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 The British have been replaced by the evil corrupt residing government. The collectively despised Japanese have been replaced by a cocktail of rampant corruption, ever-increasing cost of living and crime.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.