Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arrogance breeds contempt

I was going to go about my day as usual today. I wanted to carry out my usual weekend errands. I had some work to get done and wanted to just soak the Saturday in like most normal folk. I wanted to have a normal Saturday filled with as little activity as possible. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.

I was going about my day as I had planned it. Like normal dudes, I needed to take my car out to run my errands. I ran into traffic jams and unusual congestion along most roads near the Kuala Lumpur vicinity. I got into twitter and realised that the morons we have for a government had closed all roads leading into the city. Meaning they had shut down Kuala Lumpur. Meaning they had learnt nothing from the two previous editions of Bersih. They had still not learnt that people have a constitutional right to voice their opinions. How daft do you have to be to repeat the same mistake thrice?

As I had lunch, I was feeling very uneasy. I decided then that I’m definitely going for Bersih in downtown Kuala Lumpur. While others had decided weeks ago or at the very latest the day before, I decided that I was going one hour before the official march time. I hopped onto the LRT at 1pm and got into Kuala Lumpur without too many problems. Once in there I marched in camaraderie with my fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters. I went because I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t, knowing how the government was reacting to the thought of people expressively voicing their opinions.

To be completely honest, I have been caught up in some heated debates with fellow Malaysians of late with regards to some of the promises the Opposition is making to the youths of this nation. I was starting to find the Opposition somewhat irresponsible in leading our youth. I had become a little disillusioned by the ‘everything they do is wrong’ rhetoric from the Opposition. I had grown increasingly frustrated at their lack of willingness to hold open dialogue with the government on national issues. They instead chose to walk out on more than one occasion. How on earth was that serving the people, I wondered. I was genuinely concerned that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat were involved in ugly political warfare with the ‘rakyat’ stuck in the middle and bound to end up on the losing end. However now, like most Malaysians on the streets of Kuala Lumpur today, I feel that the Opposition is conclusively the lesser of two evils for our nation.

They closed all roads into the city, they inspected vehicles heading anywhere into the direction of Kuala Lumpur, the locked down the very square where independence gave birth to this nation and they downright displayed the arrogance of the people in power. Whether it was arrogance, concern for the safety of Malaysians or downright naivety, I was royally pissed. When I got up this morning I wasn’t going to Bersih, immaterial of the backlash from friends and family who are a part of this newfound ‘anti-establishment movement’. The actions of those in power to deter, strike fear and intimidate people from going to the heart of the city to peacefully voice their opinions, meant they unleashed someone who was beginning to sympathise with the government.

What I witnessed today in my march with thousands of Malaysians is what I’ve believed for a long time, that this country is made of real people who actually love this nation. If our dear Prime Minister wanted to portray the 1Malaysia spirit he so expensively has assembled, he should have joined the thousands of Malaysians in their march for clean and fair elections. What I saw and experienced on the streets of Kuala Lumpur today was the true spirit of 1Malaysia. It didn’t take expensive TV commercials or brand strategists or even pimped-up traditional costumes, it took a cause that’s close to the hearts of all Malaysians. People danced, held hands and sang together irrespective of race, religion or t-shirt colour. This is the Malaysia I’ve always believed to be home.

Upon reading my tweets that Datuk Ambiga has asked for protestors to disperse and seeing small crowds start to disperse, I too made my way home. I was going home with my heart full of hope and my time with complete strangers being a very positive experience. There were flowers blooming in the garden, butterflies in the sky and love all around. That was the utopian feeling I had as I was on the train back home.

To my shock when I got home and read my tweets, I read of violence breaking out and the police cracking down on protestors. It was absolutely irresponsible of the police to not expect protestors to create a ruckus and actually react with force to the ruckus. Our police have been schooled in an environment where they are in complete control and violence and fear seem to be their tools of choice. It was downright pathetic that they chose to impose themselves on the protestors. For people who are responsible for maintaining civil obedience in this country, they appear glaringly ill equipped to deal with a minority of troublemakers. The pictures of tear-gassing and water cannons have conclusively proven that the police have lost the plot. It has also given the international newsmen to again paint a silly picture that will probably deter foreign investors from considering us a ‘safe nation’.

However, to be fair, if the organisers of Bersih 3.0 had not anticipated any form of violence or disobedience from the crowds, that too with a larger scale demonstration so close to the 'everybody-knows-when' elections, then they are naive at the very best. To organise something so big with so much emotion and passion entwined, you as the organiser must also anticipate and plan for the worst. I'm not saying that blame and shame must befall the organisers of Bersih 3.0, I am saying that they should be held accountable for what happened along with the police. Let me put it in perspective, if this had happened with Barisan Nasional organising such a rally, the fallout would have been monumental. It would have lost them the elections outright. It will not have that effect on Pakatan Rakyat because we, the rakyat on the streets, afford them the benefit of doubt. What I'm saying is that the organisers too have to do some soul-searching in the aftermath of this chaos.

