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Taxi drivers’ coffee-shop analysis

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Many Malaysians are puzzled over why some people aspire to become political leaders, writes John Inbaraj: to serve the people with their God-given qualities? or to stash millions (nowadays, billions) for themselves?

My friends and I often meet in the evenings for some coffee-shop talk. Most of us are in our fifties and some in their sixties. All of us have lived through Malaysia under the tenure of all the Prime Ministers. Before you grind an axe with us, please be assured that we are responsible citizens, working and fulfilling our responsibilities as spouses and parents.

Invariably, each time we meet, a bit of politics seeps into our conversations. We seem to agree that the likes of people like Onn Jaafar, Tunku, Sambanthan, Tan Siew Sin and many more before and during their time were more statesmen like. We also seem to be convinced that the country’s real decline and destruction began with the advent of Mahathir as Prime Minister.

Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah ran contrary to what was actually practised. Negotiated tenders and cronyism, the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas and the resultant destruction of the Judiciary, and numerous other abuses paved the way for corruption to be institutionalised and the country’s enormous wealth to be plundered at will.

In addition, democracy, education and sports began to spiral downwards, taking Malaysia into the depths of mediocrity from a creditable high.

Today Najib Razak is dumped with the unenviable task of taking Malaysia to the elite world of developed nations by 2020, a (cock-eyed) visionary programme launched by Mahathir. If it takes just figures and numbers to create a developed nation, then I am sure our logistics experts can skilfully launch us there.

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But let’s stop kidding ourselves. Most of my coffee shop friends are taxi drivers, me too, but hey before you say ‘for a taxi driver, your English is good!’ we are there by choice. From the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLP/LPKP) to now Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (Spad), we can bet that their efforts to streamline and improve services and enforce their own rules and regulations will FAIL. They just do not know the game or have a game plan. As can be seen in many enforcement agencies in the country, they exude power not reason, they wield the axe, not engage the real players (the drivers) as partners.

Back to REAL politics; many things puzzle us. Like why do people get into leadership positions? To serve with their God-given qualities of leadership and help the less fortunate? Or to stash millions (nowadays, billions) for themselves and the next 10 generations?

Why do they begin to believe that only they can lead? Why push until one man unable anymore to withstand the injustices of the government burns himself to death, aggravates the anger of the people and ignites a revolution that results in the death of its leader and the death of many more civilians? It wasn’t their culture to take to the streets, was it?

To what extent does a government push its people? Despite all its warnings and threats, the people gathered. One death and many beaten! With just water cannons, tear gas and batons, they managed to quell the protesters, this time, yes, THIS TIME! They managed because the people gave in. What if?

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Surely strategies are being put in place on how to cling on to power despite all the manoeuvres to the ballot box. Is Tiga Calit one of them? We have heard of Mat Rempits and many of us are convinced that they are not totally without political support or linked to politicians. But Tiga Calit (3Line)? What is this new phenomenon? (Don’t know how long this has been in existence.)

Two days after our coffee shop encounter where Tiga Calit was brought up, I was stunned to read an article in theSun written by K T Maran of Seremban in which he mentioned (edited version):

I recently came across a paper by Dr Benjamin Bowling, professor of criminology and criminal justice and director of criminological studies at the School of Law, King’s College London entitled, ‘Institutional Racism and Religious Freedom in Malaysia’ … ‘the paper linked the government to NGOs such as Perkasa and Perkida which … the paper refers to Perkasa as an NGO which promotes the Malay supremacy agenda and has the explicit support of Umno. Perkasa works intimately with a military group known as Perkida and another underworld para-military group known as 3-line. Together they perpetuate racial hatred and cause fear among non-Malays.

Above all these we hear that Tiga Calit is allegedly sponsored by ‘Abangs and Bapaks’ who rank among celebrities, politicians and politically linked people with the knowledge and support of the powerful.

It scares me to think of this country 50 years on. Since the advent of Tun Abdul Razak as second prime minister, the Malay Agenda took on a prominent role in the country’s development. I am not against this.

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But the direction this agenda has taken since Mahathir took over the premiership of the nation is worrying. Leaders are no longer visionary or intelligent. Corruption has not abated nor is extra effort being made to eradicate this menace. Najib’s recent book voucher scheme too has seen corruption rear its ugly face.

I ask my friends why they continue to stay on in Malaysia. This is a wonderful country, and Penang is a great place. Great food, great people and freedom from natural disasters … and we don’t have much longer to live. Our children have grown up. This isn’t about us, it’s about our children. We all agree!

May Allah, Tuhan or whatever name you are called, please safeguard our country from the claws of all destructive forces.

John Inbaraj is an Aliran member based in Penang

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