Saturday, January 29, 2005

Freedom rules if fear is dead - Do not let fear overrule your freedom of choice

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Malaysian General Election 2004 Special

Freedom rules if fear is dead

Do not let fear overrule your freedom of choice

by Charles Hector

fearnot (9K)
Wake up, oh people of Malaysia..
The general election is here again, but the question is whether you, Malaysian voters, will allow fear to dictate your choice of candidate, or will you this time follow your minds and hearts when casting their votes come election day. Freely choose - and not choose by reason of fear - your elected representatives this coming election for the good of Malaysia and all its people.

Fear has been a factor that has kept the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of 13 political parties, in power all these years with a greater than two-thirds majority in the lower house of Parliament. And what is even sadder is that this fear has been consciously or unconsciously propagated by those in power, who have become over-confident and have forgotten that the rakyat are the bosses. They have forgotten that all that is done must be done for the benefit of all the rakyat, not just the few in power and their friends.

The fear?

Based on experience, this fear comes in many different forms and it is different for different groups of persons. The main one is the fear of future repression and/or oppression by the State, the fear of being �targeted� or �black-listed�. We will now look at some of the common fears that have kept the Barisan Nasional government in power for all these years since independence.

Generally, for the non-Malay voters, the fear of a repeat of the racial riots of 1969 if the Barisan Nasional loses in the General Elections is still there. Two elections ago in an area like Kampung Medan, a lawyer friend left his home and went away because he believed that racial riots would follow if the Barisan Nasional candidate lost. This fear apparently is still very real in the minds of people irrespective of economic class and educational background, and seems to be strongest in those who lived through the 1969 episode. But what is sad is that many really do not even have an understanding or analysis of what really happened, why it happened and/or how serious it really was.

�Government servants�, a term used consciously by the state through the media as opposed to the more correct term �public servants�, believe that their jobs and future promotions will be jeopardised if they vote for a candidate not from the Barisan Nasional parties. They believe that they will be transferred to some �ulu place� if the authorities found out.

Residents from the poorer income group who live as tenants in the Bandaraya and/or Majlis Bandaran(or municipal) flats believe that their tenancy will be terminated or not re-newed if they were to vote for a candidate not from the Barisan Nasional parties. In Kuala Lumpur, the tenancy period, several years ago, was reduced from five years to three years and this has had the effect of magnifying this fear. Note that in these tenancy agreements, the authorities have the sole discretion as to whether to renew or not to renew the tenancy agreement.

This fear can also be found among urban settlers (sometimes derogatively referred to as �squatters�) and for those who live in the Rumah Panjang (temporary housing for persons displaced from the land they previously resided on while they wait to be given the opportunity to purchase low-cost accommodations). The fear is that they will not get the opportunity to buy and own their own low cost homes if they are found out to be voting for non-Barisan Nasional candidates. This explains possibly why the current Malaysian government, although able to expend mega bucks on mega projects, has till today chosen not to completely alleviate the housing problems of the poor.

The fathers and mothers of children are afraid that their children�s chances - to get into the good residential schools, to get chosen for matriculation prorammes and/or overseas study opportunities, to get student loans and/or scholarships - will be jeopardised if they vote for non-Barisan Nasional candidates.

start_quote (1K) How long will we allow the Barisan Nasional government to con us, to suppress us, to shackle us � by instilling fear in the hearts and minds of the Malaysian people. end_quote (1K)
The business people are afraid that their opportunities to get government contracts and projects, their ability to get migrant labour and their accessibility to goverment subsidies and entrepreneur loans will be jeopardised if they are found to have voted for non-Barisan Nasional candidates. They are afraid that they will have difficulties with their permit renewals and/or applications.

And lastly some people are just afraid that they will be blacklisted - or even arrested under the ISA if they support and choose the wrong candidates.

Dispel your fears

Wake up, oh people of Malaysia..we have been independent for over 45 years now, and how long will we let fear dictate our life? How long will we allow our God-given freedom to think and act to be suppressed by all these fears..and worries? How long will we allow the Barisan Nasional government to con us, to suppress us, to shackle us � by instilling fear in the hearts and minds of the Malaysian people. Anger � that is what we must have � anger at ourselves for our weakness...anger at the people who have kept this fear alive in us all these years. �Fear, be gone � be gone and I will no longer be afraid ... and will no longer allow people to make me afraid � and I will hereafter exercise my freedom to choose my representatives as I will � no longer be dictated by fear�

In the print and electronic media, which is controlled via the government by anti-freedom laws and through ownership by persons/companies associated with the Barisan Nasional component parties or their leaders, it is not uncommon for us to be exposed to all the �bad things� that is happening in other countries - like riots, wars, killing and sufferings. Why aren�t the good things highlighted? Well, I believe that it is a well thought-up subtle strategy to enhance the fear in Malaysians of what will happen if the Barisan Nasional was not in power.

