Janji Bangsaku

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Janji yang kita meterai lama dahulu
Di kala kita bertungkus membina sebuah negara
Bahu ke bahu
Bersama sebagai saudara
Lupa kita pada janji kita ini?



Mr. Obama’s historic win

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Yes, Mr. Barack Obama is officially the president-elect of the United States of America.

It has been described as a ‘historic win’, in part because of the simple fact that Mr. Obama is of mixed parentage. But that’s beside the point. The point is, by any definition, Mr. Obama is not white.

We must surely be living through history itself. Not just for America, but for the whole world. I do not think that there has ever been an instance in which a person from an ethnic minority is elected to lead a country in a democratic manner. Yes, history may have witnessed conquests and revolutions in which the minor few leads or controls the majority, but surely not in this way. Surely this must be a milestone in the history of mankind, where the majority of a nation freely chooses a leader from an ethnic minority.

Will Mr. Obama make a good president? Time will tell. Many of us, especially here in Malaysia, do not really appreciate or understand the policy differences between Mr. Obama and his rival, Mr. John McCain. What we immediately see is an African American against someone who can be said to be a ‘typical’ white American. Many throughout the world, who willed Mr. Obama to victory, simply wanted to see someone different occupying the White House. Someone that does not fit the ‘convention’ of what a U.S. President should be.

Mr. Obama will take office during challenging times indeed. Not only for America, but for the world. The effect of the financial crisis is reverberating around the world and Mr. Obama will need to provide some examplery leadership to steer America through this financial storm.

It’s quite possible that Mr. Obama will be a bad president, of course. It’s quite possible that he will turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Guantanamo Bay, or the injustices committed by the Isrealis on the Palestenians. He might of course continue Mr. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ and thus alienating further the non-Americans around the world. We hope that Mr. Obama’s ‘politics of hope’ will bring change to the world, but of course, we are wary that Mr. Obama, although not looking like your average U.S. President, might just behave like one.

But whilst Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama have avoided the politics of race in their campaigns, the fact of the matter is that this election IS about race, specifically, Mr. Obama’s. American racism and hypocrisy, so prevalent in the 20th century, might just be a thing of the past. If Mr. Obama turned out to be a bad president, he will still be remembered because of the colour of his skin.

It is ironic that Mr. Obama’s victory is set against escalating racialism in our own country. A black man is elected U.S. President, but a Chinese woman cannot possibly be the general manager of PKNS. When questioning ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is equated to betraying the race and being asked to ‘leave’ the race. When suing a Malay language newspaper is equated to insulting the religion of Islam.

So very many years ago, Mr. Martin Luther King had a dream. Today, his dream has been realized.

I too, have a dream. I wonder when will it be realized?

Soul-searching in Britain


I left the United Kingdom in October 2006, after living there for a good portion of 3 years. When I left the country 2 years ago, I was eager to come home. Sure, the UK was a wonderful country to live in, but as the saying goes, hujan emas di negeri orang hujan batu di negeri sendiri, lebih baik di negeri sendiri. I wanted to come home, to start my career and to bring whatever I have learnt back for the benefit of my country and its people.

2 years back in Malaysia has ‘Malaysianised’ me. Whilst I can still remember the good things about the British Isles, I became engrossed with building my life in Malaysia. My perspective became jaded, I started to look into issues the ‘Malaysian’ way, whatever that means. Thus, my recent return to the UK in the past week was a refreshing and I’d daresay soul-searching experience. My ‘Malaysian’ views was put into sharp perspective and I realized how different the two countries are.

None more so than the political scene. At this moment, the current UK prime minister, Mr. Gordon Brown is facing intense pressure from the public as well as members of his own party. The main issue relates to the ‘credit crunch’, a term used to describe the sudden reduction in the availability of loans and/or the sudden increase in the cost of obtaining loans from banks (taken from Wikipedia). In short, the UK is feeling the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis of the US, as the two countries financial institutions are intertwined. The general perception of the UK public is that the current Labour government is weak and is not doing enough to elevate the hardships of the people. The cost of living in the UK is increasing at an alarming rate, and some have even found themselves unable to pay the mortgage of their own homes.

It is with this background that all eyes are focused on the Labour convention held last week in Manchester (think of it as UMNO’s Perhimpunan Agong, without the keris wielding and racial undertones, of course). Specifically, the public are focused on Mr. Brown’s speech, a speech in which he was supposed to reassure the public and his party that he is the right man for the job.

By and large, Mr. Brown seemed to have succeeded in doing so, at least in the eyes of the Labour delegates. He, who was criticized as being too ‘serious’, showed a ‘human touch’ in him, to reconnect himself with the people. The speech was intended to show the people that as prime minister, Mr. Brown and the Labour party will continue to fight for the UK and its people.

