The silence from among those who, pre-2018, has been so vociferous in their demand for transformation should be cause for concern, writes K Veeriah.
In their heyday, Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM), the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), Friends of the Earth Malaysia (SAM), Aliran, the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), the DAP and other groups stood as pillars to articulate the voice of citizens.
A constant cry for the emancipation of the people rose up whether it was in politics, consumerism, environmentalism or concern for socioeconomic conditions.
We heard an incessant demand for draconian, obnoxious policies and laws that infringed on fundamental rights to be cast to oblivion. There was a nexus between civil society organisations and opposition political parties in their quest for meaningful change.
That bravery and conviction stood as defining moments of a full-blooded collaboration between civil society groups and their political allies in advocating competency, transparency and accountability.
For standing up for their beliefs, a cross-section of civil society activists, and political leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act (since repealed) during Operation Lallang. Chandra Muzaffar, Meenakshi Raman, Arokiadass, V David, Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and over a hundred other innocent victims were hauled up in 1987, at a time when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister.
What these detainees endured stands as testimony to their unwavering sacrifice to transform the socioeconomic and political landscape of the nation more than 30 years ago.
But, after the Pakatan Harapan triumph in 2018, what we heard was the “sound of silence” from those in PH component parties.
Promises to abolish laws that suppressed a vibrant civil society movement were compromised. Likewise, toxic laws that deprived individuals of their liberty remained in the statute books.
To their credit, the PH government did try to re-engineer oppressive laws and the entrenched enthic-based political and socioeconomic order that was the bedrock of the Barisan Nasional government.
Sadly, their endeavours have been derailed by the axis of Umno, Pas, Bersatu, Azmin Ali and team, and the ever unpredictable defectors from across the South China Sea.
What ought to be of concern is the prevailing “sound of silence” from among those who had, pre-2018, been so vociferous in their demands for a transformation of the socioeconomic and political ecosystem of the nation.
Has their two-year sojourn in the comfort of the seat of authority diminished their spirits and has it dosed the fire in their belly? Or are they on a sabbatical to re-energise or re-sync themselves? These are questions that needs pondering.
Whatever, they need to break the paralysing wall of silence. They need to regroup in earnest, to emerge in the forefront to organise, lead and confront the present morally illegitimate government, lest the residual PH coalition be labelled as a spent force.
The challenges are clearly defined, and it is for the PH partnership to rise from the ashes to continue to be the voice of the people.
15 March 2020
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang