What exactly in present day is the definition of freedom and why is it of paramount importance that the Malaysian youths of today recognise, realize, advocate and preserve its intrinsic value? 

By Vivek V. Velan

Mark Twain once proclaimed that “it is by the goodness of God that in our country we have these three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.”

Growing up in a suburban city, it never occurred to me as to how much of an impact a word could carry. One only has to ‘Google’ the word freedom and will find that such has been made about the literal meaning of this word. In today’s modern climate however, the word freedom is often spoken if only in the context of debates and laws which precedes our societal standards and as such very few in the present day actually understands or appreciates the underlying significance and meaning of which this one word holds.

The question then that begs to be answered is what exactly in present day is the definition of freedom and why is it of paramount importance that the Malaysian youths of today recognise, realize, advocate and preserve its intrinsic value.

From the early days of slavery rebellion of the ancient Romans to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, men have always stood steadfast in their fight against oppression. The term liberty has often more so than not contributed to raging wars, countries dividing and countless lives to be lost. Closer to home, the independence that we enjoy today comes at the expense of our forefathers who gave up everything to liberate our beloved country from the shackles of the British Empire. Fast forward 54 years since then, the connotation of freedom has altered with a shift in paradigm and we now face a far more complex conundrum, a battle to preserve a different kind of freedom against not invaders or conquerors but rather the current regime itself.

Malaysia in all its glory today is plagued with various problems that have hindered its progress and at the same time constrict society’s development as a whole. Five decades of being governed by a single party has certainly taken its toll and the end result being the compromise of democracy, basic human rights and freedom of the people.

The political framework in which our country is currently built upon has long since been proven flawed and without going into details, the fact remains that we face a sad disposition being that our alternative is no better than the incumbent government and this has led to many believing that hope is indeed lost for progressive change.

Barring the select few who continue to fight for the cause, we have begun to go into a spiral decline where we simply accept and settle for a flawed system.

The dire plight of our country only came to light after the post-Mahathir era and it was plain to see how the regime in power had breached various articles of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) 1953 including Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Fair Trial to stay in power. Archaic laws such as the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance until recently have been abused to arrest any and all reformists and activists who were not in line with government policies. The media was not to be spared either as laws and sanctions were put in place to block news the government deemed unsuitable for the masses and failure to comply with the rules in place would lead to the revoking of license to broadcast or publish. Furthermore, the Police Act of 1967 is not only in direct violation of Article 12- Freedom of Assembly but also gives law enforcers heightened powers to restrict and regulate the movement of the people.

The recent Bersih 2.0 rally is concrete proof of how basic freedom was violated and for far too long we have been forced to live within the boundaries set by men who were put into power and meant to work for the benefit of the citizens and country.

If ever there were a time to point fingers and ask who is to be blamed for the predicament we now find ourselves in, then look no further than the mirror in front of you. In our quest for domestic luxury and for fear of stepping out of our comfort zone, we have not only forsaken inch by inch our dutiful rights as citizens of Malaysia, we have become afraid to think and question.

A personal favourite quote of mine based on the Gunpowder Treason says that, ”the people should not be afraid of the government; it is the government who should fear the people”.

There will be those in turn who will ask what is it that can we do as normal citizens? Being a firm believer in moderation, the first issue that should be addressed is how do we break free from the chains of biblical ideologies that have for so long suppressed intellectual thinking, positive reforms and progressive change? Lucid reasoning will tell you that by thinking independently as well as questioning critically, proper check and balance to the incumbent government automatically occurs.

In one of his many speeches, Ronald Reagan said that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We cannot pass it to our children via the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.

Never before have these words held true more so than now as the coming generation of today’s youths and the future leaders of our country come to pass. I will not be the first neither will I be the last to state that the only way forward, the only way to champion this noble cause would be to educate the succeeding generation, for a man can be captured, tortured and killed but an idea can never be put to end.

The fight for freedom will always continue and is a never ending one at that. It is a privilege accorded to us by our founding fathers that should always be treasured for only when it is taken away, will you truly cherish its value.

When our actions do not, our fear makes us traitors – Macbeth

* The author is a born and bred Malaysian currently pursuing his LLB (Hons), a diehard Liverpool FC fan and passes his time interpreting the subtle nuances of the many voices of the nation while sipping his daily dose of teh tarik.