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Merdeka celebrations dampened by PPS arrests, Selangor crisis

PPS members are released on police bail after 156 of them were arrested on Merdeka Day

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But we should remember it is the rakyat who have for generations worked hard and made sacrifices to build this country to what it is today, writes Henry Loh. Long may that continue.

PPS members are released on police bail after 156 of them were arrested on Merdeka Day
PPS members are released on police bail after 156 of them were arrested on Merdeka Day

A belated Selamat Hari Merdeka one and all.

Celebrating independence is always a joyous occasion, especially as it is the people of Malaysia who have collectively contributed to the growth, advancement and progress of the nation. With no disrespect to the political leaders who tend to grab the limelight at official Merdeka celebrations, it is important that we the Rakyat remember and take cognisance that we all have had a hand – a key and central role – in building this nation. Let us give ourselves a much deserved pat on the back. Politicians should do well to remind themselves that their role is to serve the people.

In Penang, the celebrations were dampened by a crackdown on the Penang Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) after they had participated in a Merdeka parade. Police arrested 156 members and the Penang State Exco member-in-charge, Phee Boon Poh. Aliran came out with a statement calling for their immediate release. In the event, all of them were released the following day. But lawyer R S N Rayer was then arrested and had to spend the night in the police station.

The development of a country is far more than having the tallest buildings or the longest bridges or the most advanced technology; rather the test of a successful nation is more about the peace, harmony and goodwill that exist among the people. This is particularly important for Malaysia as we live in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

In many ways, as a people, we can claim to have done well but the emergence of certain groups like Isma and Perkasa and their often bigoted religious and racist views contributes to much tension that threatens the good ties that exist among the people. Even more alarming is to read about a movement like the Islamic State (formerly known as Isil), which is extremist and violent and that there may be Malaysians who support its cause.

READ MORE:  Condemn and fight racism in all sectors

Perhaps partly in response to this unhealthy trend The Star has launched a campaign in its paper pushing for “moderation” and playing up the work of their columnists like Marina Mahathir, Azmi Sharom (what a pity he is now being charged with sedition), Zainah Anwar and Shad Faruqi just to name a few. The tagline for this campaign is “Brave view, bold ideas…”

While it is a good idea to push for moderation, Mustafa Anuar, argues that limiting these brave and bold views to columns and not covering them in the daily news articles and reports has limited success. He wonders too if it’s just a corporate move to increase circulation without a real commitment to openly address and report on the many “sensitive and controversial” issues happening.

Meanwhile there is the disturbing news that the draft of the National Harmony Bill, which is due to replace the Sedition Act, will only be ready by the end of 2015. Surely more focus, attention and priority should be set aside to bring this Bill to fruition. Importantly the consultation with all stakeholders must be guided by genuine sincerity and a clear determination to take into full consideration the multireligious and multiethnic constitution of our populace.

In as much as legislation such as the proposed Harmony Bill is likely to set parameters to control extremist views and acts that can disrupt unity, it would be so much more meaningful and pleasant if we can reclaim the atmosphere of true muhibbah, a mutual acceptance and understanding of the different cultural norms, beliefs and practices among the people.

Toward this end, Professor Mohd Tajuddin of UTM has shared an anecdotal and personal piece of how he brought up his children such that they can indeed confidently claim to be fullfledged Malaysians in every sense of the word. It is most encouraging to read what he has done but at the same time it is frightening to think that in his view, many others, have been put on a path of a formal education system that actually promotes racism. “… after listening to religious scholars and leaders spouting racist statements and tudung-ed individuals with vileness in their hearts against other religions….. This proved beyond a doubt that the religious curriculum of our country, not through the fault of Islam per se, is the most important contributor to the sustaining of racism in this country” (Malaysian Insider).

READ MORE:  Merdeka kah negara ku ini

The saga of who is to be appointed as the next Mentri Besar (MB) of Selangor is far from over. Now the news reports indicate that the Sultan of Selangor has decreed that he wants to have two or more names from each Pakatan Rakyat party so that he can make a choice an appoint one as the next MB. The official position of the Pakatan Rakyat Council is that they only wish to propose one name as the next MB that is PKR President Dr. Wan Azizah. So how will all of this play out? It looks like we will have to wait for a few more days.

Whatever the outcome it is interesting to note the numerous factors that have an impact or effect on this issue. Some questions raised include: Will the Pakatan Rakyat break up? Are the constitutional experts able to give a clear picture on the doctrine of separation of powers? What is behind Pas’ reluctance to accept Wan Azizah as the MB is it because she is a woman? Will the Selangorians give Pakatan another chance if the state assembly were to be dissolved and fresh elections are held?

Indeed there are many other questions to be addressed and answers may not be so forthcoming.

But through all of these, the rakyat, especially the people of Selangor, have every right to be disappointed and upset with all that has been going on over the MB Khalid issue. Indeed, as mentioned at the very beginning, it is important that the rakyat remember and lay full claim to the fact that politicians are meant to serve the people and not their personal ends.

READ MORE:  Selamat Tahun Baru/Happy New Year from Aliran

It is the rakyat who have for generations worked hard and made sacrifices to build this country to what it is today. Of course we are blessed with an abundance of natural resources, but it is our human capital the blood, sweat and tears that generates the productivity which add value.

We should not be too disappointed by electoral politics. Yes, we need to work towards electoral system that would offer the people a real and meaningful choice among credible parties or coalitions. But we should also recognise that there are limitations in the electoral system in the quest for long-term quest for real change.

In a recent commentary, Anil Netto wrote that the real possibility for hope lies in the empowering of the people, perhaps though participatory democracy at all levels and the empowerment of communities at the local level, to establish and entrench certain noble values in society.”

And what are some of the values and principles? The right to a clean government, social policies that ensure that the weak and vulnerable are taken care of, reverence for the environment, a commitment to reduce if not wipe out poverty. And more relevant today, is a commitment to ensure the income and wealth of the nation is shared fairly and not concentrated in the hands of a small minority.

Salam perjuangan.

Henry Loh

Co-editor, e-newsletter

2 September 2014


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