By RK Anand | FTM
Huddled in the driver’s seat of those red and white cars zipping through traffic is a political animal, whose eyes light up when prodded on the happenings in the nation. These are the asphalt soothsayers who predict the fate of politicians and political parties for a fee determined, at least among the more scrupulous ones, by a meter affixed to the dashboard.
In one such episode on a sweltering afternoon, the catalyst being a mangled Proton being towed, a cabbie laments about the deplorable state of Malaysian-made cars and how he is forced to drive a particular make, because that is the rule.
Taking solace in the fact that he is behind the wheel of an antiquated model, powered by a reliable Mitsubishi motor, he sneers that there is nothing “pro” in the locally-designed “Campro” engine fitted in the newer cars.
Instead of stuffing these cars down our throats by imposing exorbitant taxes on foreign models, making the probability of owning one for an average wage earner a distant dream, he suggests that local manufacturers simply make good cars. How difficult can that be? He mused.
He fails to comprehend the logic of repeatedly sounding the alarm over the high number of fatal road accidents when these companies churn out coffins on wheels.
And in the next sentence, he blames the government, as cabbies often do.
Shaking his head in disappointment, he utters these prophetic words: “Something must change. If the government does not want to change, then we must change the government.”
The alleged Christian plot
Predictably, the conversation soon drifts towards the latest controversy and the cabbie turns up the air-conditioning another notch. It is the alleged plot to baptise Malaysia and install a Christian prime minister at its helm. The Buddhist cabbie sees nothing wrong with this.
“Who cares about the PM’s religion? Why are these fellows making so much noise? Nonsense!” he thunders, thumping his right hand on the heat-baked and sweat-stained steering wheel.
Warned that such unbridled subversiveness can land him in trouble, he balks and eases his foot off the accelerator, nearly bringing the car to a halt. “Are you police, special branch?”
When assured that he is communicating with a civilian, he lets out a sigh of relief and continues with his thoughts on the dicey subject, turning one air-conditioning vent in his direction.
He argues that the prime minister’s race and religion are negligible issues, especially in this era when even the US, where unspeakable atrocities had been committed against the blacks once, can now embrace Barack Obama as its leader.
To him, if the prime minister believes in doing the right thing, is not corrupt and helps people of all races, then the latter will be doing the bidding of God, irrespective of his faith or even if he is an atheist.
The cabbie has a point.
Perhaps the time has come for Malaysians to accept the fact that such a fate is possible. Not now, but in the future when values and integrity take precedence over creed and colour. When race-based political parties and the likes of Perkasa and Hindraf are reduced to nothing more than museum artifacts.
On that December day nearly six decades ago in Alabama, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger and became an icon for the civil rights movement, did a single American, regardless of colour, imagine that a “black” (albeit half) will rule the White House?
Like it or not, politics of race is a shrinking commodity in a borderless world, and Malaysia is no exception. Economically, the country is rapidly evolving but politically, it is still trapped in the Jurassic era, with some dinosaurs demanding that the clock stands still at May 13, 1969.
These agent provocateurs warn of bloodletting if the status quo is challenged.
Is it possible that even after 42 years, Malaysians are still prepared to put down their Starbucks coffee, pick up machetes and run amok through the malls, decapitating heads and severing limbs? Or mount horses and camels; and gallop through the city streets to wage a crusade? Or perhaps, they just prefer to make a beeline at the cinemas when the next installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” hits the screens and let the politicians cull each other.
Will politicians themselves want to plunge the nation into the economic dark ages with a civil strife and risk not being invited again to deliver a speech on moderation at prestigious tertiary institutions?
It is these agent provocateurs who are Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Barisan Nasional’s real political threat, not the opposition. It is they who provide the rivals with sledgehammers to punch holes in the 1Malaysia concept. And the longer Najib tolerates them, the greater he risks standing on a pile of rubble.
Some call it freedom of expression. But when one form of expression is curtailed and in some cases handcuffed, while another, despite the dangers it poses, is allowed to spread the entire length and breadth of the nation, it reeks of double standard and ulterior political motives.
“What are the Malays trying to protect?” asks the flustered cabbie, throwing his hands into the air but promptly bringing them down when the car veers off to the right in the direction of a drain. “The alignment is bad, I must fix it soon or my tyres will ‘rosak’ (wear out). Tyres not cheap, boss, everything now is expensive, don’t know what this government is doing.”
Asked to elaborate on his earlier remark, the cabbie’s economic grievance comes to an abrupt end and he leans closer. “The Malays are not stupid, they know what is happening. My Malay friends also tell me the same thing, they also read the Internet. You cannot bullshit to them.”
‘People want peace’
The cabbie explains that while Perkasa’s screams about protecting special rights, a large number of Malays are still struggling to make ends meet in this land which they “lord” over.
“Who are those living in low-cost flats? Who rides motorcycles because they cannot afford cars? These fellows talk as if all the Malays are rich, so they must protect their wealth from people like us. Only a handful are rich, the rest are poor. So where did the money go? Into a few pockets!”
“Sometimes on TV they show Malay families with no money for food. The children cannot even afford to go to school. How can this happen when you are the ‘tuan’ (master) and you have a Malay PM?”
“If you truly care about your race, you will make them more confident. You won’t put them down by telling them that they cannot survive without help. You will make them independent, not dependent.”
The cabbie also believes that Malaysians, especially the Malays, have become more mature and tolerant towards different views and that is why despite some quarters desperately trying to stir up trouble, nothing adverse happens.
“When the churches got firebombed, everyone thought there is going to be a clash but nothing happened. Last time, you pour a little kerosene, there will be a huge fire. Now, you pour litres of kerosene, the fire is small.
“People have changed but the politicians are the same and they are scared because they can no longer use race and religion to create fear to win elections. The younger generation reads the Internet, they know what is happening. People want peace.”
As his face contorts with anger, the cabbie complains that when the government allows certain groups to talk disparagingly of others, this only serves to make the non-Malays feel less patriotic.
Because a country, he says, is like a mother, and it is difficult to love a mother who always favours one child, saying that only that child was conceived in her womb, while the rest are adopted.