Islamic State ... yet another slogan used to scare the non-Muslim voters...but then one wonders why the non-Muslim DAP members in Terengganu refused to abandon their positions in the Terengganu PAS-led state government? Why indeed do the non-Muslims from the PAS-held states of Kelantan and Terengganu not seem to be complaining? Let us not forget that Islamic revivalism, and the insistence on the �tudung� all started in the institutions of higher learning in places like Kuala Lumpur and Selangor - not Kelantan, not Terengganu.

The myth that only the Barisan Nasional can rule was dispelled when Kelantan fell to PAS, and continued to be governed by the PAS government for three terms now. The people of Kelantan (and now Terengganu) are not ignorant, stupid or foolish but are just as aware, intelligent, rationale and bright as other Malaysians - and I believe, that if their non-Barisan Nasional government could not perform, the people would have voted out the PAS government. Now do not forget that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is Kelantanese too. And remember also that British television programme �Yes Minister�, which reminds us that the government and the running of the country is really done by the civil service or the public servants. Ministers and Governments can come and go but Malaysia will still be OK and developing as usual.

What we see in TV and read in the newspapers cannot really be blindly accepted as true - for after all how the media can be manipulated to convey a biased and false picture was shown when the Malaysian government itself highlighted this point about the western media�s coverage of the wrongful US invasion of Iraq. So now, we have the Al-Jazeera channel in ASTRO. Guess what friends - similar things happen also with our very own print and electronic media, where it is obviously biased in favour of the Barisan Nasional and that is more than evident during this period.

Barisan Nasional is also fearful

Yes, they are indeed afraid of the rakyat. They are afraid that the people once blinded with fear can now see - and that �mere slogans� and �dramatic gestures� will no longer work. Soon the government will be forced to ensure that the wealth of the nation will have to be better used for the benefit of ALL the rakyat, and not just for the chosen few in power and their cronies.

Free education, free roads, free health services, cheaper water, cheaper electricity, cheaper sewage treatment and cheaper utilities, and a more efficient and clean government will have to become a priority and a reality in Malaysia. We once had all these but these slowly disappeared because of the wrong emphasis placed by the Barisan Nasional government when it came to spending our money and our resources - yes our money. Corruption, which is there at the very highest levels of government, will have to really end. The arrest and charging of just two persons, one a Minister(who is a Senator) and another an ageing businessman will not deceive Malaysians into thinking that the Barisan government has changed.

The people of Kelantan and Terenganu had never before enjoyed as much attention from the Barisan Nasional government as they do now. Likewise, Kedah and even Perlis where the Barisan Nasional just scraped through has become the focus of the BN government�s spending and development projects. Here is a lesson that all Malaysians must learn - for if the BN thinks they can no longer win easily, then the people benefit more from their government. Hence, if we all vote wisely to reduce the Barisan majority, and even possibly to deprive the BN of its two-thirds majority, then all ordinary Malaysians will receive greater attention from the government for the next five years or so. And this attention will take the form of greater development, cheaper public amenities and who knows ... maybe even toll-free roads.

After the fall of Kelantan and then Terengganu, the BN government is indeed fearful that the Malaysian people are no longer filled with fear, and are becoming FREER and WISER and will at last force their representatives in Parliament and the State Assemblies to perform their duties as the peoples� representatives - and most importantly for the benefit of the people, not just for their or their cronies� benefit.

Let us turn the tables now, and transfer the fear from the people to the government sending a clear message that if it does not perform, and does not do things for the benefit of all Malaysians, then beware for we shall vote it out and give the chance to some other party.

The people of Kelantan and Terengganu have paved the way, now maybe the rest of us Malaysians can also dispel our fears and freely exercise our right to vote, and maybe vote in such a way so that the Barisan Nasional loses its two-thirds majority this time - for after all, all that is needed to form the government is a simple majority. A two-thirds majority is only needed if one wants to amend the Federal Constitution - and for everything else, like the passing of laws and the running of the government, all that is needed is a simple majority.

Freedom should reign, and let fear be buried for a better Malaysia.

Charles Hector is an ordinary Malaysian from Pahang.

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