Friday, July 08, 2011

Malaysia: On the Verge of a Revolution?

Reading all that is going on in Malaysia, I can't help but feel maybe a bit of apprehension for the safety and freedom of the Rakyat, but much more than that, I feel hopeful.

Being so far away from my native homeland, I can't say I understand her ins and outs and ongoing issues in detail anymore; I can't say I understand Bersih's goals 100%, or why some people (politicians aside) claim they have underlying motives. Also being one who isn't paying Malaysian taxes, perhaps I have little right to complain.

Then again, I still consider myself Malaysian. And so I believe I have the right to an opinion...

I'm hopeful that the rally that will happen today (Malaysian time) will bring the much needed change that our nation needs.

For far too long, Malaysian has been controlled, monopolized by one political group. And with monopoly and absolute power, comes arrogance, corruption, inefficiency and ultimately the downfall of a nation as a whole. When rewards are handed out not for quality of work, but for race, or family or friends, or on a 'you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours' basis, then the country suffers.

Malaysians as a whole are just sick and tired of the bullshit that is being churned out and forced down our throats. The unimaginable amount of money wasted on stupid projects, like spending RM 1.8 million to upkeep the official Malaysian Facebook page. Or the RM 50 million to give every Malaysian an email account (when there are numerous free accounts out there). And oh yea, is it just coincidence that this contract was awarded to a family member of one of the leaders? At the same time, roads get more expensive. Goods. Gasoline. Etc etc etc.

We're sick and tired of 'leaders' playing the race card and threatening racial rioting if certain things were not enforced when the truth is they are just trying to drive the Rakyat apart to use certain groups to support their cause. Because they are worried that without their poison, the people are actually deep down just, and fair, and honest, and would like to judge others based on their action, not their skin color.

We're sick of the government twisting things around, and adjusting the law to suit their purposes. Like arresting people who are merely expressing their God-given right to free speech. And to stoop so low as to arrest people for merely wearing yellow (the color of the group rallying for fair and free elections). And then to deny them of legal representation, pulling the ole 'Emergency Ordinance' hat trick. Claiming that the act of speaking up as a group will pose a threat to national security. When in fact, it is a threat to their political power and money. And if it's national security you're worried about, why not arrest that asshole who was waving the keris and making threats to other groups? Or the other asshole who made subtle threats to the Chinese?

This rally is not about race. It's not about personal glory. It's not about a single political group. This is about wanting change, and while it will be some time before the next general elections to see any results, the next 24 hours will be interesting.

To my fellow Malaysian: be safe, and while expatriates like me are far away, our thoughts and prayers and spirit will be with you.

Here's my middle finger to the corrupted out there; may the next elections bring the change that is so much needed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Vagus

It's not about whether you pay tax. It's all about whether you still care for this place where you were born and raised. As long as there's a place in your heart for Malaysia, you have every right to speak up, for her and her people.


12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This youtube video can't describe things better!!

It is sad, really..

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Vagus:
Thank you for your support for a freer Malaysia in your latest posting. A couple of points:

- only 10% (about 1 million) of Malaysia's working population pay taxes. That does not preclude the rest of the 90% for not speaking up, you included.
- I am disapppointed that only about 100 people turned up for the Bersih rally in New York yesterday. I am very sure there are thousands of M'sians in NYC including students. For some reasons, the attendance/support was pathethic.

What you can do as a Malaysian living overseas to support some of the causes in your homeland?

- continue to voice, educate and spread awareness of these issues among your Malaysian friends. Talk to your friends, get them interested.
- lend your support by writing and giving encouragement and moral support to the causes.
- keep informed through blogs, alternative media and Facebook.
- support some of the NGO's financially, whenever and whatever you can afford. Any amount helps. Many of these NGOs run very lean on 3-4 staff and are dependent on voluntary donations. The staff still need to feed themselves.

Above all, ask ourselves why some of these activists do what they do. They have the option to have a carefree, comfortable life, enjoy expensive holidays rather than risk getting detained and tortured by the authorities. What can they gain for themselves? Fame? Fortune? They are doing this for our children and our children's children. They are doing this for the people we love and left behind in our beloved country. The least we can do is to give them all the support we can ever give. And pray for a better Malaysia for our loved ones at home.


