By Mariam Mokhtar | FMT
Patriotism has now become a dirty word and ever since Umno Baru was spawned, we live in a tribal culture, where loyalty to the party is the only thing that matters.
If the slow and lingering death of multi-cultural and multi-faith Malaysia could be attributed to one man and one party, that person has to be former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the monstrous party he created, Umno Baru.
There is an assault on non-Muslims, moderate Muslims and true Sunni Muslims who do not subscribe to the Umno Baru heretical type of Islam.
Today, we reap what Mahathir has sown, and at least two generations of Malaysians have been betrayed by Umno Baru. The hostile environment we have inherited started four decades ago, when the few who dared oppose Mahathir, were unsuccessful in their efforts to unseat him.
After a brief stint as a political outcast, in the early seventies, Mahathir was reintroduced into the original Umno party and that was the beginning of Malaysia’s decline. We lost our culture, our identity and our self-respect.
When he became a Cabinet minister, Mahathir knew he had to purge his enemies within government. He systematically ripped apart the system of governance, such as our judiciary and all the other symbols of a democracy.
Today, Malaysia might as well call itself a dictatorship, and forget its democratic pretensions.
With Mahathir’s influence, the traditional Malaysian values, which our parents and grandparents were once proud of, gave way to solely Malay interests. The irony is that few Malays wanted to be associated with him.
Mahathir, who resigned 10 years ago, may be retired; but only in name. Today, his influence is as strong as ever and the power he wields is more devastating than if he were still in office; He cannot be made accountable for his actions.
He can correctly claim that what he says is not official doctrine. His remarks are seized upon by the press. His act of treachery in Project IC has gone unpunished. He is a president for life.
Today, one man has the power to stop the rot – he is the Umno Baru president Najib Tun Razak. Is he up to the task? Will he act quickly? Malaysia does not have the luxury of time.
Anger and frustration
The generations whom Umno Baru betrayed will never know the benefits and joy of living in a competitive world, where meritocracy was more important than connections and where education was not dumbed down, simply to produce armies of mediocre graduates rather like the mass production of cans of carbonated drinks on a production line.
Various Malaysians had the following to say about being Malaysian.
“Why should the Negaraku be played for seven days before Merdeka? Why not do as in the past, when we used to play it before every movie and the audience would stand to attention in a brightly lit hall?”
“I am angry because I am second class and treated as such. Maybe even fourth class if you put Umnoputeras on top, then Muslim bumiputeras, followed by non-Muslim bumiputeras.”
“My parents could not pay for my education at a local university. When they approached one of the political parties for funding, they were asked by an official, “What is in it for me?” With nothing to give, we were rejected. You could say that my education was funded by the pawnshop when mother and grandmother took their wedding jewellery in.”
“We fly the flag not because of patriotism. We want to avoid our business licence being revoked.”
“My wife, whom I met at university, is a qualified engineer but has difficulty getting permanent residence. For decades, the usual response for her application is “still under consideration.” Our Indonesian maid, who has only been here for two years, already has an identity card.”
“Poor uneducated Indians and Chinese are shouted at in government offices. I know this is the result of the BTN courses. The unspoken rule is non-bumis and non-Muslims last. I am fed up, and will probably retire early from the civil-service.”
“I have always dreamed of joining the armed forces or the police. I think it is sad, that there is a cap on my career just because I am not of the chosen race. To add insult to injury, some minister said that non-Malays lack patriotism.”
“I live abroad because if I were to stay in Malaysia, I will be persecuted for my sexual orientation. I will always remain a Muslim. God will never reject me, but my countrymen have.”
“Being a Malaysian means being true to yourself as a human being, learning to cope with the excesses of others and doing your part in harmonious co-existence. It is the little things that matter, like helping the makcik who lives next-door, with her weekly shopping, or helping the widower across the road to mow his lawn.”
“Three words describe my being a Malaysian: Anger and frustration. I am angry that I am considered a ‘pendatang’, even though both my great-grandparents were born here. I am frustrated, that 56 years of independence is not enough to be rid of a corrupt, incompetent and racist government. Despite all that, I choose to remain a Malaysian. Malaya and Ipoh course through my veins…Tanah tumpahnya darah-ku. Tears still well up in my eyes when the national anthem is played.”
Yet another public holiday
Tomorrow, when we fight for the best places by the roadside to watch the bands and military hardware being paraded in the Merdeka march, how many of us will remember the veterans who fought for independence?
Who will recall the sacrifice of the various individuals, the nationalists, the communists, the socialists and others who contributed towards Merdeka?
The irony is that Merdeka day is reduced to another public holiday when most Malaysians only look forward to the fireworks display. All it needs is someone to light the fuse to destroy our fragile community spirit.
If Najib does not contain the racial and religious extremists within his party, the country will have no end of recurring nightmares rather than the endless possibilities he imagined. We will be on the road to perdition.
Najib could save the country by silencing the evil Mahathir, before we are all doomed. He just has to stand up to, and ignore the hold that Mahathir allegedly has over him.
If he does this, the rakyat will be so happy that they will overlook the crimes that Mahathir is allegedly using to blackmail him.