Saturday, January 29, 2005

Malaysia's Fear Factor

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Malaysia's Fear Factor
by Charles Hector
Aliran Monthly 2004:1

fearnot (9K)
Let us confront our fears
We need to sit down and consider seriously the human rights situation in the world around us, including in Malaysia. Have we all done our part in the promotion of human rights and justice and peace Malaysia and in our own lives?

Fear still is a major phenomenon in Malaysia; it keeps individual Malaysians (and even some groups of persons) silent and quiet despite the obvious and real human rights violations and the obvious lack of rights. Fear is a major problem in Malaysia and, yes, it also applies to lawyers.

I remember many years ago, when I first stood up at the AGM of the Malaysian Bar and spoke my mind about some things that were not right. I was later approched by several senior members of the Bar, who were well-meaning and sincere.

Do not rock the boat

They took time to caution a young lawyer about the way things were. They advised me that I should not �rock the boat� and should not be so critical. They told me that if I was vocal, I would lose out as many of the senior people in the Bar Council may one day be elevated as judges - and they would then look at me negatively and this would affect the outcome of my cases. They told me that there are �government spies� all around, and if I was seen as a �trouble-maker� or an �anti-government element�, I would be blacklisted.

As a young lawyer recently called to the Bar, I should have paid heed to their words of wisdom and the common sense of my caring fellow lawyers. But then I have always been one who could not hold his tongue when he sees something that is not right, something that is wrong or unjust happening around him. To keep silent goes against my very being - and if I did keep silent, my conscience would have tortured me, and I would not be true to my God.

Do not talk so loud

At the teh tarek stalls, a group of persons is yakking away loudly, talking about the movies, friends, the recent football games they had watched... Suddenly someone started talking about the human rights situation in Malaysia, and the volume is lowered. The crowd huddled together in hushed tones; some turn to look around, perhaps to ensure that there was no one too close to eavesdrop on the conversation.

start_quote (1K) Fear keeps Malaysians silent and quiet and accepting all that is wrong in our society. They become too afraid of speaking out and/or fighting for a change. end_quote (1K)
One wonders �Is the Special Branch taping this conversation� or �will I be arrested under the ISA because I am talking about some human rights issue?� One or two try to change the topic and get back to the recent goals scored in the English Premier League soccer game the previous night. Another stand up and excuses himself, stating he has to use the toilet (even though he just got back less than 5 minutes earlier!)

Do not vote for the opposition?

At the ballot box, the voter considers whom to vote for. Shall I vote for the DAP candidate - for after all he is a good guy, clean and concerned about the people and the nation? Then other thoughts creep in:

�Ahhh...but then they will know and I will be �blacklisted�...I may not get the low-cost house that was promised to me which I have been waiting for in the �rumah panjang� I am now living in for the past 15 years � since I first came here when my �squatter community� was evicted.�

�Will my promotion be affected?�

�Will my business permits be taken away?�

�Will they know? Will they know?�

�Will I be arrested under the ISA if I do not vote for the Barisan Nasional?� ah, never mind... better play safe, I will just vote for the Barisan Nasional.�

At the orientation session at the KL legal Aid Centre, the facilitator has just asked me to list out the negative things in Malaysia. What should I do? There are spies all over�now who is the police spy?... Should I be open and speak out about all the violation of human rights?, I�ll play safe and�OK..well, one of the negative things is that the �public toilets are dirty and smelly�, and another is that there are always �traffic jams�, and the third is that there is �flooding whenever it rains�...

Well, those would be the safe answers to give. Phew, that was a close call; lucky I played smart and found three things negative and did not have to say anything about the other injustices and human rights violations around me. Being a lawyer is tough�and now the facilitator is telling me that one thing that a lawyer must do is to uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour.

Do not fear

Yes, Fear is still a prevalent feature in our Malaysian society - and one of the things that we have to overcome is Fear. Let us fight and campaign for Freedom from Fear.

Fear keeps Malaysians silent and quiet and accepting all that is wrong in our society. They become too afraid of speaking out and/or fighting for a change.

The Barisan Nasional has succeeded in silencing Malaysians and thus, people continue to be oppressed and deprived of their rights today, tomorrow and forever - a victory for the Barisan Nasional..

Peace is our promise, say the Barisan Nasional leaders, and that is what we have achieved and all Malaysians now live in Peace...

Peace, however is not true peace if there is no justice and human rights.

Peace is not achieved by the suppression of dissent or by the inculcation of fear.

Hello, we are human beings - not sheep or cattle. We have brains and we can think. We have opinions, ideas and thoughts - and the suppresssion of these makes us inhuman.

Let us all confront our fears. Let us all be human beings. Let us all live full, holistic lives. Let us all be vocal and expressive and active participants in the building of a society where justice and human rights are the foundation, thus leading to a community living in true peace - not an artificial �peace� just because we are too fearful to speak out for change.

Freedom from fear
Feedom to be able to express,
to assemble and to voice our opinions.
Freedom to choose our leaders,
Freedom to participate in the governing and development of Malaysia.

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