Side Views

A new dawn? — May Chee

AUG 31 — Woke up around 7am today, after about five hours of sleep. By the way, “Selamat Hari Merdeka” folks! 

My husband and I went for the Janji Demokrasi Merdeka Countdown at the clock tower in Malacca last night. Again, it was another heartwarming experience. Syabas to all those who gathered there and elsewhere for the Janji Demokrasi!

This time around, no untoward incidents, I hear. That’s good, really good. See, if we have everyone’s good intentions in mind, all would be swell.

We left our house at 9pm. There was ample parking around the designated area. As we walked towards the clock tower, we could see cops and Rela personnel already in position. Since we were early, we walked towards Jonker, hoping to join some people at the stage. Along the way, we met some friends, so we headed for the stage together. Some yellow shirts were walking in the opposite direction. They were heading towards the clock tower. All youths. Good, I thought!

At the stage, there was a handful of yellow shirts and a group of around 15 members from the Unit Amal PAS. By 9.30pm the group had swelled to quite a huge number. After taking a group photograph at the foot of the stage, our Unit Amal youngsters led us to the clock tower. Before that, we were told to be at our best behaviour, not to provoke nor hamper the traffic. We walked on the pavement and at all times, the Unit Amal boys made sure traffic for the public was smooth. Though the folks along Jonker were burning incense and some other stuff (Ghost Month?), the Unit Amal boys admirably braved the ashes (some flying into their faces) to guide us. 

I just love these Unit Amal boys. I’ve seen how selfless they can be during my Bersih 2 experience. Now and then when I see some fools pitting us non-Muslims against our Malaysian brothers and sisters from PAS, I feel so irritated. I may run when I see some people but definitely not when I see these boys from the Unit Amal. I bet my last ringgit they will lay down their lives for me, a Chinese Christian, but not their detractors! So I say to these detractors, don’t waste your time spewing such venom. Our PAS brethren have my vote, any time! 

At the clock tower, by 10pm, the group was huge. The whole place was swarmed with yellow shirts and others. Again, it was heart-warming to see Malaysians from all walks of life gathered there. Young and old, even kids, armed with the Jalur Gemilang waving, chanting in unison, while waiting for the clock to strike midnight. I saw so many familiar faces, and at the same time made some new friends. A friend remarked that at events like this, you cannot escape the fact that we, Malaysians, are united in wanting the best for our country. I’m so proud of my fellow Malaysians. I really am.

Again, my Malacca cops did us proud. Some guided traffic while some lined themselves along the road to prevent the exuberant ones from rushing into the traffic. We were around the clock tower and also on the opposite side of the road as there wasn’t enough room to house all of us around the clock tower. Apart from the chanting of slogans like “Hidup ,Hidup, Hidup Rakyat”, “Janji, Janji, Janji Demokrasi”, etc, there were also some trumpeting of vuvuzelas. We also sang the “Negaraku”. Now and then, when some motorists honked their vehicles as a mark of solidarity with us, the crowd went into a frenzy, waving their flags and started chanting again.

I saw how the younger cops wore faces of great restrain amidst the din. They were unsmiling, only because, I think, they were taking their duties seriously. However, there was this tall, fair, policewoman who walked along the road smiling broadly. She made a pretty picture! I also noticed how some guy who at one moment could be chanting “Negara Bersih, Rakyat Sihat” and the next bantering away with this senior policeman. I heard that the latter was the leader of the team deployed at the clock tower. Great chap; was smiling throughout. Really, I love my Malacca cops! 

At a quarter to midnight, a group of people made their way to the balcony of the Stadhuys opposite the clock tower. They took turns to lead us in chanting those slogans. One of them read out the “10 Tuntutan Janji Demokrasi” which went like this:

Membersihkan senarai pengundi

Mereformaiskan undi pos

Menggunakan dakwat kekal

Minima 21 hari berkempen

Ases media yang bebas dan adil

Kukuhkan institusi awam

Hentikan rasuah

Hentikan politik kotor

Pihak SPR harus meletak jawatan

Menjemput pemantau dari luar negeri

When the clock struck midnight, shouts of “Merdeka” verberated throughout the whole area. After that, Shamsul Iskandar read out A. Samad Said’s poem “Janji Demokrasi”. A few more rounds of chanting, some greetings, then, we were asked to disperse peacefully. 

Away we went, smiling happily and laughing. A good and productive outing, I thought. 

While celebrating “Hari Merdeka”, I cannot help but think of our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak. About 15 years ago, I went to a neighbouring country for a holiday. I left thinking that they had a sinful government. How can I not but feel that way when I see boys as young as five or six years old jumping into the sea, performing a trick or two, just so we tourists would buy their wares for an equivalent of a ringgit or two. I remember relieving a boy of a bunch of bananas. They should be in school but here they were, risking their lives for just a ringgit or two. Everywhere I went, I saw their menfolk just hanging around their coffeeshops, smoking away with nothing better to do. (Cigarettes must be cheap there, I thought.) No school for the little ones and no jobs for what should be the breadwinners! And this was a country blessed with an abundance of natural resources. How come?

You know what was sadder? Some years later I went to Sarawak. I saw exactly the same situation there. It broke my heart to see how hard my brethren there had to slog in order to earn the same ringgit or two. Sarawak, the Land of the Hornbills, abundantly blessed, yet the majority live in poverty. How can this be? Only five per cent royalty from their oil? You got to be kidding me! Daylight robbery or what? They joined us on September 16, 1963 to be enslaved? Don’t think that was their intention at all! The best democracy in the world or aping colonial masters of old? Or worse? Come on, there’s more than enough for everyone. Why so greedy? I wonder how some people go to sleep at night? Really, this is more than sinful!

I believe our brethren in Sabah also suffer the same fate. Honestly, how could anyone in their right mind, enslave their own brethren? Even animals behave better!

“Merdeka” for whom? Definitely not for our brethren in Sabah and Sarawak. If we in the peninsula think we have it bad, they in east Malaysia have it a lot more worse! They toil their land day and night but do not get to taste the fruits of their labour. Is this justice? Is this equality? Do we ever see them as fellow Malaysians? Or do we think we are masters and they slaves? Come on, “Merdeka” for whom?

If the powers-that-be still refuse to grant Sabahans and Sarawakians their liberty and accord them the dignity they deserve, I don’t see why they should be with us and what’s there to celebrate, come the so-called “Malaysia Day”. 

My friends in Sabah and Sarawak, please educate your people and tell them, each and every one of you deserve a lot, lot better. Arise and claim back your birthright. Enough of slavery. You didn’t ask for this. It was forced onto you. Be brave and arise. Life can be a lot, lot better. You choose.

My fellow Malaysians, till the day each and every one of us enjoy the same liberty and dignity, we are not one. Till the day we are accorded the same privileges, we will always view each other with suspicion. Let’s work towards that day. We can do this if we all think, truly as one. And this must include our brethren from Sabah and Sarawak. Best we stop this charade and call them Malaysians when they cannot even begin to live the Malaysian dream. For so long, it has been only a nightmare for them. Enough, please, enough.

Hopefully, with the change that will come soon enough, we can usher in a new dawn. One, where we are truly all Malaysians. Work on it. Work hard.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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