The rakyat had been giving the Barisan Nasional over 50 years of chances but instead of improving our lives, they had made things worse, observes Angeline Loh.
It came as quite a surprise, when someone I met at the Bersih 3.0 rally in Penang appealed to me to “…give them (the BN) another chance”.
To this old, stale adage, I replied that the rakyat had been giving the Barisan Nasional over 50 years of chances but instead of improving our lives, they have made things worse and are now apparently pushing the country towards bankruptcy. Would we want 50-plus more years of the BN?
The reaction to this was equally surprising, as one would think that the current nonsense – of adhoc-ism and politicised policy creating imbalanced and erratic systems in nearly every aspect of Malaysian socio-economic and political life – had sufficiently sunk into the public psyche, and was ready to be vomited out, completely. The reaction was one akin to being suddenly, rudely woken up from a reasonably deep slumber. Thankfully, there was no anger but a seemingly slow realisation of current reality.
From this incident, it occurred to me that, not everybody in Penang and probably the whole country is aware of the realities just outside their doors. Where this section of the Rakyat has been all this while is a mystery. Obviously, they’re not living in the same place and time or they seem to think that the virtual authoritarian state of affairs we live in currently is completely acceptable. The lack of democracy and the wrongness of it all seems lost on such people. So, in what time or place do they exist now?
Thinking about it, perhaps, there are still those who are unsure what to believe, with the mainstream media churning out sunshine stories and self-righteous propaganda about the ‘so wonderful’ things, and large amounts of money the BN government has poured into the country. We are told we should be ever grateful for all these ‘wonders’ that the government in all its gracious magnanimity has deemed to ‘gift’ the Rakyat with.
Another possible cause of confusion for those who do not or cannot access the online media is perhaps the ‘ostrich attitude’: imagining that “ignorance is bliss” and that refuge is found in the age-old tradition of keeping the status quo and unquestioning obedience to authority, intact. It may seem to them that to do otherwise or go against the grain of this fabric of traditional establishment will result in all hell breaking loose. However, this is exactly what advocates of communal, racial and religious politics want us to believe.
But as the pro-change mood spreads and increases in clarity in this “Malaysian Spring” (Green Left Weekly, Australia), a return to conservatism and traditional politics seems improbable, if not impossible. Hopefully, this rising tide for change will wash away the muddied thinking that has for decades clouded the vision and reason of our society.
Though, this will not happen overnight or even if change in government really happens, the rakyat must realise that like Rome, rebuilding and restructuring a long established system, cannot be done overnight, in a day or even a year. It can only be done brick by brick with, patience, proper planning cemented by political will, and cooperation as one people and one nation, with room for peaceful, non-violent dissent.
The “give chance”attitude applied by some quarters towards the former BN Penang state authorities, should in fairness, be applied to the current Pakatan government.
But the rakyat must draw a line as to how far we will allow our patience to stretch. We certainly should not have to wait more than 10 years for promises to be kept.
Angeline Loh is an Aliran executive committee member