This was the year we were supposed to become a ‘developed’ country with a ‘mature’ democracy, but as Rom Nain writes, the reality could not have been more different.
As the majority of American voters celebrate the removal of the lying, racist, misogynistic and xenophobic Donald J Trump after one wild term as President, many Malaysians have joined in the celebrations.
Most of us join as a community that has been fed a constant diet of Hollywood’s America, believing in its ongoing myth of being the “land of the free, home of the brave”.
We celebrate at a time when we find very little to celebrate at home. It may be the beginning of a glorious winter in the US, but over here in Malaysia, it feels as though it has been a long dark winter, since the March 2020 coup and the backdoor takeover of government by the Perikatan Nasional regime.
Having been hit, together with the rest of the world, by the coronavirus pandemic and total or partial lockdowns, everything seems to have gone south rapidly for us over the past eight months.
This situation has not been made any easier for us by the antics of the unfunny schemers in the backdoor government.
Many of us still remember the early capers of the health minister, prescribing `air suam’ as a cure for Covid-19, and the higher education minister promoting TikTok as a solution for the very real problems of university and college students.
But since those early days, others from this silly and shameless regime have joined in the act, showing off their stupidity and arrogance with impunity and little concern for the rakyat.
Among these was the ‘new’ higher education minister’s decision to maintain the oft-criticised Universities and University Colleges Act, thus scuttling the ousted Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s reform plans.
But surely, the most appalling individual display of contempt for the law was the blatant violation of home quarantine rules by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali and, thus far, the inability, indeed reluctance, of the authorities to take action against him.
Khairuddin’s violation and the inaction shown by his boss, the PM, are illustrative of the contempt this regime has for the rakyat.
Collectively, led by this backdoor PM, this regime shamefully attempted to declare a state of emergency in late October, when clearly there was no necessity.
This was averted following a public uproar by the rakyat, which presumably reached the ears of the Council of Rulers, who, through the Agong, rejected the proposal. But there are now reports that there could be future disgraceful attempts of this nature.
History will also show us how this regime has turned Parliament on its head, using the pandemic as a cheap excuse to render the august House quite powerless and seemingly insignificant. Parliamentary sittings have been delayed, cut short, and have now had the number of its attending MPs slashed.
It is as if, despite virtually ordering businesses, the courts and other government departments to operate online, these political schemers themselves are clueless about new technology and how it can contribute towards safe parliamentary sittings for all our MPs.
They are not clueless and helpless, of course. They are only implying that they are, as an excuse they hope will placate their flock, the way Trump placated his white supremacist followers as he made deals to enrich himself and his family while in the White House.
And while his ministers hide under the cover of all this horse manure, the PM occasionally makes an appearance on national media spouting condescending ‘fatherly’ homilies which many no longer find helpful or convincing.
At the same time, they openly reward themselves with appointments to top positions in government-linked companies and reward themselves with hefty pay hikes, adding to their earlier predilection for using public funds to buy luxury official cars.
As Parliament finally reopens yet remains inaccessible to many, we see more of this chicanery taking place. We have a Budget being proposed that markedly reduces the allocation for public health during a period of crisis, yet allocates a colossal RM85.5m for Jasa, the regime’s propaganda arm.
This is the sad situation we find ourselves in as we end 2020 – the year which had been projected as the year we would become a “developed” country with a “mature” democracy and a “caring society”.
It hasn’t turned out that way, of course. And it won’t, as long as this regime continues to ride roughshod over democratic principles. But here’s the thing – it is an unstable, same old, same old regime with no clear direction for the country. Therein lie opportunities for the opposition and civil society, especially if we work together.Rom Nain
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
10 November 2020