9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unfortunately sorruption is still rampant in selangor which is opposition-controlled.

Bottom line, power corrupts.

1:46 PM  
Blogger vagus said...

agree; power corrupts. Not saying opposition is necessarily better (for now, I think it is) but in any system where there is healthy and fair competition between political groups, then whichever group in power will be obligated to treat the people well otherwise they will suffer at the following elections.
In general, competition, not monopoly, is a good thing. This applies for Malaysian politics, too. A healthy dose of fear of losing the elections will force BN to work harder, and throw out the corrupt. Hopefully

1:54 PM  
Blogger taleanski said...

am glad you're still in touch with msian politics! :) yes change doesn't happen if people don't do anything. i fell hopeful too! perhaps we'll live long enough to witness some historic change, who knows. but in the meantime, it's great you're writing bout it. :) all the best!

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Vagus

I hope you don’t mind me offering some perspective on the issue.

In 2004, I was briefly involved with the Pakatan cause. They invited me to help draft their communications outreach and figure out ways to deliver it to Malaysians, primarily through the use of ‘alternative’ media, ‘grassroots’ NGOs and ‘citizen-friendly’ messages that would be easy to digest.

Back then, Pakatan was in bad shape. They had just run a disastrous ‘Barisan Alternatif’ campaign, and they had failed to make any headway in the 2004 general elections. There was too much infighting; too much contradictory messages. Worse still, Pakatan came across as being too elitist. Too cold. Too out of touch with the ordinary citizen. Psychologically speaking, the name ‘Barisan Alternatif’ itself was a fallacy. It just encouraged doubtful Malaysians to stick with the devil they knew – Barisan National.

The only way to remedy this problem would be to restructure the coalition. Rebrand it. No, not from the top down, but from the ground up. Hence Barisan Alternatif was dropped in favour of Pakatan Rakyat. It sounded cleaner and friendlier. And from then on, the word ‘rakyat’ would be deliberately hyped up.

Another turning point was Anwar Ibrahim’s self-imposed exile in the United States. While there, he rubbed shoulders with the same lobbyists and political architects who had engineered, among other things, Tony Blair’s New Labour campaign, the swiftboating of Senator John Kerry and the rise of the Tea Party movement. Anwar studied the techniques of astroturfing in earnest and brought them back to Malaysia, and he began to apply them.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the practice, “Astroturfing is a form of advocacy often in support of a political or corporate agenda designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.”

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which brings us to Bersih and its implications. Anwar needed to stir up ‘grassroots’ outrage against Barisan, and he needed it to be a massive show of strength. One, he had blot out memories of Pakatan’s 2004 failure. And two, he had to build up momentum going into the 2008 elections. Bersih was settled on as the best possible vehicle to make that happen – an alliance of ‘neutral’ and ‘independent’ NGOs calling for ‘free and fair’ elections.

At the time, I was uncomfortable with the fact that I was being asked to help ‘sway’ public opinion and ‘downplay’ the not-so-savoury aspects of Bersih. One, Anwar Ibrahim’s designs to be prime minister. Two, the donning of yellow, which is the royal colour of the Malay sultanate. And three, the fact that the organisers had privately expressed opinions that the rally itself was not likely to lead to free and fair elections.
So what was it really, really about? It was about reenergising the Pakatan base, uniting people in outrage against the government’s corrupt practices and, if Anwar was lucky, his symbolism would get the King to throw his weight behind the Opposition cause. In short, he would create the conditions right for a coup.

Given that Barisan would be no pushover -- after all, they control the military, police and various militia groups -- I expressed my concern that Pakatan would be mobilising people purely on the basis of emotion and sending them into harm’s way. Logically speaking, there’s no way that Barisan would agree to be defeated in free and fair elections. So wouldn’t it be better for Pakatan supporters to adopt a non-violent, non-confrontational stance? For example, taking one week off and staying away from work as a protest against cronyism and nepotism within the Barisan-controlled economy?

The response I got in return was shocking. Pakatan was unwilling to alienate the richer segments of its membership, which it needed for logistics and finance. And I was promptly given a lecture about how the top 1% of the rich in Malaysia controlled more wealth than the bottom 95% of households combined. And in the event of Barisan responding harshly to a rally with bullets and machetes, the Pakatan leadership was well prepared for the consequences. They could afford to lose 1000 ordinary demonstrators to make score a political point, but they could not afford to lose even one rich donor.

