Malaysia at a crossroads

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Photograph: sabahkini.com

As the journey continues, there are times when the country’s downward spiral seems endless but we must not stop voicing our concerns and pushing for change, writes Prema Devaraj.

This week saw a simple cross on a building offending the sensitivities of a small but obviously not very well informed group of people in Taman Medan.

Anyway this time around, the responses towards this show of ‘sensitivity’ and bullying behaviour has seen a certain amount of censure from both BN and PR leaders as well as from ordinary citizens, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Hopefully, this censure will stop such behaviour in the future.

Of course at the back of many peoples’ minds is the question of whether all this was just an orchestration to show the need for the Sedition Act. While it is high time a stand is taken over this kind of behavior, Aliran would caution against the use of the Sedition Act on this group of people. There are other laws in the Penal Code which can deal with intimidation and bullying.

While we are on the subject of curtailing offensive behaviour, Jakim, the federal Islamic Affairs department, has recently released guidelines regarding entertainment (approved by the National Fatwa Committee) on the kinds of personality, dress, music, lyrics and jokes allowed for stage shows and musical concerts by foreign personalities.

For stage performances, Jakim insists that jokes told should be “sparing”, must “toe the line”, and should not lead to “extreme laughter” and that men and women are also not allowed to interact on stage.

READ MORE:  In search of bullies in Muslim-majority Malaysia

While these are Jakim guidelines, approving authorities were apparently advised to ask event organisers to abide by Jakim’s rules. It would be good if areas of concern like endemic corruption would capture Jakim’s zeal.

So as we watch things develop in the country, residents in Penang cannot be really sure about what is going to suddenly develop in front of their houses or apartment blocks.

Recently, Penangites found out about a proposal for a cable car from the mainland to the island and that hill land in Bukit Relau had actually been rezoned for residential development way back in December 2012. Development on the island continues to be a concern for many.

On the mainland, the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign is underway with four candidates contesting for the parliamentary seat. The campaign in Permatang Pauh (and there have been a few in recent years) has just started but already the calibre of the BN has come through at a ceramah in which crass sexual innuendos were used by both Umno vice-president Ahmad Zahidi Hamidi and Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. Many of us just long for a normal democracy.

And finally we have our ex-premier Tun Dr Mahathir raising questions about Altantuya’s murder and 1MDB’s missing money and suggesting that GST should be abolished. If Tun is really speaking up against regressive taxation, perhaps we might then see him participating at the upcoming 1 May anti-GST rally in KL and supporting those who are charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for trying to ask questions about GST at the Royal Malaysian Customs and Excise Department in Kelana Jaya, Selangor, recently.

READ MORE:  In search of bullies in Muslim-majority Malaysia

As the journey continues, there are times when the country’s downward spiral seems endless but we must not stop voicing our concerns and pushing for change. The ride will be very bumpy but hang on and cross your fingers…!

Prema Devaraj
Co-editor, Aliran e-newsletter
30 April 2015

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