Time for reflection

I believe more Malaysians, especially the Chinese, should show their trust in the Prime Minister if we want to help him be more effective. Sometimes we are unsure if he will be bolder if we give him undivided support, but if he really were an extremist then he would not have even bothered to try out the 1Malaysia idea.

Zaid Ibrahim, The Star 

To give moderate politics a chance to succeed in this country, we have to espouse the principles on which this nation was founded.

ON Sept 16, we will reach the 50th year in the life of this nation. It’s an opportune moment for us to reflect on things that have happened, and more importantly, on things that are in store for our children and future generations.

In all this time, we have seen leaders with many accomplishments and mediocre ones who did little during their time in power, leaders we could be proud of and those who did wrong for the country. We have seen major policy changes that brought about prosperity and peace, as well as those that sowed the seeds of disunity and hatred.

In short, we have witnessed an exciting 50 years of political and economic development in this peaceful country, and which can only get better if we all play our part .

It’s not for me to tell you what things are important enough for you to ponder, what you should stand up for and who you should support. I will not even try to set out the important issues for the country as I believe you know them well. I can only give you my own perspective.

What is most precious to me is this country’s character. Malaysia must remain a free, just and liberal democracy governed by the rule of law. Democracy is not just about the freedom to choose our leaders – the leaders we elect must reciprocate by recognising the rights and freedom of Malaysia’s citizens, as mandated by our Constitution.

Malaysia must also remain a business-friendly economy; where the Government does not allow only GLCs to own precious assets but instead encourages individuals to prosper; where hard work, risk-taking and innovation are rewarded.

A true democracy is not simply the rule of the majority, but the rule of everyone regardless of their race, religion or beliefs, all of which must be protected and provided for in equal measure. All peaceful and prosperous nations in the modern world share these attributes and characteristics.

Today, we have strong advocates of religious theocracy making inroads into our political system. Never before have we had our public policies become the subject of approval of religious clerics. This is a trend we have to resist.

The values that form the bedrock of the nation are usually those that are acceptable to all communities. This must remain the basis of our public policies. All Malaysians must be brave to speak up and defend the values they believe in and cherish. Unless we fight for freedom and for our rights, no one will give them to us for free. Nothing is free.

We have powerful oligarchs influencing policy and that makes it important for the rest of us citizens to put forth our stand so this country can mature peacefully. They must not be allowed to “bully” us like bringing in foreigners to “balance the scale”, as is evident from the public inquiry in Sabah.

These oligarchs create the mistaken impression that the country and the bumiputra are under attack, which justifies any means taken to address this perceived problem. This approach has enabled them to seize large economic benefits for their own interests at the expense of others.

No other independent nation has created this culture of fear or demonised its own citizens as blatantly as we have done.

No nation has institutionalised discrimination – both in racial and religious matters – as vigorously as we have.

And it could be that the worst is yet to come. So we have a fight on our hands.

The only way out for us now is to be together so we can reverse these trends. We need to collectively espouse with conviction the principles on which this nation was founded. This is the only option available to us as right-thinking Malaysians looking for a way to give moderate policies the chance to succeed in this country.

Like so many of you, I have been critical of the Prime Minister for many years. I had hoped he would be forceful and courageous enough to bring our country back from the excesses of the past. I had hoped he would reform Umno’s core beliefs and uphold the good values of its earlier leaders. Still, he is doing his best and deserves our support.

On reflection, it’s always easier to criticise others when we are not in the hot seat ourselves. He is a reformer who needed to pace his efforts lest he became another victim of his own party. He believes in most of the things we want for the country to move forward, but it’s much more difficult to implement policies when there are equally powerful forces at work to slow him down or even derail him.

I believe that beneath his skin he is a liberal and a democrat, despite his Umno theatrics that reject pluralism. He will not bring about racial discord nor will he condone racist politics. He will not issue ICs to foreigners to win elections. He is a moderate, which is rare for a Malay leader still holding power in Umno. His economic plans deserve support despite huge implementation problems that are sure to unfold in the coming years.

His administration’s Education Blueprint is comprehensive. Although the results are still unknown, he has recognised the problems of having a poor education system. This is a major step forward after so many years of neglect.

He has repealed some of the preventive detention laws and that is proof of his commitment to human rights. He even tried to establish the Equal Opportunities Commission under the New Economic Model, although he has had to backtrack. This is a man who must walk the tightrope at all times and you have to be in Umno to fully appreciate the difficulties he faces.

I believe more Malaysians, especially the Chinese, should show their trust in the Prime Minister if we want to help him be more effective. Sometimes we are unsure if he will be bolder if we give him undivided support, but if he really were an extremist then he would not have even bothered to try out the 1Malaysia idea.

He would have embraced Perkasa and all its dangerously chauvinistic and exclusionary ideas in totality.

It’s understandable that we want to see him distance himself from everything that is negative in his own party and take action to address his departmental heads and advisers in certain media. We hope he will be more firm with them.