Another incident also happened during this time that forced me to rethink my affiliation with ‘grassroots’ NGOs. There was a guy named Peter in my church who was an accountant in a government-linked company. He discovered financial irregularities, and his Pakatan NGO friends encouraged him to make a police report and blow the whistle. He did – only to be kidnapped by thugs from the company who took him to an abandoned industrial park and pummelled him senseless. They left him for dead, but he survived. Just barely. The head trauma he sustained was so bad that a portion of his brain had to be removed.

Today, he’s in a semi-comatose state and confined to a wheelchair. One side of his head looks like a deflated basketball, and he can respond with groans and grunts when you talk to him, but that’s about it. His wife is terribly bitter over what has happened, and his family wheels him into church every Sunday, hoping for a miracle, but so far, none is forthcoming. I’m certainly not a doctor, so I don’t know what his chances of recovery are. Probably nil.

A crippled man, of course, is bad publicity for the Pakatan cause, and his NGO friends have since shied away. Despite all the talk about justice and fairness and integrity, it’s Peter’s family that are left to pick up the pieces. Alone and bitter.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By 2005, I had departed the Pakatan cause and committed myself to emigrating. I had seen enough, and while I think it’s good that people are choosing Pakatan as an alternative to Barisan, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s all political games being played. I have yet to see either Pakatan or Barisan take responsibility for the people who have ended up being crippled and killed as a result of ‘ideology’.

That, to be frank, is more ‘pathetic’ than the turnout in New York. NGOs pushing people to sacrifice without considering the consequences… or being there to catch people when they actually do fall in battle.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m all for democracy if it’s practised with honesty and integrity. But let’s face it: democracy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. India is the world’s largest democracy. It has six national parties, and its ruling government has changed hands many times. On one hand, India boasts the world’s largest middle class. But deep-seated problems like corruption, injustice, poverty and the caste system remain widespread.

And I see a similar problem with Malaysia: a feudal eagerness by Pakatan to establish a fiefdom, but a reluctance to actually address deep-seated issues. For example, Pakatan talks about liberal democracy. About a country that’s fair to all. About a country that has moved beyond race. But it’s all talk at this point.

Take, for instance, Anwar Ibrahim’s standing as leader of the opposition. His unchallenged status as prime minister apparent. But examine the issue a bit closer and you’ll begin to notice how undemocratic the arrangement is. It’s not Keadilan that occupies the largest share of elected MPs in Parliament, but DAP. And if democracy is truly allowed to prevail, then shouldn’t Lim Kit Siang be the leader of the Opposition? Shouldn’t he be a shoe-in for the highest executive office in the land?

Whenever I bring this up, the response I get is, ‘Oh, but we can’t afford to anger the Malays. As it is, the Chinese population in Malaysia is shrinking, and we have to be aware of sensitivities…’

And yet, you will see Pakatan practising astroturfing by getting ‘neutral’ NGOs to ‘suggest’ to the public that the Constitution doesn’t necessarily say that the prime minister of Malaysia has to be a Malay-Muslim. The ‘insinuation’ being that if you vote for Pakatan, you’ll have a better chance of seeing a non-Malay as prime minister. And Pakatan scores political points and reap the electoral benefits without actually committing to anything.

That said, if people feel strongly enough, they can support Pakatan as an alternative to Barisan. But use some common sense and don’t be so quick to get pulled into screwball political games in the meantime. Personally, I foresee a bumpy and vulgar road ahead, especially with a crook like Anwar Ibrahim at the helm.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s very wrong to psychologically and emotionally guilt-trip people (especially those who have emigrated overseas) into inconveniencing themselves just so Pakatan can seize power.

All the talk about supporting NGOs with ‘independent’ donations is, to be frank, another form of emotional manipulation and astroturfing. Pakatan boasts many rich and privileged bigwigs among its ranks, and the NGOs take informal direction from them. Hence they should be the ones to bear the costs, not overseas Malaysians who visit Malaysia perhaps once a year and have their own families and finances to worry about.

9:26 PM  

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