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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Merdeka Day or BN Day?

By Moaz Nair | Malaysia Chronicle

It seems like Merdeka Day this year is being hijacked by UMNO and Barisan Nasional. Instead of celebrating the day on behalf of all Malaysians, desperate Barisan has made it an occasion to promote itself much to the abhorrence of the people.

Apparently, Merdeka Day is no more a celebration for Malaysians minus politics and emotions like how it was before.

Blame Barisan for this entire glitch, not the Opposition. Politics is getting worse for the country as the desperate regime is trying hard to cling to power, seemingly at all costs. And now they are even willing to exploit the propitious Merdeka Day event to sate their selfish ends.

Is for all Malaysians

The Merdeka theme Barisan has chosen ‘’Janji Ditepati’’ (Promises Fulfilled) – taken from its election campaign theme – has certainly disaffected a large portion of the public from the Merdeka Day celebration this year.

The theme has invited a lot of disparagements and arguments from the ordinary folk. “The Merdeka celebration is for all Malaysians regardless of party affiliation, so why make this opportune occasion their own celebration?” asked a senior bank executive in Kuala Lumpur.

Barisan seems to have a stand that patriotism means supporting the sitting government. To the ordinary people out there patriotism means seeing the country to be a better place for all and sundry, irrespective of which party comes to power.

Despite all the thrashing the government has received for its choice of the “Janji Ditepati” theme, Barisan has defended it much to the distaste of the ordinary people, those apolitical and the Opposition.

They seem to be stuck with their political theme and withdrawing it will put the careworn Barisan in a much awkward position – placing another flip flop patent to their cap.

Frantic UMNO and Barisan are desperately banking on the Merdeka occasion to score some brownie points for the next general election, not realising that the majority of the people out there want the occasion to be apolitical.

An unconcerned attitude

The people are obviously exhibiting an unconcerned attitude for the Merdeka celebrations now all because of UMNO and Barisan. This is conspicuous on the streets, homes and the business sector. The people are without a doubt putting up a silent protest.

Mini Malaysian flags put up for sale in shopping centres are not selling at all. “We stocked these flags about a month ago anticipating the people to buy. Not even one percent has been sold,” complained a sales supervisor at a local supermarket.

The people are protesting by not bothering to parade the flag on their vehicles. Shops and business premises are putting on view the Malaysian flag with much dissent as they are forced to do so.

A sundry shop owner in Kuala Lumpur said, “We love the country, Merdeka is meaningful to us but the way the government is hijacking the event makes us unhappy.” “This has made the days leading to the occasion flavourless,” she added.

Are still at odds

The people in Sabah and Sarawak feel that Merdeka Day celebration is not their special event to cherish. They only became part of Malaysia in 1963 when Malaysia was officially formed on September 16.

“Forcing them to celebrate Merdeka Day is akin to forcing water into the throat of a stubborn horse,” said a 43-year-old Sabahan working in Kuala Lumpur.

Beyond that, the people in these two states are still at odds when it comes to their “loyalty” to the Malaysian concept. Many feel that they have been taken for a ride by political “bullies” from the Peninsula. The majority in these states are still living in poverty when those in power are filthy rich.

In fact the two states are among the poorest in the country and they are not happy with the way they have been treated by their Peninsula “bullies”.

The days leading to the Merdeka day – 31st August 2012 – see no excitement at all throughout the nation. This is a clear sign that the people are not happy with the way Barisan has hijacked the occasion for their political benefits.

Najib is floundering

Barisan leaders realise that their popularity has dwindled and Najib is floundering in his economic policies for the nation. Costs of living have spiralled out of control; over 80 percent of the working class are heavily in debt with banks and financial institutions to survive when education fees, prices of cars and houses are exorbitant.

Their buying power has shrunk despite some having more money in the hand and price increase and inflation have affected the majority poor in the country.

Nigh on the majority of the people are not happy with the sitting government and they are protesting silently. The unexciting days leading to the Merdeka Day celebration are symptom that the people have lost trust in the incumbent government.

People cannot be easily swayed

Government-controlled media complicit with the propaganda arm of Barisan will see to it that the highlights of the Merdeka Day event portray the occasion as Barisan’s fort and splendour. But the people cannot be easily swayed by this warped motive.

“Merdeka is for all Malaysians and should not be hijacked by any political party,” said a 76-year-old pensioner in Kuala Lumpur. “It should not be used to promote any political party,” he added.

“I see the rich getting richer and the poor like me are getting poorer,” quipped a retired teacher. “There is no point in getting excited for the Merdeka when I live poor,” he added.

His mournful dirge is shared by many others. “Merdeka to us means to be able to live an affordable life, but this is not the case now,” said an unemployed man in his 50’s living in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

When asked why the people are generally not that thrilled to welcome this year’s Merdeka Day, the response from another senior citizen was: “We are more concerned about the costs of living more than anything else. Prices of almost every food item have gone up. We just cannot get by.”

Not happy about this

Barisan is conspicuously making use of this year’s Merdeka celebration to promote their political agenda when the 13th general election is just around the corner and the people are obviously not too happy about this.

They are blaming UMNO and Barisan for this gaffe. “It is not that we are not patriotic. We love the country but we hate the way the sitting government is adamantly possessive of the event,” quipped a university student in a local university.

