The heartless Perlis heat

Already, we have two sets of laws in the country – civil and shariah – and divisive issues have erupted in recent years because of this. Heat continues to be generated by the “clash”, now and then, between the two sets of laws, especially in cases involving conversion.

A. Kathirasen, Free Malaysia Today

Over the last few days, the heat has been oppressive. The electricity bill is certainly going to soar, with people using air-conditioners or fans more often or for longer periods.

The political climate is also heating up, what with the Johor state elections slated for March 12. Politicians are at their best, stabbing at each other in their lust for power.

Even the religious climate in the nation is getting hotter. Societal cohesiveness is being threatened once again – this time by heat generated from a blaze which began in Perlis, the tiniest of our states.

While the rest of the country is concerned about the heat from Perlis, those in Putrajaya seem to be contended to sit in airconditioned comfort – with their power bills paid by the taxpayer – and let things take their course.

They prefer to let the courts deal with the heat.

Why? Do those in power feel this torridity is too hot to touch and that they’ll get badly burnt if they do? Is it because if the court makes a decision, they can escape responsibility? What kind of leadership is that?

Doesn’t the possibility of a wider, serious conflagration occur to them?

Nobody, it appears, wants to take the bull by its horns.

We expect those in control to put out fires, to lessen the heat at least. Often, those in power and the corridors of power, actually cause the heat to rise, but that’s a known story, so I won’t go into it.

The questions on the minds of many people now are: When will those in power place justice at the forefront and act with courage? When will they stop prevaricating over such emotive fires and those who start them? Are they putting political expediency ahead of personal integrity and justice?

If Perlis can disregard the Federal Constitution, what about other states? Can, say, Penang tomorrow enact legislation applicable to that state but which is ultra vires the Federal Constitution? What if Sarawak wants to do something similar?

Already, we have two sets of laws in the country – civil and shariah – and divisive issues have erupted in recent years because of this. Heat continues to be generated by the “clash”, now and then, between the two sets of laws, especially in cases involving conversion.

Are we now going to have different sets of laws between the states as in the United States where, for instance, ganja is illegal in one state but perfectly legal in another?

Doesn’t Putrajaya know that even small fires can spread far and wide and engulf the whole nation?

There are those who feel that the heat is becoming unbearable in Malaysia and are moving out or planning to move out to more favourable climates. They don’t want to be burnt in any major conflagration.

But the vast majority cannot afford to migrate to escape the heat. And many others feel this is their home come what may. Such people are working hard to contain the heat. For how long can they do this?

There are also some who feel this does not affect them or their families. They don’t know how wrong they are.

The flames ravaging Afghanistan or Syria didn’t happen overnight. Fires were lit here and there over many years – both by local and foreign players – and today the people are suffering because the fire has gone out of control.

Part of the problem is that we have learnt to lower the temperature on our air-conditioners as the heat rises. Part of the problem is that our leading firemen are unable and unwilling to put out such fires.

We can control the heat in our homes and offices but not outside, and sooner or later, it will affect us. Unless, of course, decisive measures are taken.

The warm weather we are experiencing – just like a small fire that starts, say, in Perlis – is a reminder of climate change and the danger it poses.

The December floods were also a reminder of the need to act on climate change and to not hope that the problem will flow away.

The current fire and the December floods have something in common: No one was prepared despite years of floods, despite earlier warnings, despite earlier experiences.

The same incompetency and lack of coordination that were a major setback in tackling the floods is often seen in the handling of emotive fires. It would seem that politicians in power and administrators are only concerned about how it will affect their position and their future, not how the nation will be impacted 10 or 50 years down the line.

What we need is a comprehensive solution to the problem of “sensitive” fires – a solution built on justice and compassion.

I wonder if the fragmented politics at national level, the ineffectiveness of the federal authorities and the failure of our education system are encouraging ethically deviant behaviour among some actors and groups.

Unless our hyper-partisan political climate changes, unless administrators and leaders of government agencies place justice before other considerations, I’m afraid there’ll be no concerted action on all forms of climate change, including the religious climate, in Malaysia.