In an open letter, Ariffin Omar lists down the numerous problems plaguing the country and urges Malaysians to vote for change.
We are now at the crossroads of our destiny. The 13th General Elections that is slated to be held on 5 May will decide once and for all what future we are going to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.
We have lived for more than half a century under a regime which practices the politics of ethnic discrimination. In its wake this politics of apartheid has brought about corruption, mismanagement, cronyism and nepotism on a scale not seen in many countries. I have been told that as many as 3m Malaysians have left this nation for other countries in despair. Can we afford such a loss?
The Barisan Nasional, which had its origins as the Alliance Party, which then comprised of the United Malays National Organization, the Malayan Chinese Association and the Malayan Indian Congress, has brought this country to the brink of disaster.
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In playing its racist politics on the false claims that the underdeveloped and underprivileged Malays needed government aid through the New Economic Policy, the BN has misused and abused this policy to enrich certain individuals in Umno including their cronies and hangers-on. The rights and privileges of non-Malays as guaranteed in the Malaysian Constitution have been ignored.
The BN has systematically destroyed the institutions of state. The judiciary has been emasculated and rendered subservient to the interests of the BN. Malaysians must know that hardly anyone now believes in the independence of the judiciary. Foreign investors investing in Malaysia have demanded the right to have any legal matters arising from their business disputes to be heard either in Singapore, London or even in Hong Kong. What is the value of our judiciary?
The civil service is nothing but a pliant tool of the BN. The percentage of non-Malays serving in the civil service is negligible. Why? The BN, in particular Umno, has been consistent in making sure that it is monopolised by Malays and thus ensure that the BN’s interests and corruption are protected. Even the police force and the army are not spared from the policy of mainly recruiting Malays into the services at the expense of non-Malays who are more than willing to serve. This BN government has failed to realise that the non-Malays played a crucial role in the emergency to crush the communist insurrection. Many non-Malays gave their lives to defeat the communists especially those who served in the Special Branch many of whom were Chinese and Indians. Dayak trackers from Sarawak were also used to hunt down the communists. Has the BN forgotten all this?
We must not forget how the institution of the monarchy was distorted and manipulated to suit the interest of the BN. The former PM Mahathir had removed the powers of the rulers which were enshrined in the Constitution and had transferred these powers to the executive. Therefore the rulers consent was no longer necessary for any bill to become law. All that was needed was for parliament to pass the Bill again and after a period of time, the Bill becomes law even without the signature or the consent of the rulers. Thus an important part of the process of checks and balances was removed.
Parliament itself has become a mere debating club without much power to oversee many important agencies and bodies and demand accountability. For example the Election Commission is not responsible to Parliament but to the PM. … Parliament cannot even demand accountability from the SPRM as it is not answerable to Parliament. Even Petronas is not under the purview of Parliament or responsible to Parliament but to the PM.
I am no great admirer of British colonial rule, but we cannot deny that in the field of education we inherited an educational system that was second to none in Asia. What is the standard of our educational system today? The DPM Muhyiddin has come out with an outlandish claim that our educational system is the best in this world. Well if that is the case why are the BN Ministers and Members of Parliament not sending their children to the local universities? From the very beginning they send their children to international schools and after that off to foreign universities where the language of education is in English. As for us we are forced to send our children to an educational system which has neither value nor merit. Are we surprised that none of our universities is listed in the world rankings while countries like Indonesia and Thailand, which were formerly regarded as below us, are now far ahead of us in educational standards? What has the government got to say about this?
In terms of unity we have never been so divided in our history. There seems to be a deliberate policy to set the Malays against the non-Malays by using almost every conceivable excuse to provoke suspicion and tension among the various ethnic communities in Malaysia. Issues like the ‘Allah issue’ are apparently invented to cause religious disharmony. Worse, there is latitude given to extremists to insult and denigrate other religions in Malaysia. The dragging-of-the-cow-head incident in K.L. and the remarks made by racist Malays and some Chinese converts against other religions and beliefs are given prominence. No action is taken against these individuals for making such seditious remarks. The BN claims that is part and parcel of freedom of speech as guaranteed in the Constitution. But the rights of other religions and beliefs that are also guaranteed in the Constitution are conveniently ignored.