The people are now cagey that desperate UMNO and Barisan have decided to use this propitious occasion to sell their “political stock’” more than instil the spirit of patriotism among all Malaysians.

The people are wide-awake that despite all the various transformation initiatives which have been trolled and styled with pompous terms and acronyms by the prime minister – Najib Razak – there is still a clear absence of fundamental organisational reforms that are necessary to stimulate and generate the economy.

The country is in heavy debts and the economic productivity is low.

The educated urbanites see the lack of prudence, accountability, transparency and fairness in the government’s awarding of huge projects to associates – almost all which are allegedly given out based on negotiated tenders to cronies and those closely allied to those in power.

Some feedback from citizens

Even the ordinary citizens are in the know that the government has not been judicious in managing the nation’s resources. Money and resources have allegedly been wasted on lavish and unproductive projects given to cronies only to be subsequently bailed out.

It’s all money and money given on the platter to those who are devoid of know-how or expertise in handling major projects. It’s worth contemplating some feedback from concerned citizens on what they understand about the present situation in the country on the days leading to this year’s Merdeka celebration:

“Undependable is the apt word to use for the sitting government. The NFCorp (National Feedlot Corporation) scandal involving RM250 million is one of many testimonies to this. Money lost is seldom recovered and bailouts are usually the mode used to save incompetent crony companies,” observed an economic lecturer in a local university.

“They see injudicious and foggy deals being done to enrich the rich and the cronies and this has caused a wider gulf between the rich and poor,” said another colleague of his.

“The media is toying with religious and racial issues to create ethnic rifts and raise feelings of hatred among people to woo support from the majority race for the ruling coalition – the usual political subterfuge used by UMNO to divide and rule,” said a senior lecturer in a local university, alluding to the government-controlled newspapers and the television.

“Religion is impiously used to divide the people. When we talk about Merdeka the spirit of racial and religious harmony is of utmost importance. Religion is too sensitive a matter to be used by irresponsible politicians to cause social clefts in the society,” jibed a senior former UMNO lawmaker.

“UMNO politics has damaged race relations in the country. This wasn’t the vision of our late Father of Independence. When the nation achieved independence it was based on a harmonious and tolerant indulgence involving all the races,” snapped a local university student majoring in history.

A political “ceasefire”

The Merdeka month this year coincides with the Muslim Hari Raya that fell on August 17. Hence most politicians are taking this opportunity to fete the people. Some politicians, however, have erroneously taken the open-house slap-up meal – common in the country during major festivals – to be the touchstone in gauging their popularity.

This is an illusory way to perceive the people’s true stand on party adherence.

Malaysians by nature love food and when free food is served it will draw people in droves, especially when prices of food these days have soared beyond control. What is more, the open-house fĂȘte will see guests amassing irrespective of their political affiliation.

This is when politicians and supporters from both the divide observe a political “ceasefire”.

But looking at the bigger picture, the streets see no excitement this time around. Rarely do they see the Malaysian flag affixed on cars to welcome the Merdeka Day like what it used to be before 1981.

Houses, shop lots and business entities do not seem to be interested in putting up the Malaysian flags voluntarily. In some states they are forced to hang the Malaysian flag by the town council.

School children, teachers and government servants are not showing much fervour to welcome the auspicious day. All the excitement seems to have vaporised into thin air.

A subtle tone of gripe

Nevertheless, this year’s Merdeka Day countdown on the eve of August 31 will see thousands thronging the Dataran Merdeka. They are patriotic citizens of the country.

The Square will also see a wave of people clad in orange T-shirts showing their loyalty and undivided love for the country.

The event will not be specked with political tinges but there will be a subtle tone of gripe at the sitting government that Merdeka Day cannot be the monopoly of any political party. And also a subtle hint to the government that it’s the people’s desire to see a “clean” and democratic government.

They will turn up to marshal the theme “Janji Demokrasi” (Promise Democracy) as opposed to Barisan’s “Janji Ditepati”.

“Janji Ditepati” is a party slogan so is 1Malaysia. For this reason the Opposition has decided to come up with a much more accepted theme – “Sebangsa, Senegara, Sejiwa” (One Nationality, One Country, One Soul). As expected, and to the disappointed of Barisan, Pakatan’s theme has become more popular than that of Barisan’s.

The four enlightened states under Pakatan will celebrate Merdeka Day using their theme.

Down-to-earth hopes for the country

Be that as it may, the ordinary people do have some down-to-earth hopes that are close to their hearts for the country after 55 years of Independence. They long for a government that is free from corruption.

They generally feel that money drained out through corruption, abuses and leakages have put the country in a bad state since 1981 – the year Mahathir Mohamad took over as prime minister.

They sense that money allegedly squandered by dodgy politicians and their accomplices under Barisan rule should stop. They expect a more prudent and responsible government that can ensure a better life for the people.

They yearn for the country to be governed democratically with free and fair elections.

They envisage a country that is governed by the rule of law where there is no selective and politically motivated prosecution of the people just because they happen to be on wrong side of the political divide.

They seek electoral reform, a functional education policy and fair economic policies that will make all Malaysians feel proud to be called Malaysians.

We wish Malaysia a meaningful 55th Merdeka Day.

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