Mr. Brown and the Labour party needed to do so. Recent polls suggest that Labour is some ways behind the opposition Conservative party, led by its charismatic young leader, Mr. David Cameron. Some commentators suggest that should a general election be held right now, Labour would lose a lot of seats and will not form the government.

We can certainly see many parallels with the situation in our country. The backdrop is essentially the same; rising cost of living, stagnant economy and an under fire prime minister facing pressure from the opposition and members of his own party. Yet, I rediscovered how different the political situation is between their country and ours.

For one, the media in the UK are not politically controlled. Of course, between certain dailies there are certain political ‘leanings’, but it is not so blatantly biased and full of spin as it is right here. No one minces their words when criticizing Mr. Brown and the government. Over here, one would be hard pressed to find the words ‘under-fire’ and ‘Pak Lah’ in the same article, let alone the same sentence.

There is also a huge gap in the maturity of the arguments. The debate over in the UK are about policy issues; the economy, human rights, social issues, welfare, the environment etc. Over here, we are still bickering about race and religion, about succession planning, about crossovers and of course, about a certain 23-year old man’s backside. Politics here are not about issues but about politics, if that makes sense at all. Everytime we try to break the shackles of petty politics, there would be fierce opposition against it. In the UK, if a political leader was to brand British Asians as ‘immigrants’, that would be the end of his political career, not to he would be facing charges in court. Over here, a person saying something similar is sympathized, defended and even supported. Similarly, the Terrorism Act 2006 of the UK faced fierce opposition from many quarters when it was introduced in Parliamant, mainly because it allowed the police to detain a terrorist suspect for a maximum of 28 days before being released. In Malaysia, a draconian legislation allowing arbitraty detention from a limitless period is being justified as ‘necessary’.

It’s quite disheartening, really. We are a good 30 to 40 years behind. We hope that the next generation of Malaysians will transcend these petty issues, yet the response I received from my¬† own peers on my condemnation of the Ahmad Ismail issue and the ISA makes me wonder if we can ever achieve it. If young professionals and university graduates can defend racism and arbitrary detention without trial, what more the general populace?

We cannot even agree on the basic fundamentals, such as good governance, accountability, transparency, human rights, racism and racial prejudice. Matters that cuts across political divisions in the UK. A minister in the UK will resign from his post because of his principles and beliefs and it would not cause a massive stir. In Malaysia, after 50 years of nation-building, only recently have we had a minister resign over the same matters.

I came back to Malaysia after a 10 days hiatus and I’m ashamed. Truly, I am. An undemocratic succession plan is going to be hastened. An equally undemocratic power seizure via crossovers is still being promised. Are these the solutions? So what if we have a leadership change? So what if we have a change of government? If our mindset and our culture still remains the same, how can we move forward?

Yes, change will take time. The UK had centuries of democracy. We are still a young nation, grappling with its growing pains. But they say time and tide waits for no man, and it will certainly not wait for a nation. If the task of trying to bring change in people’s mindset and culture is facing such a fierce resistance, why bother? Deep in my heart of hearts, I know that the only reasons that I choose to come back to Malaysia was because of my family and the love of my nation and my people. Call them unpatriotic or whatever, but I can certainly understand why Malaysians would want to leave the country. Patriotism stems from the connections we build with our country, yet if we feel that our country and our people do not love us, why would we want to stay?

No, I’m not giving up hope just yet. But for the first time since in the 2 years I left the UK, I actually pondered over the possibility of living in the UK.

And the fact that I actually thought about it scares me.

I fly my flag with hope!


Weeks ago, I flew my flag upside down.

This is because I did not agree with our country’s direction under the present leadership. I fly it upside down as a sign of distress, that Malaysia needs to be saved.

I still do not agree with the country’s direction. Malaysia still needs to be saved. Yet, as Merdeka Day is only days away, I have decided to fly my flag the way its meant to be flown.

Not because my prime minister calls me ‘evil’. Not because I am afraid of action being taken against me. I still believe that if things done change, we will be heading downwards to a path of ruin.

Yet the events in the past few days have given me hope. Hope that more and more Malaysians are willing to save our fair nation. Hope, to say that all is not lost and we may still do something about it.

And so, with this hope, I fly my beloved Jalur Gemilang this Merdeka day.

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I fly my flag upside down…

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This was actually initiated by blogger Kickdefella.

Displaying the flag upside down is not meant to be a sign of disrespect. An upside down flag is in fact an official symbol of distress.

“If you have a reason to disagree with the manner in which this country is heading, then you have a cause.”

Yes, I have a reason to disagree with the country’s direction. The way we’re heading with the present administration, I can only see a bleak future of despair. And so, as a mark of protest, I fly my flag upside down.

Our country is in distress. We must save it.

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