August 9, 2007

A Reader’s Response to Zam’s statement

Posted in Malaysia, The Cause at 3:02 pm by egalitaria

A reader’s response to Info Minister Zam
Time to stop believing your own propaganda

Dear Sir,

I refer to your August 3 report on the comments made by the Minister of Information in response to the launch of the Merdeka Statement.

On the contrary, I believe it is the Honourable Minister that needs a healthy reality check. If theSun‘s report is correct, I am astonished that barely within 24 hours of the launch of the Merdeka Statement he has managed to consult the majority of the people in this country and, having consulted them, he has come to the conclusion that the majority of the people in this country are offended by the first item of the Merdeka Statement.

Be that as it may, the world doesn’t live in Malaysia. We do. The world has an outsider’s view of racial unity in Malaysia. We live the reality on a daily basis. Yes we did enjoy the spring of greater racial unity in the earlier years of our lives. But as we get older we now experience the increasing winter of discontent, and our concerns have grown for the future of our children, and our children’s children, in the next 50 years. If the unity of our country is not in trouble, why have there been press reports (which have not been challenged) about the increase in racial polarisation in our schools and universities?

Why has there been a flight from the sekolah kebangsaan to the sekolah jenis kebangsaan? If the unity of our country is not in jeopardy, why was there a need to start National Service? So that our youths could play around with M16 rifles? If the unity of our country has not been under threat, why is it that we actually have a Parliamentary Select Committee on Unity and National Service looking into issues of national unity, having public hearings, compiling a report, etc.

Why was the Jabatan Perpaduan Negara re-named Jabatan Perpaduan Negara dan Integrasi Nasional? The 42 organisations which were listed as supporting (whether in whole or in part) the Merdeka Statement either deal with or represent ordinary people of all walks of life on an everyday basis. Does the Honourable Minister really think that the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations is elitist? Or the Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled? Or Yayasan Strategik Sosial? This last organisation is a body that works with underprivileged and marginalised, mainly Indian, children and youths. How more “un-elitist” can you get?

Does he consider the Malaysia Hindu Sangam elitist? Or the Malaysian Buddhist Association? Rather than face the reality, the preferred response appears to be to classify these groups as an elitist unrepresentative fringe group, and then to dismiss them as “Irrelevant!”

Furthermore, when you actually take a look at the Merdeka Statement, is it so bad that under the first item there is a call to ensure that “all new policies should be tested against the tenets of the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara? Is it so horrible that “an independent and transparent National Consultative Council on Vision 2020 should be established immediately? Is it so intolerable that “a National Research Institute on Ethnic Relations should be established?” Are these things, in and of themselves, so repugnant to the average person in the street that the majority of Malaysians would be offended by such suggestions?

And finally, what is so objectionable about the setting up of a truth and reconciliation committee, designed to listen to people, talk about their personal experience of nation-building, of instances where government action or policy has, instead of bringing good,
caused hurt and pain. It would be ordinary people sharing their stories, recounting their difficulties, letting the rakyat speak for themselves. There are so manythings that we are not allowed to talk about, so many things that are the subject of threats of prosecution or incarceration, or actual gag orders.

Why would a Minister of Information consider a suggestion of hearing directly from the rakyat something which is “uncalled for”? If it shatters the picture postcard image of Malaysia that his ministry tries so hard to portray, that is unfortunate. He should not believe his own propaganda.

Andrew Khoo
Kuala Lumpur
via email on Aug 4, 2007

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