Lesson learned from the past
AUG 28 — In a few more days, we will celebrate our 55th year of being independent. National Day is the best day to reflect back on our journey as a nation.
First, there are no other days which are more significant in our nation’s rich history. Second, it reflects exactly another year of us being fully responsible for dictating the course of Malaysia. We have no one else to blame, as the power has been solely in our hands.
This day is also special for me personally. It used to be the only day in the year where my friends and I would get the chance to actually wave the “Jalur Gemilang” during the annual celebration in primary school. It was also the time of the year where my father insisted that our house showcased the “Jalur Gemilang”, though it was my younger brother’s duty to fix the flags due to his thinner physique.
From my primary school days, I also remember working with the entire school to produce a huge, extra-long “Jalur Gemilang” for this special day. Those were amazing moments.
I would limit my reflection this time on the political aspect of August 31. Many of us assumed last August that we would have seen the results of the hotly anticipated 13th general election by now. But most of us were wrong, and it now seems unlikely that the GE will be held in 2012.
Today, I don’t want to discuss assumptions on the outcome of this postponed election. What concerns me most is the effect of this delay. Datuk Seri Najib Razak has until April next year to call for election and both parties are now happy to use this time to strengthen their positions.
However, although both political sides benefit from this delay as they can reduce the cracks internally, this wait has increased the cracks between Malaysians as a country. The intensity and frequency of the fights in the political arena has increased as the year progresses, and has given all political parties something to work on to prove their worth.
On the other end of the spectrum, this postponement of the elections has the potential to deter eager first-time voters who might lose their interest in voting in the midst of the wait for elections to be announced.
Ultimately, my biggest worry is that we will be so divided that GE 13 will be a trigger of an even wider division among us as country, instead of providing a new fresh mandate for our political leaders. Perhaps fixed-term elections like that in the United Kingdom can help ease the uncertainty and the division it has the potential to create.
Other than that, we could say politics is generally heading in the right direction, though not at a satisfying pace as of yet. Some issues are being raised constructively, which then leads to productive debate over the issues at hand. Ignited by the debate in London between Khairy Jamaluddin and Rafizi Ramli on Wawasan 2020, we have thereafter seen a number of debates on a number of other issues such as Bersih and higher education. This is all good, considering that two years ago this kind of debate was unimaginable in the Malaysian political scene.
However, this is no reason for us to rest on our laurels and not work towards bringing further changes politically for the nation. We should strive for more progress, and move away from debate being a display of disagreement and clash of ideas on an issue.
Instead, we should demand for debates that provide an intellectual means for us to dissect that issue deeply, and that lay out both sides of the argument in a professional manner. These debates should instigate more debates and forums on the particular issue, not petty fights on who was the better debater.
Apart from this, we should take comfort in the fact that we are progressing as a nation. Mishaps such as the choice of theme for National Day by the Information Ministry, which was then mirrored by state governments controlled by the opposition, should never be repeated. Miscalculations such as the language of teaching for science and mathematics should be minimised.
But that is what happens when a country progresses. Some breed multiple political parties such as in the UK, where it is very hard to form a majority government with one single party. Others indulge in financial liberalisation, making money the only significant factor in winning the presidential race in the US. But no matter what progress brings, mistakes will be made, but we should always remember to learn from them, and take responsibility for our mistakes.
Thus I implore you all to draw positive ideas instead of destructive criticism from Malaysia’s past, and work towards a better Malaysia.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.