Taking a stand — P. Ramakrishnan

Two years ago, I remember telling the folks who turned up at our Aliran celebratory dinner that we should deny the Barisan Nasional its customary two-thirds’ majority in Parliament. That majority was denied them in the last election. If only I had known that they would take my suggestion so seriously, I would have said, “Change the government”. We would have put a stop to the rot.

By P. Ramakrishnan (President, Aliran)

Our theme this year is “The struggle must continue — change will come”. Indeed the struggle must continue. There should be no let up. Struggle we must — if we want change. There is no option if we desire change.

But there are people who want change without the struggle. They fear that there may be upheavals when we fight for change. They want the good things to happen without stirring up the pond. “Don’t muddy the waters, don’t ruffle the feathers. Let things be as they are. Change will come”. That’s what they say.

But we cannot take any more chances. We cannot tolerate another 50 years of this rotten deal that we have been subjected to. During the last 30 years, the nation was almost bankrupted by reckless extravagance; the squandering of our wealth has continued unabated in spite of the Auditor-General’s report exposing unbelievable corruption and abuse of public money year in and year out; our fundamental rights are in danger of being whittled away very soon. Justice is no longer the last bastion for a remedy.

That’s why, the struggle must continue — change will come. But change will never come without a struggle. Let’s remember that.

Frederick Douglas, one of the greatest black activists of the 19th century who presented a strong case for constant agitation against all forms of oppression, said it simply and logically: “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

It is a fact that the whole history in the progress of human liberty shows that whatever has been achieved is the result of struggle. Nothing comes free. It is as simple as that! And there are many issues that demand that the struggle must continue. Only then will change come.

There are too many restrictions that are unfair; there are many selective prosecutions that are blatant; there are many actions against dissidents that defy the rule of law. This is why the struggle must continue. Change will come.

If you cannot march for freedom, if you can’t light a candle for justice, if you can’t wear black attire to protest the death of democracy, if you can’t fast for a cause, if you can’t do yoga for your well-being, then the struggle must continue — change will come.

As long as our courts don’t deliver justice based on the merits of the case but continue to make a mockery of the judicial system as had happened in numerous cases, the struggle must continue. Change will come.

We wonder how the Court of Appeal could deny a person the counsel of his choice as had happened to Sivakumar, the Speaker of the Perak State Assembly. It is such an elementary thing; it is a simple question of natural justice. How could the learned judge ignore this simple principle?

How could the Federal Court dismiss the appeal of the residents of Kampung Buah Pala on technical grounds when there are substantive triable issues that should have been addressed and determined?

How could the Federal Court ignore the constitutional provision regarding the separation of powers guaranteed in the Federal Constitution in the Perak crisis? And yet the High Court upholds this provision as a matter of fundamental principle in Gobind Singh’s case!

Two contradictory judgments by learned judges that defy logic and bewilder simple folks like us! There have been occasions — and they still exist — when you can predict the judgments when the panel of judges is announced!

Likewise, when the royal commission that was set up to investigate the judge-fixing scandal involving V.K. Lingam found indisputable evidence against Lingam and recommended that action be taken against him and others implicated in this sordid affair, the police and the Attorney-General surprisingly found no evidence to prosecute them! Those shockingly implicated were top people in the judicial hierarchy. All these tainted characters were cleared in spite of what the commission had established after a thorough investigation.

This is why the struggle for truth and justice must continue if we want change to come. As long as information is denied and surreptitiously hidden from the public domain so that corrupt practices will never be known or exposed, the struggle must continue.

As long as the ISA is used and abused and Malaysians are locked away without being charged in a court of law, denying them the opportunity to defend themselves, the struggle must continue.

As long as foul means are resorted to in toppling a legally elected government as had happened in Perak, thus undermining the rule of law, frustrating the will of the people, demeaning democracy and ignoring the fourth principle of the Rukunegara which upholds “good behaviour and morality”, the struggle must continue.

As long as unscrupulous politicians exploit race and religion to agitate and inflame passions and emotions for their private gain and keep us divided as a people and as a nation through various discriminatory practices, the struggle must continue.

As long as the Election Commission does not conduct free and fair elections, providing equal opportunity in radio and TV time and insisting that news coverage should be without bias, the struggle must continue.

As long as selective prosecution takes place, putting the opposition at grave risk and danger as is the case on numerous occasions involving BN opponents, the struggle must continue.

As long as those elected by the people — be they BN or Pakatan representatives — as long as they do not live up to their public pledges and betray the trust of the people and do not pay homage to truth and justice, the struggle must continue.

The struggle must continue for change to come — and it will — but only if we persist.

For that change to take place successfully, it would take all of us and the rest of those who are the silent majority to make a stand. All those well-meaning Malaysians from the whole spectrum of society must decide that they can and will change the course of our history and determine the future of this country, where all of us can live in peace and harmony — before the articulate and aggressive minority make a mess of this country for all of us.

It is time we realised that there are those who lost their freedom, there are those who gave their lives so that we can be where we are today because of their sacrifices.

In a situation as we are in now, there is no room for neutrality. In matters of right and wrong, you cannot choose to be neutral. We must take a stand. We must be on the side of truth and justice at all times so that we can have the future we want. We must stand up and speak up.

The struggle must continue. Change will come.

This is a slightly abridged version of a speech made by Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan during an Aliran celebratory dinner on Oct 24 2009 at the Moral Uplifting Hall in Penang.