Barathi Selvam reflects on the bundle of contradictions that is Democracy ala Malaysia in this farewell piece to the now shuttered Malaysian Insider.
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell.
The Malaysian government has consistently been seen as a bundle of contradictions in various platforms.
How else can it be when the astute national leaders, the ruling elite, are vigorously advocating democracy while practising something totally opposite to what they preach.
This is supposed to be an agitated response to the blocking of the online daily, The Malaysian Insider, which eventually led to their closure last night.
But writing in a tone of stident criticism might eventually see me behind the walls of any nearby police station, perhaps Dang Wangi Police Station, for “thinking critically”, “voicing criticism against the ruling elite”, “promoting alternative ideas” and “writing on what you-know-who doesn’t want to read the first thing in the morning or before going to bed”. All this may be deemed to be absolutely sinful and could result in a merciless ban in our beloved land.
Before pouring my infuriated emotions into writing, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Insider, which published my first article about one and a half years ago, in which I tried my best to blend Gramsci’s cultural hegemony into the Malaysian context. I also express my solidarity with the Insider team, which has been reporting truthfully with all its might without practising censorship.
What a coincidence: what I wrote a long time ago is still relevant today – and I am not surprised. Well, this is Democracy ala Malaysia.
“State, government, ruling elites, repressive state apparatus, ideological state apparatus, archaic/backdated laws, police forces, educational institution” – all this played a huge role not only when Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined hands with the opposition to demand that our beloved and democratically elected Najib Razak resign peacefully. But then, it all started from The Man himself, Mahathir.
What to expect in our country with ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press? It is a question that has to be pondered by the masses. The superpower in any democratic country is none other than the people, united in purpose. Being divided into race, religion, zone, district, state, university and many more irrelevant barriers only serves to strengthen the unruly power of the regime.
One of the most regressive things that could happen is if people start to practise self-censorship because they are afraid of the legal action that might follow them home. This would lead to a society that restricts itself when articulating its critical thinking towards social injustice. Or most probably, it would result in a society that ends up in a lazy chair, drinking coffee – expecting others to fight their battles.
The problem arises when everyone starts to think the same way. It is important to remember, resisting injustices is the duty of every single citizen.
In the end, one thing has been proven – the pen is always mightier than the sword.
Kudos to the whole Insider team; thanks for being with us all this while, and my gratitude for giving me an arena to express my concerns and ideas.
“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour.”– John Lennon.
Barathi Selvam, an undergraduate student majoring in journalism at a local university, is enraged with the social injustices he sees around him. He hopes to use writing as a medium to advocate for anyone who is discriminated and oppressed and to empower the marginalised.