The present government does not believe in unity because there has never been a consistent policy that promotes national unity. We have gone through the hollow slogans of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’, ‘Islam Hadari’ and now ‘1Malaysia’. Every new PM comes with a new slogan that is either devoid of meaning or has no substance. For example what is this 1Malaysia when even in the BN circles the idea of 1Malaysia is not practised? In the BN, Umno reigns supreme; the MCA, the Gerakan and the MIC are handmaidens to Umno.
Now on the eve of this historic general election we can see just how hollow the 1Malaysia concept is. Anyone can see how insignificant the MCA, the Gerakan and the MIC are in helping the BN to regain power. These parties face annihilation at the hands of the voters. Only Umno can still count on some measure of support. Any seat allocated to these parties will be a seat that will be wrested by the opposition. Thus Umno is in a mortal dilemma concerning what seats (if any) to give to these parties. If the 1Malaysia is an abject failure in the BN, how will it succeed in the country?
This government has no respect for law and order or even for basic human rights which we are all entitled to. As an example, when the Bersih rallies took place the BN saw it as a threat to law and order even though the rally was very peaceful. The BN authorised the police to act harshly against those participating in the Bersih rallies. They were beaten and gassed and had water cannons turned on them. Some were arrested and charged in court for attempting to overthrow the Government or wage war against the Agong. These protestors were only armed with mineral water bottles. When Malaysian territory in Sabah was invaded by armed intruders at Lahad Datu, the BN described these invaders as neither terrorists nor militants and attempted to negotiate a settlement. Only after these intruders ambushed and killed Malaysian police personnel did the government classify these intruders as terrorists. Why the discrepancy in the treatment of the Bersih protesters and the armed Filipino intruders?
Even more shocking are the innumerable deaths of those detained in police lock-ups. Many of these happen to be Indians. The causes of their deaths were never satisfactorily explained and calls for inquests and impartial postmortems are dismissed curtly by the authorities. The issue of unexplained deaths as in the case of Teoh Boon Hock and Ahmad Sarbani are also issues that need answers.
Can we continue with the same state of affairs for another 55 years? I doubt we can. Therefore, I appeal to you, my fellow Malaysians, to vote in the Pakatan Rakyat. Given our record in Penang and Selangor, we can take over Putrajaya and bring about much-needed changes for the better. For starters we will reduce the price of essential items that burden the people. We can and will be committed to tackling the issue of corruption. I admit that corruption can never be eliminated but at least we can minimise it as we have done in Penang.
We can improve the quality of education by ensuring that those appointed to work in the universities are suitably qualified and competent to teach. We will seriously take measures to improve the standard of education in Malaysian schools especially in Science and Mathematics. We will seriously look into providing cheap and efficient public transport for all Malaysians. Useless projects or industries will be scrapped. My hope is that we can dismantle Proton, which is a disaster to Malaysia. Even more important, we will dismantle monopolies that are being held by Umno cronies at the expenses of Malaysians. IPPs will be forced to lower rates while more affordable housing will be an important item in government planning.
Poverty, which is a bane in Malaysian society, will be tackled head-on not on the basis of race but on the basis of income levels and disparities. In this respect East Malaysia will be a priority area. At the same time marginalised groups such as the Indians as well as the Orang Asli will have their interests attended to.
Even more important, a sense of belonging to the nation will be inculcated among all Malaysians. We hope that through this we can remove the poison of racism and ethnic hostility fostered by the BN government all these 55 years. Citizens who were not given their legal documents as citizens will have this injustice redressed. At the same time, foreigners who were given citizenships for the sake of political expedience by the BN will have their citizenship revoked and they will be deported to their country of origin. It is important to stress that Malaysia belongs to Malaysians.
Last but not least, leaders of the BN involved in massive corruption and treachery to this nation of ours will be apprehended and put on trial. Those who committed injustices against the people will not be allowed to escape with their ill-gotten gains. We will ensure that corruption is tackled head on. The SPRM will be made to act as strictly as possible within the law and it should be answerable to Parliament. Similarly the Election Commission will be an independent body accountable and answerable to Parliament. It is also vital that Petronas, an important agency, be answerable and accountable to Parliament.
My fellow Malaysians, it is my hope that after reading this short appeal you will take the time to ponder on the all-important choice that you will have to make on 5 May 2013. Please remember, voting for the Pakatan Rakyat is not just merely voting for another party but it is voting for the future well-being of yourselves, your children and your grandchildren. Please do not gamble with the future of the coming generations. Vote wisely.
Dr Ariffin Omar, an Aliran member, is a senator and former president of Aliran.