If this was sex, then our police force is the grand master in ‘premature ejaculation’. Their responsibility should have been the peaceful dispersement of protestors irrespective of the circumstances. They should stand head and shoulders above ordinary citizens when it comes to managing civil obedience. Did the Malaysian Police do their job, yes they did. Could they have handled it better in hindsight? Hindsight was not at all required today, common sense was. To the people within the corridors of power, welcome to a bleak re-election future littered with paralysing defeats to key people. I wasn’t angry before today. I wasn’t even that angry when I left the Bersih rally. But now, I’m livid. So, thank you my dear government.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stand up Malaysia. Build for Tomorrow.

It has been fifty-five years since Malaysia became an independent nation. Yet some of us are still fighting for our independence today. The British have been replaced by the evil corrupt residing government. The collectively despised Japanese have been replaced by a cocktail of rampant corruption, ever-increasing cost of living and crime. Hope of change, as is evident from on-ground sentiments, has manifested itself in the form of an opposition strong enough to topple the government. A rousing finale is on the cards then.

On 19th April 2012, I read that in the wee hours of the morning a bunch of ‘gangsters’ threw a hissy fit aimed towards the Occupy Dataran movement that was camped out in Dataran Merdeka. I had no idea what the whole Occupy Dataran premise was about in the first place, but the cowardly act of a bunch of imbeciles got my attention. Thus I started researching on what exactly these guys were about and why the ‘hissy fit skirts’ were so upset with them. Apparently the Occupy Dataran movement is a ‘copy and paste’ of Occupy Wall Street. I completely understand what Occupy Wall Street is trying to do. However, I found nowhere online an honest-to-goodness answer as to exactly why these guys were there in Dataran Merdeka. So I decided that I’ll make my way there and spend the night with the Occupy Dataran dwellers to understand what was going on.

I honestly think that the so-called gangsters who went out there to roughhouse a bunch of college students to be the type of terminal cancer that infects this nation. Their intelligence probably takes a beating when in conversation with an uneducated 5-year-old. The people behind them, in whichever high place they sit, should be ashamed of themselves and have conclusively proven that a whole rank of laughable dim-wits are our policy makers. Irrespective of the argument at hand, we cannot tolerate fools arrogant enough to believe that even in this day and age, they can strike fear into the youths of this nation by bullying them.

It was especially disheartening and downright disgraceful that the police, who were present during the commotion, chose to watch the ensuing melee rather than interfere. We had ministers coming out the next day giving statements to the effect of this is exactly why we shouldn’t have people sitting in a public area in silent protest. The police, who exist to serve and protect, proved yet again that they are merely headless chickens who are pawns for those within the corridors of power. Our police and ministers seem to want to ‘teach you a lesson’ if you don’t adhere to their will, in full view of the country. Have we as a nation seriously lost our marbles? Apparently it’s not only those who sit within the corridors of power who are a disgrace to this nation, it’s also those who reside in it.

Back to my learning curve on 19th April 2012. So I participated in this whole Occupy Dataran thing and sat there while talking to a whole host of people and listened to what they had to say. They also had one of those ‘let’s find out your opinion’ type of sessions and everyone, irrespective of who you are, was allowed to voice their opinion. The beauty of the entire process was that people actually listened when you talked. The crux of the topics on that particular day was PTPTN and Free Education. Everybody across all ages had something to say and spoke about his or her own personal experiences. It was very interesting to hear what the citizens of this country really think.

At the same time, I also eerily witnessed that our young are being led down the same dark tunnel of 'election promises' that put us in the doldrums in the first place. Here sat the young fighting for the abolishment of PTPTN and demanding free education. It’s funny how all the public acts of discord strike an eerie chord with Pakatan Rakyat’s political sentiments. One can argue that Pakatan Rakyat represent the people’s sentiments. However, one can also argue that the people in this country are being taken for a ride, only this time it’s a different donkey.

I strongly believe that we, the people of this country, should fight for our rights and enshrine those rights. Of paramount importance to this nation is that we become an economically sustainable nation with no possibility of having the carpet swept from under our feet ala Greece. This requires us to look in the mirror and decide if we want to build for the future or win the next General Elections. Do we really care for our future generations and the welfare of our children? Are we willing to make personal sacrifices to make this country a better place to live in? What we all seem to be telling ourselves is that this country isn’t working out for me, so let’s move overseas. How long will this strategy work?

