‘Syukurlah Malaysia masih aman’

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Cartoon courtesy of cartoonkafe.com and Merdeka Review

If it was not for “Syukurlah Malaysia masih aman”, thegovernment would surely need to find new ways to silence the people, sighs Yasmin Bathamanathan.

Can you count the number of times you have heard “Syukurlah Malaysia masih aman” (Thank God, Malaysia is still peaceful)?

If you are like me, you would have lost count.

Malaysia’s most revered tagline is also one of our most conflicting ones.

While our politicians say this in earnest, I am well aware that when we the rakyat say it, sarcasm drips as we pronounce each syllable.

My most recent encounter with this asinine expression was at the High Commission of Malaysia in London.

The high commission, in honour of the visit of Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman, arranged a get-together with the Malaysian diaspora in the UK.

“In Malaysia, you probably would not have had the chance to meet the minister up close, but here you get to,” said the high commissioner on the significance of the commission to Malaysians in the UK.

I agreed with him on that for I would not have known who our foreign affairs minister was had I not taken up the invitation to attend the get-together.

Escaping the infamous London showers into the warm and inviting confines of the Malaysian high commission, I felt a tiny tinge of pride. To see the Malaysian flag and insignia proudly displayed and to enter the fortress of my country in a foreign land gave rise to the patriot within me. Just as soon as that tinge rose, it quickly dissipated.

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Entering the warm refuge, I couldn’t help but scan the interior: an exquisite marble wall with the staircase to the first floor carved in, opulent crystal chandeliers adorning the ceiling of the room; thick, plush carpet lining the marble floors and rich (re: expensive) wood panes framing the walls. The Malaysian High Commission, like many old state buildings back home, screamed wealth.

Malaysia is indeed a wealthy nation, but can the same be said of the people of Malaysia?

Just like we spew “Syukurlah Malaysia masih aman”, are the people of Malaysia aman though?

Let’s take a look at the rising cost of living, which quite frankly, is a main cause for many Malaysians’ anxiety.

From the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) and the various price hikes to the depreciating ringgit, we are squeezed trying to lead our daily lives.

A trip to the market can easily cost me RM20 for vegetables. Should I want to add some meat and fish into my diet, I should be prepared to pay another RM30 or more, depending on the type of meat and fish, and how much I want to buy.

This is just groceries for one, for a max of eight meals, and does not include the cost incurred for staples such as rice, oil, seasoning, gas and electricity that I would need to cook and store the said meals.

Should I choose to eat out, a plate of noodles in Penang on average costs RM4 and nasi kandar (one vege and one meat) costs about RM7. I could go super budget and spend RM1 for a roti canai kosong. Drinks? Let’s not even go there. I carry my water bottle with me most of the time.

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Easily, I could expect to spend anywhere from RM10 to RM20 on meals per day.

At least I have a job that pays me just enough so that I can afford a house to live in, decent clothes to wear, a car to get me places comfortably, and enough left over to purchase my flight ticket to London.

But not all fellow Malaysians are in the same boat. Yes, there are some who have a whole lot more than I do, but many are in situations far worse than I am in.

In his speech, the minister broached a little on the rising cost of living back at home. GST was not to be blamed though.

“Harga gula naik 10 sen, kedai mamak naikkan harga teh tarik 50 sen. Yang naik tu 10 sen sekilo, tapi orang semua naikkan harga setiap barang pulak” has to be one of the stock responses members of our ruling government spew at official events.

Sure our traders are to be blamed, but what is our government doing to regulate prices? Is the handing out of BR1M supposed to make do for the daily strangulations we face?

If we keep pointing fingers at external forces (looking at you, our dear prime minister), when are we going to take ownership of our mistakes and rectify them? What are we doing, as a nation, to redistribute wealth, revitalise our economy and put in place infrastructure and facilities that truly serve the rakyat?

So when I turned over my hard-earned RM1,300 last week and was given £200, I heard a voice in my head say, “Syukurlah Malaysia masih aman.”

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Indeed, “syukurlah Malaysia masih aman” – because if it weren’t, our ruling government would surely need to find new ways to silence the people.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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