Call­ing the ket­tle black

While sat­is­fac­tion may not be guar­an­teed, en­ter­tain­ment cer­tainly is. Wel­come to the land of po­lit­i­cal am­ne­sia, ‘cuti protes’, and hypocrisy.

The Star Malaysia - - Focus - Wong Chun Wai news­[email protected]­tar.com.my

MALAYSIANS are a very strange lot. Not all of us, mind you, but a big por­tion of us seem to find it easy to con­tra­dict our own be­hav­iour and thoughts.

It’s like some form of dis­so­cia­tive iden­tity dis­or­der. While that is ex­ag­ger­at­ing a lit­tle, it’s at least a milder ver­sion of the con­di­tion, which, scar­ily, slips in with­out us even know­ing it.

It’s like we suf­fer from a mul­ti­ple per­son­al­ity dis­or­der be­cause of com­plex psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tions, which dis­con­nects us from our thoughts, mem­o­ries, ac­tions, feel­ings or sense of iden­tity.

Those of us who out­right re­ject blame on men­tal health rea­sons ac­cuse us of hypocrisy.

Take, for ex­am­ple, how when Malaysians travel over­seas, we proudly de­clare our na­tion­al­ity, even when damn­ing news about the na­tion has us cring­ing in em­bar­rass­ment.

By now, most for­eign­ers also think there is no re­tire­ment age in Malaysia.

We must ex­plain that the rules don’t ap­ply to leg­is­la­tors since they make the laws, and that there will only be one 93-year-old who can be a Prime Min­is­ter – twice.

We fill up im­mi­gra­tion forms with­out a se­cond thought. Na­tion­al­ity – Malaysian. That’s it! And when we bump into fel­low cit­i­zens over­seas, we break into smiles be­cause we feel a sense of ca­ma­raderie among us as fel­low Malaysians.

From our con­ver­sa­tions, be they in Ba­hasa Malaysia, English or some Chi­nese di­alect, we can quickly suss out the Malaysians in the crowd, and we feel pleased that we are to­gether in a for­eign land.

But the minute we are back in Malaysia, there are those of us who seem to trans­form, as if pos­sessed and con­trolled by a de­mon. Sud­denly, we are no longer Malaysian first.

We are Malay, Chi­nese or In­dian first, or Mus­lim, Bud­dhist, Chris­tian or Hindu first.

It doesn’t help in Malaysia – strangely, nowa­days, even more than six decades af­ter in­de­pen­dence – we are asked to state our race and re­li­gion when fill­ing up forms.

In most de­vel­oped coun­tries, it’s an of­fence for any em­ployer or gov­ern­ment to ask a po­ten­tial em­ployee or a ci­ti­zen to state his or her race, re­li­gion or even gen­der, as it’s re­garded as an in­tru­sion into a per­son’s pri­vacy.

But no, not in Malaysia. We are still re­quired to state our re­li­gion and race be­cause these statis­tics ap­par­ently as­sist the gov­ern­ment in car­ry­ing out var­i­ous pro­grammes.

Of course, we can all agree on be­ing de­vout and pure Malaysians dur­ing Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions, and es­pe­cially dur­ing sports events.

When our na­tional foot­ball team or bad­minton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei plays, we’re all swept up by the hys­te­ria of pa­tri­o­tism.

And, hon­estly, why do we put up with politi­cians who have pretty much looted the coun­try and in­cited racial ha­tred to save their own skins, and who now have the au­dac­ity to put on straight faces and claim they are do­ing so in the name of the race and re­li­gion?

None of them gave a se­cond thought to race and re­li­gion when they stole the peo­ple’s money, so it must be shock­ing that huge num­bers of peo­ple still ac­tu­ally be­lieve in this po­lit­i­cal/re­li­gious pro­pa­ganda.

But de­spite our racist and re­li­gious bi­ases, we barely com­plain when en­joy­ing pub­lic hol­i­days on the aus­pi­cious days of var­i­ous faiths in this coun­try.

That glut of off days earns us the rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing one of the coun­tries with the most pub­lic hol­i­days.

For the first time now, we heard Ke­lan­tan de­clared to­day a pub­lic hol­i­day to boost at­ten­dance at the protest against the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion (Icerd) in the fed­eral cap­i­tal yes­ter­day.

We have heard of cuti sakit (med­i­cal leave), cuti kah­win (mar­riage leave), cuti bersalin (ma­ter­nity leave), and we now have cuti protes (leave to protest).

I’m sure many of us are cu­ri­ous how the state gov­ern­ment could have reached this in­cred­u­lous de­ci­sion.

The ques­tion that begs to be asked is, does a per­son’s race, re­li­gion or gen­der mat­ter if the per­son is com­pe­tent, able and car­ries out his or her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with in­tegrity? The an­swer is “no”.

What we have seen in Malaysia is that those who have cre­ated the loud­est racket about race and re­li­gion are the ones who have been charged with drain­ing the coun­try’s wealth, which is ironic. And the size of the anti-Icred rally yes­ter­day proves that race and re­li­gion still make handy weapons.

It also doesn’t stop those who whip out the race and re­li­gion cards from tar­get­ing their fel­low Malaysians, from in­still­ing fear that the Malays are in dan­ger of los­ing their right­ful and priv­i­leged places.

While this is all pure fic­tion, it is nec­es­sary that mod­er­ate and ra­tio­nal Malay lead­ers con­vince their com­mu­nity about what the Icerd is all about, par­tic­u­larly since other Mus­lim coun­tries have rat­i­fied it.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s boo­boo was an­nounc­ing its in­ten­tion to rat­ify it be­fore gath­er­ing con­sen­sus and build­ing con­fi­dence was done.

This al­lowed the gov­ern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents – Umno and PAS – to at­tack Pakatan Hara­pan. And whether we like it or not, these two par­ties are do­ing what they ought to as the Op­po­si­tion.

It is also their right to stage a protest rally, an en­ti­tle­ment in any form of democ­racy.

And the or­gan­is­ers of the an­tiIcerd protest must be com­mended for the or­derly and peace­ful gath­er­ing.

It was a huge and im­pres­sive turn out, and they ex­er­cised their demo­cratic rights.

And lo and be­hold, those in the gov­ern­ment who asked them to stop the rally, were them­selves em­broiled in il­le­gal street protests pre­vi­ously.

And, of course, these for­mer min­is­ters now on the Op­po­si­tion bench, used to crit­i­cise street protests, say­ing it dis­rupted busi­nesses and con­trib­uted to mil­lions of ringgit lost, and that such demon­stra­tions should be con­fined to sta­di­ums.

All this rea­son­ing is now con­ve­niently for­got­ten.

Even PAS pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is­sued a state­ment in 2015, declar­ing it haram (or for­bid­den) to take part in demon­stra­tions.

Many PH sup­port­ers, who used to take part in Ber­sih protests, have also ques­tioned the need for demon­stra­tions, say­ing they trig­ger fear and pub­lic dis­rup­tion.

So there you go. In Malaysia, we suf­fer from many health con­cerns, not just di­a­betes and obe­sity, which is among the high­est in the world, but also, men­tal dis­or­ders.

Po­lit­i­cal am­ne­sia must rank highly for many of us, and we must be won­der­ing how in an in­creas­ingly re­li­gious Malaysia, up un­til last year, cor­rup­tion was run­ning riot.

Surely a coun­try that is so fear­ful of God, would not be so sin­ful.

Many things make lit­tle sense in Malaysia, but we still love this place be­cause there is never a dull day.

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