Legitimate queries from budding rights advocate

A 17-year-old student finds himself in hot water when he raises questions about some matters deemed sensitive.

He has gone through at least two periods of suspensions just before leaving school. His mother, it has been alleged, was almost physically harmed by the school authorities when she turned up to query his suspensions. Are the school authorities the products of the racist Biro Tata Negara (BTN)?

Joe Fernandez, Free Malaysia Today

The various punitive measures instituted by SMK Vivekananda authorities against budding human rights advocate Nicol Paul Miranda, 17, doesn’t quite tally with the promotion of critical and creative thinking skills in our schools. The Education Ministry calls it KBKK or Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kritis dan Kreatif. All the more so when Miranda didn’t cross the lines of reason and decency.

Miranda, who left the school in Brickfields last year after his SPM, has been denied his trial exam results and school leaving certificate. Pending the release of the SPM results, the trial exam results can be used to enter college. Needless to say, one needs the school leaving certificate as well.

He has gone through at least two periods of suspensions just before leaving school. His mother, it has been alleged, was almost physically harmed by the school authorities when she turned up to query his suspensions. Are the school authorities the products of the racist Biro Tata Negara (BTN)?

To add insult to injury, the school has lodged police reports against the student at the Bukit Aman headquarters and at the Brickfields police station.

Surely, these are dangerous precedents which the Education Minister should seriously re-consider or step aside to help de-politicise our politics. If the Education Ministry can be scrapped and replaced by an Education Commission appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, it would be so much the better for our children, youths and the country.

Miranda’s troubles began because he had the temerity to query why we are still celebrating independence when we have not evolved beyond the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) which has had the country in a vice-like grip for the last 54 years. Independence, in the youngster’s view, must mean the freedom to change the government on a regular basis.

Obviously, this has not been happening because the powers that be have been single-mindedly engaged in the destruction of the political opposition for much of the last 54 years. This has been pursued through various ways and means.

Bullying efforts

In the early years of independence, and for many decades after that, the Internal Security Act (ISA) was used to muzzle, terrorise and intimidate the political opposition into submission. Detention under the ISA was a logical follow-up to the constant monitoring and bullying efforts of the Special Branch which has since degenerated, along with the police and other government departments and agencies, into being yet another member of the BN.

Many political parties, for good measure, were deregistered when infiltrating and creating trouble through agent provocateurs didn’t work. The Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) was deregistered after nearly a quarter-century of existence as a breakaway from the Sarawak National Party (SNAP). SNAP was also subsequently deregistered and kicked out of the Sarawak BN but the courts have since given it a new lease of life.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), which claims to represent 20,000 ex-PBDS members, was also nearly deregistered in 2008 but a political decision by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi saved its hide.

Some 100,000 ex-PBDS members have been denied the opportunity to register the Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC). They have since returned to SNAP which is now making waves in the opposition in Sarawak and giving Chief Minister and Putrajaya’s proxy Abdul Taib Mahmud sleepless nights.

The Dayaks, the majority community in Sarawak, have been chopped up among four political parties in the state BN, that is, one Muslim-led, another Chinese-led and two Dayak-led. The Muslims, meanwhile, are all in one political party as is the case with the Chinese. While the Dayaks in the Muslim-based party, Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), add to the strength of the Muslims, the Dayaks are politically weakened to a similar extent. It’s the same scenario confronting the Dayaks in the Chinese-based Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

In Sabah and Sarawak, the perennial question is whether the two states became independent at the same time as Singapore in 1965. The question arises because the definition of Federation in the Federal Constitution post-1965 is according to the 1957 Federation of Malaya and not the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and Federation of Malaysia.

All these provide food for thought and legitimate queries from students like Miranda who are obviously the product of the KBKK programme in our schools.

Miranda has also raised the interesting question of why we should swear by the Rukun Negara (National Philosophy). This sin was also included in the two police reports against him and the suspensions and other punitive measures meted out to him.

Miranda thinks that no one should be forced to swear loyalty to King and country. He has a point here but only if the King and country are not loyal to a citizen. This appears to be the case most of the time. Loyalty is not a one-way process but one that should work both ways. No one should be loyal to anyone who is not loyal to him or her.

Long struggle

Nowadays, many people are not loyal even if you are loyal to them. This is the case with companies suffering, with workers prone to job-hopping. They are wiling to cross the street to another company at the drop of a hat or merely for just a few more measly ringgit in their pockets.

Tenet number one in the Rukun Negara – Belief in God – is a no-no with Miranda, and with good reasons too.

He queries the tenet when the authorities are busy demolishing places of worship and denying people permission to build new places to carry out their obligations to their faith. There need be no argument on this.

One example is the only Catholic Church in Shah Alam which was denied planning and building permission. The authorities relented after a long struggle of over 20 years and this included many court battles. Finally, when permission was granted, construction was halted mid-way and the church was forced to move to another site in the industrial estate. Here, the church has not been allowed to look like a church on the outside but like the other factories in the area. In Russia, the churches look like “mosques” on the outside.