Sunday, August 5, 2012

BN’s promise: Tribespeople, idiots or citizens? — Rama Ramanathan

BN’s promise: Tribespeople, idiots or citizens? — Rama Ramanathan

August 05, 2012
Malaysian Insider-Side Views

AUG 5 — Why am I so disgusted with the Barisan Nasional (BN) government?

I take my citizenship seriously. I was born in Malaysia. My siblings were born in Malaysia. My mother spoke only two languages: her mother tongue, Tamil and Malay. My father was a civil servant for decades. I’m a Malaysian.

My school friends are in Malaysia. My parents were cremated here, their ashes loosed in the waters off Port Dickson. My siblings, my wife’s siblings and most of our friends live in Malaysia. I desire to live nowhere else. I am entrenched.

My upbringing and my beliefs cause me to think of everyone as my neighbour. I take seriously God’s command to love Him with my every breath, thought and action, and that I should love my neighbour as myself.  I’m a citizen.

I remember daily the story the Messiah told in answer to the question: Who is my neighbour? In the story of the Good Samaritan, the neighbour is the one in need, the downtrodden everyman, to whom I am to show mercy.

I recognise that government and leadership are necessary. Without “people in charge,” such as police, lawmakers and government officials, we’ll have anarchy: bandits will reign; our cities will be like Baghdad, Beirut, or Bogota.

Those cities exemplify what happens in the absence of good government: the strong, the well-funded, and the bigots will suppress the unarmed. Mubarak did it in Tahrir Square. Najib did it in Merdeka Square.

The purpose of a government is to create, maintain and promote conditions of equity, harmony and equality through the right use of authority. A government is judged by how it treats the weak. How shall we judge the BN government?

According to BN, we’ve been blessed in Malaysia. We’ve had continuity of government. BN reminds us it has ruled us for 55 years and has done much good. BN says promises have been made and kept.

Is that what government is about? Making and keeping promises, without regard for how promises are fulfilled, if indeed they are?

In democracies, the members of the ruling party or coalition must be re-elected every now and then. In Malaysia, elections must be held every five years. People are not naturally like the Good Samaritan; they are more like bandits. An easy route to re-election is to pander to voters, to dull their vision and appetite for a golden society by giving them sweets, mere instant gratification.

People put themselves first. They want handouts, they want “their share” of wealth and prosperity now, not in the future. That applies to both the poor and the rich; any of us can choose to be bandits. The poor man wants priority for a house; the rich man wants priority for a contract award.

I’m not saying governments shouldn’t make promises and be measured according to whether they keep their promises. I’m saying it’s important to be clear that some promises, though unstated, are non-negotiable. Becoming rich by banditry, by oppressing others or grabbing public wealth is not acceptable.

Malaysia is in the state it is in because I, a citizen, let it become so. Malaysia will not continue so, because I, as a remorseful citizen, will not let it remain so.

What’s wrong with the Malaysia BN has created, promotes and sustains? Here’s my quick, short list:

1.    The police force is a spent force. There are many unexplained deaths-in-custody, many cases of police indifference to thefts and assaults, many cases of police brutality. BN won’t set up an independent Police Commission.

2.    The judiciary is tainted. The Lingam/Mahathir affair has not been adequately resolved. Instead, the BN government unrelentingly tars the Bar Council which is actively promoting decency, justice and human rights.

3.    Malay Superiority reigns. BN’s Malay newspaper, Utusan Malaysia promotes racism; BN’s version of history has and continues to erase the contributions of non-Malays to Malaysia; non-Malays are second class citizens.

4.    An entitlement mindset is entrenched. The PKFZ (port) scandal, the NFC (cow) scandal and awards of Solar Energy rights to non-capitalised companies are the more visible aspects of corruption.

5.    Good citizens are demonised. BN’s violence in the Ipoh Constitutional crisis, persecution of EO6 and Bersih leaders/participants and trampling on the rights of Christians in the Bible and Allah controversies are the most apparent indicators of this.

In a panel discussion in 1994, the social commentator Os Guinness made an incisive comment about governments and citizens: we exhibit the behaviours we choose, and we get the governments appropriate to our behaviour:

“So let me pose the issues I think America faces today. At the individual level there is a simple choice. Will we be tribespeople and respond according to our group allegiances, will we be idiots (in the old Greek sense), people who are just after their own individual interests, or thirdly, will we be citizens, people who can fight for their own interests but always with a respect for the common good, recognizing the rights of the worst of their enemies and the smallest minorities that they happen to oppose. Too many Christians today are tribespeople. Would that they were citizens in the best sense of the word.” [Os Guinness, quoted in Modern Reformation: God and Politics. Sept./Oct. 1994 Vol. 3 No. 5 Page number(s): 24-27.]

Aren’t we facing the same choices Guinness says America faced in 1994?

Can you spot the tribespersons? They think as Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Malay first.

Can you spot the idiots? Their chief concerns are themselves, their families, their associates.

Can you spot the good citizens? They are the protesters, activists and relentless conversationists. They put the common good first and respect the rights of those they oppose.

Why am I so disgusted with the Barisan Nasional Government?

I’m disgusted because I think BN’s vision is a nation of tribespeople “living together” to avoid repression and incarceration by the government.

I’m disgusted because I think BN is composed of idiots whose goal is personal enrichment, achieved through trampling the honour and rights of others.

I’m disgusted because when I try daily to be a good citizen, the evil I see in myself is seen most clearly in BN.

I’m just as disgusted with PR when they exhibit the same behaviour as BN. Be warned. Many Malaysians, like me, have woken up to what citizenship means.

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