In 2020, let’s redouble our efforts to build a new Malaysia

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There is still hope if sufficient people care enough to stand together against injustice, corruption, discrimination, bigotry and extremism, writes Prema Devaraj.

As we begin the new year, how will our journey forward be?

Reflections of the past year have included achievements of the Pakatan Harapan government and also criticisms of what is wrong and what could and should be done better. Mixed into this is the increase in ethno-religious tensions, which is resulting in the further and unnecessary polarising of our society.

As we enter 2020, we need to work towards what is best for the country and everyone in it. In envisioning a new Malaysia, there are many different ideas of what this actually means. Several questions come to mind as we work to build a new Malaysia.

Will this vision include one where the posturing over superiority of ethnicity and faith will be seen for what it really is and cease to be? Will we see the need to reduce and remove disrespect and chauvinism over differing cultures and languages?

Are we envisioning spaces for real consultation, discussion, disagreement, understanding and compromise? Will the diversity of faiths, thoughts and practices cease to be seen as threats?

How will we diminish feelings of insecurity and acknowledge the ‘humanness’ in everyone, irrespective of who they are or where they come from or what their faith is?

Will this vision address the greed and profiteering over decades, which seem to be taking precedence over people and the need to preserve the ecosystem? How will we address sustainable development and climate change in our vision for Malaysia, taking into consideration global forces?

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Will there be security of affordable housing and healthcare for ordinary people? Will we see a decent minimum wage put in place for all workers and will their rights be protected?

Will this vision include addressing concretely the needs of our indigenous people, the refugees and other vulnerable and marginalised groups in both east and west Malaysia?

In envisioning a new Malaysia, what will we honestly acknowledge of our past? Will the different aspects of Malaysia’s history be recognised, acknowledged and accepted?

Will people, especially the young, be allowed (and encouraged) to think critically in schools and universities?

Will our vision for a way forward see a reduction in the toxicity of social media? Can we hope for a lessening in the circulation of inflammatory, irresponsible, ‘simply hentam’ postings or inaccurate information? How would we make people not only more accountable but also more discerning about the messages and information shared?

In this new Malaysia, would the word integrity have real meaning? Will we see professionalism and pride in all endeavours undertaken be it in essential services for the people or the development of industry and projects? What will be our yardstick of progress or success, and how will this be monitored and measured?

Will we be able to uphold the rule of law and will we have enforcement agencies we can respect and trust?

If we hope to see any of this materialising, then we all need to play a part in creating and delivering components of this vision of a new Malaysia. Nobody said it would be easy. It is an uphill climb in the current situation.

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The public cannot afford to remain silent. Let’s not be divided or distracted by political drama in the quest to build this country differently. Let’s focus on what is important.

It is so easy to pick holes and criticise. But it is harder to undo decades of wrongdoing, to build in constructively principles of good governance to fill the existing gaps, to ensure checks and balances, to bring together people who have different points of view and to create a sustainable future for this country.

Yes, it is a struggle, but let’s not lose heart. Despite the various obstacles, there is still hope if sufficient people care enough to fight and work for a better Malaysia.  Now more than ever, people of all faiths and ethnicities must stand together against injustice, corruption, discrimination, bigotry and extremism, whenever and wherever it arises.

This year, 2020, gives us another chance to continue with the building of a shared vision of a different Malaysia. We must all put our shoulders to the wheel of change and keep that vision in sight.

Happy New Year!

Prema Devaraj
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
1 January 2020
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