 years ago? Are they not being arrogantly promoted by those in power through their proxies (or at the least with the turning of a blind eye)? How else do you explain the pathetic existence of Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa?
In today’s Malaysia, isn’t it money that speaks the loudest, and corruption regarded by many as the norm in relation to public institutions (spreading also to numerous types of commercial transactions)? Corrupt leaders preach saintly principles in the open, while in the quiet they steal the nation’s wealth and rule over the meek populace with the help of those whose loyalty they have bought with the proceeds of their loot. No wonder the “Satu-Malaysia” slogan is renamed in the streets as the “Sapu-Malaysia” concept.
In today’s Malaysia, do you hear informed Malaysians confidently telling you that they expect justice and fairness from the Malaysian administrative and judicial systems? Have there not been countless times when black became white, and white black? When was the last time we paused to count, and say a prayer for, the perished souls who still await the unearthing of the simple truth – Beng Hock, Altantuya, Kugan, Aminulrasyid, Sugumar, and so many others?
Even a shamelessly pliant and subservient newspaper has recently front-paged allegations of bribery syndicates targeting the judiciary, perhaps not realising that this revelation would be more of a reflection on the judiciary and on the abject failure of our government of these past decades than on the rats who desire to poison the system.
And have not attempts by the authorities at justifying the unjustifiable also become more and more desperate and ridiculous, particularly in recent times? The changing comments by ex-prime minister Mahathir on the subject of the clandestine issuance of ICs to foreigners are an example among many.
What can be more nauseating than to hear our ex-leader gasping to justify turning foreigners into illegal voters by comparing those dishonest acts with the proper conferment of citizenship (upon the independence of our nation) on all the peoples who had fought for its independence?
In a country bountiful with resources, it is ironical that Malaysians are being gradually impoverished – even though those of us who are more fortunate to be at the upper tiers of the economic-pyramid might not yet feel the tightness of the squeeze. In a nation free from serious natural disasters, it is politically-made catastrophes that ruin many lives.
Yet, there is reluctance on the part of many to change, representing a sure sign of them tragically resigning to their supposed fate.
It is not the crooked politicians who are ultimately to blame. It is we, the people, who are collectively the culprits, who have given unchecked powers to thieving politicians to enslave us, without respite, for the past five decades.
The picture of today’s Malaysia is not a pretty sight. But it is so, because of us.
That picture will not change by itself. It requires us to act, in order to change it.
The need to Change
Both the need for change and the possibility of change have never been clearer than they are now.
The mirror of history is filled with millions of images of societies devastated by corruption and the sufferings inflicted by it on the peoples in all corners of the world. Corruption is a multiplying fire that eventually destroys every kind of system ever tried by mankind – kingdoms, dynasties, military rule, theocracies, imperialism, socialism, communism, autocracies, democracies, and whatever else men have been able to think of.
This fire has been burning in Malaysia for years upon years.
You cannot expect fire to put itself out. And you cannot expect fire to die out, when combustible materials continue to be placed in its widening path.
Don’t be fooled by those who lit the fire, when they say they now want to turn it around. The fire today is no longer that fire once lit by them. It is out of their control now. It has been for years. Unless we change, politicians will not change, and are unable to change.
Therefore, the only way forward is to change, NOW.
Only the people’s awakening and action (often late but not never) are the water that can douse the fire of corruption, provided this water rises in waves of sufficient quantities. And provided that each and every one of us does not slumber in apathy, and does not underrate himself or herself in being a small but essential drop that together will make up that wave of overwhelming proportion!
So get up, Malaysians, to vote for change! Half a century of political monopoly must be broken!
Not only must we ourselves get up, we must make sure that as many of those around us as possible get up too, and act!
But – why now?
Because doing it now comes only with sweat and tears, and some short-term inconveniences or aches; whereas the price of postponement (to our future generations for them to effect change, instead of us) will be huge and harsh. Our children will be facing an augmented fire, much more daunting than ours, and will have to pay with life and limb in order to bring about change.
What will your choice be?
Yesterday’s tomorrow; and tomorrow’s yesterday
Many complain about the situation we are in today. We have a long list of serious grouses. We forget that the situation we are in today is the direct result of the choices (actions and inaction) that we made yesterday.
Similarly, today is nothing but tomorrow’s yesterday. What the situation will become tomorrow of course depends on what we do today. It appears such simple logic; yet the inertia of putting this logic into action can prove difficult to overcome. Are we going to change and make things better; or are we going to repeat the mistake we made yesterday?
What will you do for tomorrow, today?
My earnest appeal
I believe (in fact, I know) that Malaysia and Malaysians deserve much, much better than what our present incorrigible government has done to us for the past half a century.
I appeal to everyone to help rekindle the belief in our hearts that we can improve our nation, our society and our peoples, for our future generations; and I appeal to all to translate that belief into action for change.
Together, we will draw open the curtains to greet a new dawn.
Yeo Yang Poh is a former president of the Malaysian Bar.