As I sat there in Dataran Merdeka that day listening to all what the various individuals had to say, I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. If those people that day are the future of this country, then we are doomed to fail as a nation. Nobody actually really cares about this country’s economy; all they were interested in is themselves. The world is in financial turmoil and here we are demanding that the country abolish its student loan scheme and provide free education that will saddle our nation with more debt. More so use the already stretched oil money to fund their demands now. Let the one guy who's making money for the country pay for our whims and fancies. I’m not saying that the request is wrong, I’m just stressing that the timing is horrible in relation to world economics. However, these requests are immaculately timed for our upcoming General Elections. It’s almost as if someone had sat themselves down and strategically planned all this out to run like clockwork just before people go to cast their votes.

I completely agree that the PTPTN has some indefensible weaknesses and is strewn with horribly pathetic implementation mechanics. I also agree that saddling borrowers with ‘invisible’ bank-type hidden costs and interest-triggers into loans, that are to help the youth achieve tertiary education, to disgracefully lamentable. What I do think is that PTPTN started as a noble initiative that has gone awry due to political meddling. I don’t understand why the government insists on PTPTN being the sole distributor of loans for study. It all seems like somebody wants to control the system for their own benefit. What we should do is free the banks, from whom PTPTN borrows the money anyway, to sanction loans directly to the students who need them. This does away with wealthy children from abusing the PTPTN system and ensures only those who deserve loans, acquire them. This will also stop the meddling politicians from making a mockery of a system designed to help propel the nation forward.

I do, however, take contention to the call to completely abolish PTPTN, as this would free up PTPTN debtors and further advocate social irresponsibility in our youth. I feel that the interest rates should be lowered and monthly repayments reengineered to reflect the economic standing of the borrower. We must not saddle the young with too much debt as they are just starting out in life. See, we already have fresh graduates who come out and demand to get high starting salaries. Maybe these fresh graduates are living in a bubble where everything is handed to them on a silver platter. Whatever happened to ‘working your way up’? And here is the Opposition, who are obviously on the election campaign, seeking for the abolishment of a system that is already setup and running for 15 years. Why are we allowing the irresponsibility of political puppet masters to tell us that it is okay to instil a sense of irresponsibility in our youth. ‘You borrow, you pay’ is a simple life lesson. If life after studies is tough, then knuckle down and work your socks off. Don’t buy that iPhone and take the public transport to work and don’t take a vacation for years. Don’t get married and have 12 kids. Why on earth are we allowing the culture of complacency and soft-foundation idealism to continue festering in the minds of a nation that is already struggling to compete globally? What type of future does the ‘hope for change’ Opposition provide when it doesn’t take into account that this country needs a reboot, not more candy floss for a nation of diabetic patients.

I completely support the call for Free Education in this country. But, I’m terribly disappointed that the Opposition decided to go and make it an election promise. This beggars on the ‘same-old’ from the very people we hoped to see take more responsible measures of running this country. The model of free education requires time to strategize, build and implement. Can we please, for god’s sakes, get out of this mentality where we promise today and deliver tomorrow. The biggest social idea implementations should take years and must involve the public. Why involve the public in something that is going to benefit them? Because free education is a cost to this country and that means the taxpayers will have to fork out more money. Are the citizens of this country ready to fork out more money? Look at Greece as an economic example of too little too late. No matter who comes to power in that country, the citizens are going to be upset and will end up paying double taxes in an economy with record unemployment. If we are going to demand something from the people who are promising to turn this country around, ask them for a blueprint. Let's study this blueprint and voice our concerns. Ask them to show us a their plan to ensure that there's a drastic reduction in corruption and increase in transparency.

I don't buy the whole us against the world rhetoric. Hence why I dont fight the corners of only one side, be it Barisan National or Pakatan Rakyat. I believe we, the people, must believe in change and fight for what's right for the country, irrespective of who's in power. We must embody the change we want. We must instil a culture of hard work, dedication and social responsibility in our nation. We must move away from a culture of hand-outs and bailouts, and move on to long-term implementation strategies. What the PTPTN debtors of this country are asking today is much akin to the banks in America pleading for bailouts from their government. This country will not progress if we live in a little bubble where we hope a superhero will come and save us. We must help ourselves to save ourselves. I ask that the Opposition promise us less corruption and a drastically better quality of education for the children of our nation. Let us instil in our young that irrespective of who you are, you can grow up to run this country. When you give the children of this country that kind of hope, you give this country a real fighting chance.