Awaken the Force

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We must support efforts being taken to tackle injustices and those who are being persecuted for doing the right thing. There is so much work to be done, says Prema Devaraj.

“The only fight is against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.”

So said Maz Kanata (or something along those lines), the thousand-year-old bartender to the characters Rey and Finn in the movie The Force Awakens.

She sees the First Order for what it is… but wait a minute – she could just have well been talking about Malaysia! The evils are plenty here too and yes, they have taken different forms.

Let’s see; we have the evils

Malaysians seem to have developed a keen sense of humour over time to deal with what has been happening in the country. There are endless jokes on WhatsApp over donations, portions of donations which are returned, Saudis, Bangladeshi workers, Twitter policing, and so on.

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But it has not been funny for Deepa Subramaniam and her children, has it? According to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Deepa was not only a victim of repetitive violent domestic violence for years but has been made to suffer the consequences of a legal system which was not only used as a tool to violate her rights as a parent, but failed to effectively uphold the rights of her children as well.

Although the Federal Court did finally rule that the civil court had exclusive jurisdiction to grant divorce, including custody, care and access of children where one spouse has unilaterally converted to Islam and that it was an abuse of process when a spouse who converted to Islam files for dissolution of marriage and custody of children in the Syariah Court, this is surely not rocket science but common sense. Nevertheless, the injustice of the situation was not addressed.

In this particular case the spouse unilaterally converted his children to Islam, obtained “custody” from the Syariah court (thus subverting the civil jurisdiction), forcefully took away one of his two children from their mother, and in so doing, violated an existing custody order from the High Court in favour of Deepa.

Yet in the end he was rewarded by the Federal Court with the custody of the child he had taken away. One cannot help but wonder whether this outcome is setting an SOP for allegedly abusive husbands to escape any form of censure. Will any action ever be taken against him for the non-compliance of the High Court order?

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The situation has also not been funny for Malaysians struggling with the rising costs of living which will no doubt become worse with the signing of TPPA.

Neither have things been a barrel of laughs for migrant workers what with the government’s plan on doubling the worker’s levy. The situation facing migrant workers is really one of modern-day slavery with a large number of migrant workers being pawns in get-rich schemes devised by people meant to be governing the country.

The situation facing the refugee community is also incredibly appalling with so little recognition of their humanity and protection of their rights. Sadly xenophobic attitudes remain rife in this country, which supposedly welcomes diversity and talks about moderation.

How do we move forward from here? We are not stuck. On the contrary it would seem that we are sliding down very fast into an abyss of a horribly mismanaged country devoid of integrity at a variety of levels, with corruption and religious conservatism being major propellers in this descent. The continued fracturing of our nation, the disillusionment and dumbing down of our people is hard to bear.

Well, we may not be Jedi’s but we know the difference between right and wrong. In the real world we too have to face these evils and fight back. Somehow we must find a way to continue to challenge and expose each injustice as it surfaces.

All our representatives – be they local councillors, state assembly representatives, members of parliament – should be asked what they are doing to make our society more open and less corrupt.

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We have to be persistent in our fight for openness of information, accountability and transparency through our questioning of our leaders be they in government or otherwise. We must strive to reach out to more people especially through social media and in our national language.

And importantly, we need to support efforts being taken to address these injustices and those who are being persecuted for doing the right thing.

There is so much work to be done.

All of us, together must awaken the Force!

Prema Devaraj
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter,
18 February 2016

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