August 30, 2015

In View of Malaysia's 58th Independence Day

[Versi Melayu di sini]

If you've been following the news, you'd know of the Bersih 4 demonstrations taking place this weekend. Tens of thousands of Malaysians streamed to Kuala Lumpur, as well as cities worldwide, including Hong Kong (kicking myself for being sick and unable to attend).

bersih, bersih 4, malaysia, malaysia bersih, yiweilim, yiwei lim

A few thoughts as we approach our 58th Independence Day tomorrow:

The articles titled "Dear Malaysians, why Bersih won't help you" are probably going to print as I write this. However, Bersih has done an amazing job in waking up the "rakyat" (citizens). Bersih, especially this 4th edition, is an expression of our dissatisfaction with the government and its state of corruption, from the judiciary to the supposed anti-corruption agency, the Election Commission (EC) and most recently, the 1MDB and RM 2.6 billion scandals rocking the highest office in our civil service, the Prime Minister's. Let us remember this dissatisfaction and every injustice and dollar taken from the rakyat. 

Nonetheless, there is a lot needed to do from now toward GE14 in 2018. Emotions are at a high now, and some of us feel we can/should "break the system", but the system still exists and that's why we'll have to work intelligently and efficiently.

Firstly, the issue of gerrymandering has yet to be solved, in order to give parties outside of the ruling coalition a fair fighting chance. Again, cynically speaking, as long as the ruling coalition has its talons in the EC's wallet, I'm not convinced this will change.

This brings me to the going-to-print articles bemoaning the lack of Malay participation in Bersih 4. Some have decried Bersih 4 as a "Chinese movement"; others highlighted that poorer Malays may have lacked resources to travel up to KL to join Bersih and also for fear of withdrawn government assistance due to their participation. Whatever the reasons, the underlying message of these articles is that we've got to reach out to the Malays, especially the rural ones to be able to give the next election a better fighting chance at fairness.

Our message to them should be based on economics. We should be encouraging them to ask what the government has done for them besides meagre handouts, and why their economic status has changed little despite the various economic and development programmes implemented over decades.

I definitely see parallels between this situation and Bible Belt Americans who vote overwhelmingly Republican despite their economic interests. Like the Republicans who have used race and religious divisions, UMNO is equally adept at using the concept of Malay supremacy and Islam to divide our people. I am not entirely sure how to break this tradition (plus there are probably many game theory studies into this phenomenon), but we have to get the message out that our current state of widespread corruption and the failure of institutions affects all of us, regardless of ethnicity, religion or whether you live in the city or are rural.

Now you're probably asking, Yi Wei, what are you doing after your spiel above? Honestly, I'm not set... part of me wants to say s'long Malaysia and make my fortune overseas or anywhere that will take this nomad. There's a certain bitterness when you see yourself and your family members being sidelined in terms of work, education and living opportunities just because of your skin colour. Interestingly, in a delicious twist of fate, my scholarship to come to Hong Kong was contributed by Kerry Holdings, a company under the Malaysian-born Robert Kuok who left the country for pretty much the same racial discrimination issues that I've faced.

In the long term however, I feel that I will return to Malaysia. In the short term, I am learning and observing.  

malaysia, merdeka, bersih, yiweilim, yiwei lim, bersih 4

Happy Independence Day, fellow Malaysians. 

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