The NGO toadstools in a garden of peace


Full-time obsession with communal and religious issues has poisoned the rakyat’s psyche

Ishmael Lim, Free Malaysia Today

There is a rash of newly-formed NGOs who are drowning out all other voices. They have taken over the public space for ideas and discourse and they are not engaging fairly and squarely. It is their democratic right to raise their concerns, but their modus operandi seems not to be discourse but to bend the authorities to their whim through mass police reports and complaints to religious enforcers.

If that sounds familiar or coincidental, it is because this is a well used method by a certain political party against its opponents.

It is widely held that some of these organisations receive tacit support from the powers that be through political connections. Some have even admitted to receiving contributions for their programs. Finances aside, many of these outfits have assumed roles not unlike media organs of political parties. Doubling up for the partisan roles played by their unseen patrons.

They have shifted the national narrative and consequently the psyche of the rakyat towards their communalistic agendas. Almost every issue has taken this slant as it is filtered through an ethnic-religious lens.

The assumption is that being from the majority community gives them legitimacy and puts their views beyond reproach. All constructive debate or inquiry ends there. Although some engagement and debate does exist in cyberspace amongst private individuals, the reality is that no debate ever takes place between civil society and these NGOs. Instead we see plenty of threats and childish dares issued in place of genuine intelligent discussion that would inform and elevate the thinking of the rakyat as a whole. This is played out repeatedly in the media.

One could follow in their footsteps and be equally provocative until a barrage of police reports follow. Or one could similarly lodge counter reports. But the civically conscious would consider that an abuse of a valuable and scarce public resource. It would also be counter productive by lowering the level of engagement to their uncouth and belligerent style and only serving to feed their enormous egos and continued existence.

This full-time obsession with communalism and religious issues by these NGOs has taken on a very negative aspect. It shows itself with lay followers on either side reacting to every debate in cyberspace by resorting to disparaging remarks about ethnicity or religion. It turns promising discussions on any subject into a very emotive and personal matter by this one dimensional way of looking at problems.

People are not getting any smarter, only angrier, more sensitive and rude. Although this has been there for some time, the spate of problems currently facing the nation has intensified this phenomenon to a fever pitch. One cannot be certain that these are in fact lay followers drawn into the quarrel as they may well be cybertroopers taunting each other. But the effects on the casual reader are nevertheless distressing.