This country is dire need of direction and effective leadership that truly cares for the welfare of Malaysians, irrespective of creed, colour and class, notes Mustafa K Anuar.
Barisan Nasional MP Bung Mokhtar Radin recently praised Hitler in a tweet when Germany defeated Brazil 7-1 in this year’s World Cup’s semi-final; an invocation of the Nazi dictator who – if the politician needs reminding – was responsible for a massive and heinous genocide between 1941 and 1945 that left millions of Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, the disabled and other groups brutally murdered.
This colossal ethnic cleansing was committed in line with the German leader’s racist philosophy of promoting the so-called pure and supreme Aryan race.
So as you can see, the exhilaration of this Bung (of ‘leakage’ notoriety) was most unfortunate. Nay, it was downright outrageous given the serious implications of singing the praises of the obnoxious Fuhrer – which explains why the German Ambassador to Malaysia was compelled to condemn the Kinabatangan MP while Prime Minister Najib Razak distanced himself from this atrocious remark.
Bung later expressed his apology, the sincerity of which many of his detractors were not convinced.
Like many other run-of-the-mill politicians and civil servants, Bung’s political transgression has put Malaysia in the international spotlight for all the obviously wrong reasons. For, to make light of the Holocaust is as bad as being insensitive to the brutal pounding of the civilian Palestinians in Gaza by the might of the formidable Israeli military force.
But the Bung outburst is more than just a careless and foolish adulation. It is symptomatic of a worsening situation of Malaysian politics and social malaise.
Racism, for one thing, has become rife in recent years, and its public expression resonates with the political ideology held by certain individuals and groups such as Perkasa and Isma.
In fact, racist sentiments have been religiously articulated and the politics of ethnicity practised almost on a daily basis by such groups that have slowly taken centre stage in society. And the situation deteriorates when ethnicity and religion are mixed to form a heady brew. Or worse, when racism is given the respectable garb of religion by those who have no qualms in abusing faith.
Differences of opinions are increasingly considered a crime in society by certain groups, and they are often met with derision, if not threats of violence. For instance, right wing groups often tell critics of the Malaysian government and Umno Baru -especially the non-Malays – to leave the country.
Obviously this is hardly an intelligent response to finely crafted arguments put forward by these critics, and therefore doesn’t really facilitate civilised conversations and dialogues. Similarly, hate speech spewed by the bigoted is equally anti-intellectual.
Further, it doesn’t help when the country’s leadership is not there when its intervention is desperately needed so that crass racism and bigotry can be contained and tackled. Such clueless leadership can only accelerate the degeneration of political decency and intellectual discourse and gives rise to a sense of helplessness among some Malaysians.
This situation was ironically alerted to Malaysians by no less than the prime minister himself when he remarked about the loss suffered by Brazil in the World Cup match recently.
That is why in the absence or a lack of principled and forthright leadership in the country and also troubled by the rise of racism and extremism, a group of concerned citizens has felt the urgency to try to pull our divided society back together via a newly established body called Negaraku. This initiative is spearheaded by former Bersih leaders, Ambiga Sreneevasan and Pak Samad. Predictably, this movement has already earned the wrath of the likes of Isma and Utusan Malaysia.
What is also disconcerting in Malaysia’s political landscape today is the lack of compassion and care that characterises some political leaders. For example, we have the Minister of the Federal Territories Tengku Adnan, who initially wanted to impose fines on not only soup kitchens that provide food for the poor, homeless and the vulnerable within a 2km-radius of Lot 10 but also those receiving the free meals.
After a loud public outcry, Adnan, who subsequently accompanied Najib to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, declared that the ban on these unfortunate people in the zone would only be imposed after the holy month of Ramadan. Surely conducting a raid after the fasting month is no less sinful and inhuman.
Besides, banning the homeless and others in the shopping zone is tantamount to sweeping a social problem under the proverbial carpet. It would be more meaningful if the government were to address the structures and other factors that help cause such a phenomenon. Surely foreign tourists (and well-heeled shoppers), whose sensitivity and concerns apparently Adnan wants to take care of, would appreciate a conscious government attempt to make the lives of the poor and the vulnerable more bearable and dignified in and outside city centres.
As it is, the ordinary rakyat – the poor and the low- and middle-income earners – are already experiencing a tough life, what with the rising cost of living over the years, and a new consumption tax, the Goods and Sales Tax (GST).
This country is dire need of direction and effective leadership that truly cares for the welfare of Malaysians, irrespective of creed, colour and class. Only then can the country move forward with a bang – instead of a Bung.
Mustafa K Anuar
15 July 2014