Wednesday, April 29

Politik: An Awakening

Before I begin, let me make one thing clear. As I've told my facilitator, I regarded politics as I regard soccer. Never been interested in both of them. Never paid attention. So please, do not assume I'm siding with any local political parties here. That said and done, let's move on. When I was in university, back in 2004, I didn't get why my friends were so psyched about the general elections. BN (Barisan Nasional) won big. So what? BN had been the government since we achieved independence. Life would go on as usual. Then, after our final exams in 2005, we were interviewed by the JPA (Public Services Department). I couldn't answer almost all the questions related to the government. When I openly admitted I was never interested in the government or politics, I got screwed real good. Well, I was asking for it. My ears burned as I sat on the uncomfortable chair, being lectured about my apathy towards my future employer, my bread-giver. But, as the interview was just a formality for doctors, I got the job regardless. Fast forward to current times. In 2008, BN won (again), but only with a simple majority. The party lost a lot of states. They only won 140 out of 222 seats. And currently only 137 seats, last I heard. Again, I didn't care. I never even registered to vote. Then the media went rife with discord among the three main parties within Pakatan Rakyat after they won some of the states. They couldn't agree with each other, much less with the government. Maybe the news are spot-on. Maybe it's a part of a higher political strategy. We, the general population can only postulate theories. I flipped through newspaper pages. I couldn't be bothered reading about Malaysian political scenes. Both sides are stooping so low to defame each other instead of concentrating on stabilizing our rocky economy. Sure, Malaysia somehow escaped the brunt of the global economy crisis, and we can still shop around like nothing bad is happening around us, but we have to be dense not to notice our stock market crashing right after the general elections in 2008, and not climbing back as fast as it should. As usual, I seem to be babbling without a point. My friends Nadia and Fazrin pushed me to register for Kursus Kenegaraan , as it is one of the requirements for us to advance in our payscheme ladder, as well as to apply for our Masters program. To us it was a necessary evil, a brainwashing session we had to endure. Or so I thought. Thursday last I drove to Kuala Lipis with an open mind. The trip took over three hours. Nadia's husband doesn't quite fancy speed, and I had accidentally let on that I'm a speedster. So I had to be a good (slow) guy. Yeah, I know. Bummer. All three of us in the car (Nadia, Zuraida and I) had palpitations when we saw the signboard leading to the BTN camp. My spirit--I wouldn't say soared...more like lilted--when I saw a beautiful multi-tiered compound nested among trees at the outskirts of a dense jungle, with a serene lake at the bottom. Much to our surprise and dismay, it wasn't our camp. What we saw was Camp A. We had to drive around the compound to reach our actual destination, Camp B. WTF?! Ah, but our camp was actually newly built, aged just over one year. It was actually a nice venue, double-decked dormitory included. There were only 21 guys among the 108 participants; the men got to choose a bed each. We didn't have to share, unlike the ladies. Large moths and smaller butterflies fluttered about welcoming us. The songs of cicada and other unknown insects and birds were the music of the land. The days were bright; the nights warm but not uncomfortably so. The management staff were all friendly and helpful. We (at least I) felt almost at home. There were four lectures before we were broken up into smaller groups. I mainly stayed awake to make sure I paid enough attention for what would be coming up in our exam at the end of the course. They also showed Hati Malaya, a star-studded movie about the establishment of UMNO and their fight to obtain indipendence. Technically, the show was horrendous and shoddy. But it got the message across. All of us saw our indipendence with a different light. For our smaller group discussions, I was fully prepared to shut down if our facilitator were to hammer us with choosing the right political party (I'm being diplomatic here. You know what I'm talking about). I take it as a blessing that we got a senior facilitator, whose purpose was to expose us to the important aspects of our Constitution. He didn't screw me for not having registered to vote, unlike other groups' facilitators. He didn't tell us to be grateful with the current ruling government. He listened to our debates and arguments. In the end, he still pointed out that our country has to be top priority, and that politic equals power, and the importance of having a strong governement. But he did it with class, with dignity. And we didn't resist him. In a way, it was way more dangerous than being hammered. But it was an awakening. I didn't feel comfortable were repeatedly told (by all the facilitators) how important racial unity is; how different the races are, but how the government is fighting for peace and unity. In short, I was uncomfortable they raised the race topic at all. In the world I grew up in, race is just a denomination in a person's IC, or a possible factor for disease predisposition. I never saw a person's race; only how he or she looks, and how a person acts. Or maybe it's just me and my friends. Maybe there's racial tension out there. But within my generation, racial distinction has blurred. That's what I'd like to believe. It saddens me that this issue is discussed at all. Most of all, it surprised me that some of the leaders of the riots we heard on the news, and some of the opposition parties brazenly challenge the Constitution. Some of them are even lawyers, well versed in the national laws and Constitution, which were established even before we gained our independence. The Constitution, the building block of our nation, is what makes Malaysia different, and better than most multi-racial countries. Here are among the highlighted articles: Article 3: Islam as the official religion, and other religions can be practised in peace. Article 10: Freedom of speech and peaceful, weapon-free assembly, of which the Parliament has full right to block and/or ban if it threatens national security and/or public safety. Article 14: Citizenship. Article 152: Bahasa Malaysia (Malay Language) as the official language. Article 153: Special benefits and rights of Malays and indegenous races. Article 181: The prerogatives and benefits of the Kings remain intact and untouched. Click here for an online list of our Constitution (in Malay). I wasn't aware of all these. I have to say, I was never interested to know. After knowing all these, I realized the riots, the demands, and the political discords running rampart are fighting against the sacred Constitution, without which, a country is weak and ripe for the taking by other nations. The Parliament has the right to amend, add or subtract the Constitution, but it is not for discussion outside it. When I saw clippings of people burning our flag, my heart broke. When I saw videos of people throwing chunks of rocks at the police, hitting them with crowbars, and destroying public property, I couldn't help but think: when have we stooped this low? Why can't we petition our woes in peace to our elected representatives, to be discussed and debated in Parliament? Mind, I am not a politician, and I still think our political scene is a cramped monkey cage with two to three Alphas, fighting for dominion. I still think that instead of fighting and defaming each other, the ruling parties should lobby for the people's support by concentrating on each state's development and prosperity. But my eyes are now opened, and opened wide. As a nation, we are way better off than most of our neighbors. Even our military budget is significantly lower than most other countries, being a peaceful country. As a people, we celebrate each other's unique traditions and celebrations. As a young independent country, we are growing exponentially. I went to Kuala Lipis a skeptic. I came home awake. I have not been brainwashed; only made aware. I have also made a lot of new friends, people who mostly work in the same hospital I'm in, but I've never interacted with. This is not a public message. This is just a random blog by an average joe. Patriotic is not a word that would describe me. But a part of me wants to make Malaysia proud if I ever get published. Know your rights. Do not fall victim to other people's devices. Be free.