By Dean Johns | Malaysiakini
In the wake of the death of the man who led South Africa to freedom from apartheid, many here have wondered whether there will ever be a Mandela-style leader to liberate Malaysia from the curse of Barisan Nasional.
Of course this robber-regime has already made a brazen bid to steal the spirit of Mandela for itself, with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak ludicrously claiming that his Umno party’s ‘struggle’ is similar to that of South Africa’s ANC.
A claim that was neatly rebutted by US President Barack Obama in his speech in celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela, in which his statement that “there are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people” was clearly directed at the Najibs of the world.
In any event, there was never much of a struggle to free Malaysia from colonial rule, except by socialists, trade unionists and communists.
And the Alliance that finally achieved Merdeka under the benevolent and broad-minded leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman all too soon degenerated into the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional that has ever since so disgracefully re-colonised the nation for its own and its cronies’ benefit.
So that just as Mandela’s dream of a resurgent South Africa has degenerated into the current reality of a sink-hole of gross inequality, rampant crime and corruption under the unlovely Jacob Zuma, so has Tunku Abdul Rahman’s idea and ideal of Malaysia descended into today’s Najib-style nightmare.
Vastly aided and accelerated in this descent by 22 years under the prime-ministership of Mahathir Mohamad, a cynical, self-serving autocrat who modelled himself not on South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, but on his old pal Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, in his efforts to turn Malaysia into some kind of personal Zimbabi.
And he claimed to be doing it all, as his successors have similarly pretended, in ‘defence’ of the Malays and Islam. When in fact as any intelligent person, Malay, Muslim or otherwise, very well knows, the BN regime would be an absolute disgrace to any race or religion.
BN has also by implication insulted Malays by falsely patronising them as backward, ignorant and ineffectual, and, considering they compose the majority of the nation’s citizens systematically robbed them even more unmercifully than Malaysians of other races.
Stealing so many countless billions of ringgit that should otherwise be spent on health, education, public infrastructure and social services that Malaysia has for years led the world in illicit capital outflow per capita.
And otherwise misappropriating such a fortune in public funds for such purposes as buying votes, funding regime-propagandist media and supporting regime ministers, members and cronies in their preposterously profligate lifestyles that the country can no longer afford even the pretence of properly caring for the people.
Attempts to keep up the pretence
Though of course the regime makes strenuous attempts to keep up the pretence, as with Prime Minister Najib’s laughable claim that removal of the subsidy on sugar sold by BN monopolists is an anti-diabetes initiative, and increases in electricity tariffs are necessary for the continuing profitability of filthy-rich crony power companies.
However, none of Najib’s endless flow of frauds or falsehoods are as low as his attempt during the recent Umno general assembly to pass off BN’s 52 to 47 loss of the national vote as ‘proof’ that Umno is the “bravest and most popular party in Malaysia”.
Everybody is patently aware that this alleged popularity was achieved through blatant voter bribery and every other conceivable kind of electoral corruption and fraud.
And as for the claim of bravery, just how brave does a party have to be to fight elections, in blatant breach of the democratic principle of the fundamental democratic principle of the separation of powers, with the entire might of the police, judiciary, civil services, election commission and mainstream media on its side?
With such overwhelmingly superior forces ranged against the rakyat, Malay and non-Malay alike, and with the whole corrupt and criminal system illegally funded with public money, it’s no wonder so many Malaysians have taken to hoping and praying for a Mandela-style saviour.
But what’s the point of waiting for the kind of charismatic leader who arises as rarely as a Nelson Mandela? In any case, as I’m sure the great man himself in his legendary humility would have been the first to concede he was just the foremost among many.
Hundreds if not thousands of black, coloured and even white South Africans suffered, and a great many died for the anti-apartheid cause. In fact one of the common ways in which the white regime’s jailers killed anti-apartheid activists in their custody was by what they called “defenestration”: throwing them out through high windows.
A practice later allegedly adopted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in several cases, most notoriously that of the young DAP “witness”, Teoh Beng Hock, whose ‘fall’ from a 14th-floor window of the MACC building was subsequently deemed by the BN regime as “neither murder nor suicide”, and whose interrogators have never been charged with his killing.
But back to the point I’m ineptly endeavouring to make, which is that it takes more than one man or woman, even one as gifted and courageous as Nelson Mandela, to overthrow a corrupt, criminal, racist and repressive government.
And it’s clearly evident that Malaysia is blessed with countless such honest, upstanding, tolerant, truth-loving people. From many if not most of the leadership of opposition parties PAS, PKR and the DAP through unprecedented numbers of activists in opposition NGOs to countless individuals who blog, write, cartoon and otherwise fearlessly express the Malaysian Mandela spirit.
I mention no names for fear of missing some out, and in any case there’s not space here to list even a small fraction of them. But I will take a line or two to pay particular personal tribute to the Malaysian family in which I am proud to have married.
A family currently headed by my 90-year-old Chinese father-in-law and much younger Malay mother-in law, and so dedicated to the concept of racial equality as to welcome not just me, an Australian, but other members from afar afield as Botswana and Germany.
But of course Malaysians and their families don’t have to intermarry with other races to demonstrate their enlightened, egalitarian natures.
All they and the individuals of which they are composed have to do is proselytise, protest and above all vote at every opportunity in the spirit of Mandela and out of love for an honest, clean, inclusive and thus, by definition, BN-free Malaysia.
As a majority did in GE13, and as I’m willing to bet almost anything you like overwhelming numbers will do come the increasingly eagerly-awaited GE14.
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.