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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Willing Conspirators

Looking around, it seems that so much fear permeates through Malaysian society at so many levels.

The average Malaysian lives in a world defined by fear. Fear that the ‘authorities’ will take action at even a single expression of discontent. Fear that he/she is going to be ‘black-listed’ by employers, by ‘those in power’. Fear that he/she is going to be singled out, vilified.

These fears are largely unsubstantiated and self-serving. The average Malaysian lives in a state of paralysis largely of his/her own contrivance, allowing him/her to not have to do anything.

The question is why? I accept that there are laws that allow the State to control us. But laws are laws and leadership is leadership. The latter uses the former to control only where it is absolutely essential to ensure continuity. The legitimacy of any government is undermined when draconian laws are brought into play because the average person knows that the laws are not being used for any true or legitimate purpose but rather to preserve the status quo. In the Malaysian context, they seem to be applied only where there is a consequence beneficial to the powers that be. And while these laws exist – ISA, OSA, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act – the Administration appears to have applied them only where it believed it could do so without suffering too much of a political consequence.

I believe that the Administration has only acted in these situations when it knew that the rakyat would not react or that such reaction that might occur would be negligible in its effect or could be controlled.

The painful reality is that Malaysians, perhaps too comfortable, have not reacted or have not reacted sufficiently. This might have been out of fear, or apathy, or a lack of sensitivity or even a total lack of concern. The truth is that the resounding silence of Malaysians in the face of unacceptable actions or decisions on the part of the Administration has had little to do with a rational, objectively founded fear. Instead, it has had almost everything to do with vested interest.

It is this state of affairs that has allowed the Administration to believe that Malaysians can be bullied or coerced or duped into submission. In turn, it is these factors that have led to most Malaysians thinking they should not speak out. More crucially, it is these factors that have led to the isolation and marginalizing of those few that do speak out and to the Administration constantly undermining civil society.

The adage that there is strength in numbers cannot be more true where Malaysia is concerned. It is easy to house a few in Kamunting, it is not so easy to house thousands.

Malaysians not speaking out allowed for the victimization of Lim Guan Eng and Irene Fernandez. Malaysians not speaking out have allowed the Malaysian Government, a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to not agree to the request by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to carry out her functions in Malaysia. To carry on violating basic human rights in one form or the other. How else can one justify the decision of the Administration not to ratify the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Economic, Social and Cultural Covenant. Is it because Malaysians accept that they are not legitimately entitled to these rights?

Worse, Malaysians appear to support racial discrimination. Why else has the Administration taken the position that it does not have to ratify the Convention Against Racial Discrimination (CERD)? Does the Malaysian Government believe that Malaysians support discrimination? Can the NEP, in one manifestation or the other, be seen as a Malaysian (as opposed to Malay) policy of racial discrimination? If it is not one or the other, if we truly believe in ‘Bangsa Malaysia’, then should we not be reacting enough to ensure that the Government ratifies CERD and brings it into force at the national level.

We are as much to blame for the pitiful state of affairs that we are in. Malaysians through their silence have encouraged the dismantling of the rule of law and democracy in this nation.

We are to blame. The government is a government of the people. Its decisions are those of the people. Our claims to fear are hollow. Self-censorship is an excuse for inaction. In our silence we have become willing conspirators with those we condemn.



Anonymous said...

Spot on Malek! There are too many self centred Malaysian who thinks only for themselves and for short term only.

Lim Guan Eng, Ezam (for the OSA papers) and so many others. We all suffer in various ways. The best thing to do in a young and developing country is to take care one's own rice bowl. That's the advice I would give my children because I am tired of seeing Malaysian "tidak apa" attitude.

We are constantly living in fear. Employees fear of losing bonus and increment and job are the main reason why Malaysian are so meek when it comes to civil rights. About 15 years ago, I read an article either in FEER or Newsweek (or something like that) about the income disparity among professionals( maybe lawyers) where it says the income disparity between top and low level personnel is so wide than anywhere in the world in South Asia.

In Malaysia itself, we can see so many lawyers fighting for Enviroment, trade unions, freedom of speach, etc ,etc but do see the lawyers or doctors preach for a union and minimum standards for their own employees. Can you imagine a trade union mooted by lawyers for the employees.

As I alwys told my friends if you are nice boss you cannot be successful.

You are a lawyer - do you really believe it is so difficult to shut out an employee? Do you believe Employers fear the courts?

Only when the courts , be it industrial or civl, protect and punish severally those who are in the wrong we can continue seeing the abuses and therefor the silence.

When justice is superficial you rights are too.


Anonymous said...

Your title "Willing Conspirators", presupposes that the public are aware of the "conspiracy".

I think that most Malaysians are conditioned to believe that: "this is the way things are and so don't question it". And being good little boys and girls who are afraid that santa won't bring our gifts to us, we don't. And when, on occasion, we do; we are reminded of the old bogeyman - the 1969 racial riots.

I think most of us are not even aware of the "conspiracy", of the ISA, OSA, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, the Constitution and other important socio political issues affecting our country.

IMHO it is only with informed knowledge, that we can hope to effect change.

In this connection, I think you are doing a socially important duty in creating awareness on the issues facing our country (and especially from a legal perspective). Thank you for sharing your views with us and keep up the good work, Imtiaz.