Ceritalah: National Reconciliation?

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Karim Raslan, The Malaysian Insider

A plane vanishes over the South China Sea leaving millions baffled and despondent. A man is rushed to court, judged and sentenced in record time. The air we breathe turns a murky yellow-brown. Our tax ringgits wind up somewhere in the Caribbean.

Where am I? Malaysia. Who am I? A fool, apparently.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about ‘National Reconciliation’ and I meant what I said: that reconciliation was critical, but requires some kind of accommodation within the Malay community – a truce between the ‘warring’ parties.

But now I know that this is impossible and that’s why I’m a ‘fool’.

Nothing is as it seems in our country. If we wish to remain sane, we have to learn how to compartmentalize in order to put up with it. We live with a semblance of great ideas: democracy, equality and fairness. Yes, we have political parties, elections, a media and a judicial system (or so they tell me). Unfortunately, it appears these institutions and what they do is mere lip-service.

Justice or injustice? Water shortage or manipulation? The smog that’s smothered much of the peninsular Malaysia – reducing the sun itself to a post-apocalyptic dirty brown – is a symbol of the moral decay and mediocrity that’s dragging us down.

Let’s return to the man whose fate has just been decided by the Court of Appeal. I am no fan, but the manner in which the case was handled leaves me with a deep sense of unease. Our Leader of the Opposition is both brilliant and deeply flawed. But his fate ought to have been decided through a free and fair election, all the moreso since the man was very much in danger of revealing his own embarrassing lust for power via the so-called ‘Kajang move.’

But the main impact of the so-called ‘sodomy II’ saga (or ‘fitnah II’ for Anwar’s supporters) will be social and political.

Is this aspirant for Putra Jaya’s great prize a charlatan or reformer? Whatever the case, he’s been a remarkable change-agent, altering the face of Malaysian public life irrevocably as the frontman for all Malaysians who’ve felt unjustly treated by the country.

But while Anwar’s downfall may scare some into obedience and silence, it also makes a great many more Malaysians – and this includes the hundreds and thousands who don’t even like him – angry and cynical.

All of this makes the damage done extremely significant and for a number of reasons:

First, it exposes the insecurities of the elite. If, as they and their surrogates protest, the so-called ‘silent majority’ is with them and Anwar is an out-of-touch demagogue – why are they wasting so much time and resources discrediting him?

Next, by turning a prosecution into a persecution, the message for all Malaysians who want change is clear: they are not welcome.

Ironically, the decision will also reinforce the dogma in the anti-Anwar camp that he can only be defeated through personal attacks and under-hand tactics.

The result is the widening of an already vast socio-political gulf.

Finally, you cannot talk about ‘national reconciliation’ in one breath and then stand by as opposition leaders are barred from political life one by one.

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