By Dean Johns
When I asked a young and beautiful pro-democracy activist at dinner in Bangsar the other night how she felt about the latest antics of Malaysia’s ruling regime, she shocked me with her initial single-word response: “Numb”.
But, as she quickly went on to explain, she is vividly aware that numb and dumb is precisely how Umno/BN want Malaysians to feel, and keep on feeling, so they’ll keep tolerating the ruling regime’s regimen of repression and robbery.
And that she knows, as I do, that her momentarily depleted emotions and energies will soon be re-charged by her passion for participating in the massive awakening and spirit of change that is sweeping Malaysia.
Unhappily, however, there are still far too many Malaysians who remain politically naive or napping, having been lulled into slumber by Umno/BN’s endless litany of lies.
And then there are the countless hardcore cases; cronies and supporters of the regime so hopelessly narcotised by regular fixes of patronage, power and loot, that they’ll do anything to help sustain the dopey status quo.
The end is finally in sight
But it seems to me that an unstoppably growing majority of Malaysian citizens is wide-awake to the fact that Umno/BN has degenerated from a formerly respectable political coalition into nothing more than a criminal conspiracy.
And they’re increasingly politicking, blogging, protesting, walking, talking, calling and above all yearning to vote for honest, transparent and truly progressive government.
And now that I’ve seen and felt some of the power of this popular movement in an up-close and personal way, everywhere from the coffee-shops to the recent Anything But Umno (ABU) rally, I’m convinced that the end of Umno/BN is finally in sight.
Especially convincing to me is the fact that the regime appears panic-stricken at its evident powerlessness to turn back the tide of revulsion and revolt that could soon make the ‘tsunami’ of 2008 look like a ripple.
In fact, every counter-move that Umno/BN makes seems to do nothing but evoke bigger and more threatening waves of derision, dissent and determination to achieve its political extermination.
The more Najib Razak and his partners in grime and crime trumpet their rallying-call of “1Malaysia. People first. Performance now”, the more nakedly it is revealed as numbingly dumb and duplicitous.
This gruesome government’s every deed clearly demonstrates that “1Malaysia” is nothing but a mask for a two-faced system in which there’s one Malaysia for the Umnoputras and another for the rest of the people.
One law for the Umnoplunderers of projects like the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) and countless other massive, unsolved and even un-investigated scams, and another for opposition figures like the endlessly-prosecuted and persecuted prominent opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim.
One law for the killers of Altantuya Shaariibuu and ‘suspects’ in the custody of the Umnoputras’ lapdog police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and another law altogether for ‘common’ criminals.
Two or more kinds of lifestyles
One permissive attitude to protest by Umno/BN-sponsored rabbles abusing a severed cow’s head at a Hindu temple, or against false allegations of attempts by Christians to proselytise Muslims, and quite another response altogether to people rallying to call for clean and fair elections and harmlessly banner-defacing students.
One kind of lifestyle, RM15,000 Birkin handbags, RM60 million diamond rings and all, for the Umnoputras, and another for the peasants, to whom Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) stores have committed the KRIME of selling not only mislabelled foodstuffs to needy families, but also peddling sub-standard milk powder to the parents of babies.
One standard for the proprietors and operators of upmarket bars-cum-brothels like the Beach Club and Thai Club off Jalan Sultan Ismail, and another for more down-market “massage parlours” and prostitutes lacking high-level protection.
One system for those who display giant posters and pictures of their political icons that arguably contravene the belief that such idolatry is haram in Islam, and another, contrary system for those legitimately displaying non-Muslim religious symbols or even publicly singing Christmas carols.
In short, it’s clear by now to every Malaysian who’s not totally numb and/or dumb that the “1Malaysia” slogan signifies at the very least two Malaysias: one for the Umnoputras and their families, cronies and supporters, and quite another for the rest.
Lording over KL‘s night sky
And as if the “1Malaysia” part of Umno/BN’s false and self-serving slogan wasn’t making the populace feeling sufficiently insulted, the “People first. Performance now” part is driving many of those I’ve spoken to into a veritable frenzy of resentment.
Perhaps, the most vivid reaction I’ve seen in this regard has been the disgust by so many people I’ve met at the arrogant, overbearing way the Umno building has been lit so as to lord it over KL’s night sky.
This domineering display of both sainted and living Umno/BN prime ministers in a celestial blue glow is a glaring symbol of the fact that Umno/BN considers itself first, and puts the people swarming below dead last.
Especially considering that these people are endlessly stuck in monster traffic jams caused by decades of ‘people-last, performance never’ Umno/BN governments that have overseen poor planning and traffic-engineering, pathetic traffic and illegal-parking policing, and toll roads cleverly designed to line the crony contractors and operators.
And those of us who choose to walk instead of drive are confronted by footpaths that, where they exist at all, are often obstacle courses if not outright death-traps cluttered with poles, broken pavement, parked vehicles, piles of rubbish or manholes with missing covers.
So much, then, for putting people first and performing now, if ever. Thus, it’s small wonder that so many Malaysians feel a tad numb in the face of the shocking contrast between the 1Malaysia portrayed by Umno/BN and its public relations flacks and media hacks, and the stark reality of 1Malaise, ya!.
But just as my young activist friend’s innate fire and life-force will soon overcome her current emotional numbness, so will more and more of her formerly numb, dumb or glum fellow Malaysians regain their true feelings and voices.
And the rakyat will finally have both the will and the numbers to say “no more” to the numb-nuts of Umno/BN. – Malaysiakini
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’ and ‘1Malaysia.con’.