When I received on the WhatApps a poem “Cry my Beloved Country” by “Alwi Jantan, Perth, 1st January 2017”, I wanted to be sure that it was penned by Tan Sri Alwi Jantan himself, and not a “fake”.
I took pains to check is veracity and I was vindicated when I spoke to the 81-year-old former top civil servant himself, and he confirmed that he had himself written the poem.
Born in Dungun, Terengganu on 16th April 1935, Alwi had a long civil service career belonging to the first Merdeka generation of public servants, starting in the civil service in August 1958, and who went on to serve as Director-General of National Archives and Library Malaysia in 1971; Selangor State Secretary (1972-76); Secretary-General of three Ministries, namely Local Government and Federal Territory, Health and Agriculture; Deputy Secretary-General of Prime Minister’s Department (1981-1984), ending his public service career as Director-General of Public Services Department (PSD) (1987-1990).
Alwi’s mournful poem “Cry my Beloved Country” to ring in the New Year of 2017 for a very troubled Malaysia is the plaintive cry of all patriotic Malaysians who love Malaysia and grievously hurt at the harm we have done to ourselves.
This is Alwi’s “Cry my Beloved Country” on behalf of Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region – a cry deep from the heart of grieving Malaysians in the run-up to the 60th anniversary celebrations for the Proclamation of Merdeka on August 31, 1957:
When I grew up in the kampong, Life was sublime bonding was strong. I had many friends young and old, Rich and poor were all in the fold.
As I grew up I moved out of town To study in a world I hadn’t known. To part from friends was not easy, It was for my future they say.
I was sent to the Malay College, A school built for the privileged. Life had become quite hectic, To meet the school’s objective.
From school I was sent to varsity, Located in Singapore city. An institute with melting pot Of all races, the whole lot.
I studied for new skills to acquire Which four long years would require. The country was approaching independence, We wanted to be part of the new nation.
Our leaders laid the foundation For a multi-racial nation. We strived and toiled to make it happen. Everyone was united then.
Alas, now that I have retired, I see the country being squandered. Race and religion are touted, Law and order are flouted.
The economy is in tatters From which everyone suffers. Ya Allah, give us compassion, Show us the way to salvation.
Cry my beloved country. O, what will the future be.
Alwi Jantan, Perth, 1st January 2017
The sorrow expressed and the question asked by Alwi is the sorrow and the question in the hearts and minds of all patriotic Malaysians. As Alwi lamented:
“Alas, now that I have retired, I see the country being squandered. Race and religion are touted, Law and order are flouted.
“The economy is in tatters From which everyone suffers. Ya Allah, give us compassion, Show us the way to salvation.
“Cry my beloved country. O, what will the future be.”
Alwi’s poem immediately brings to mind the article by the former US Ambassador to Malaysia, John R. Malloy on the “state of Malaysia” which ended thus:
“Cry, the beloved country. I can only weep when I think of Malaysia’s future, when one man is able to subvert the institutions of government and thwart the will of the people. And when the great majority of the Malaysian people, from former leaders to the man in the street, stand by silently, and let him do it.”
Malloy lamented at the irony that “many Malaysians are now being threatened for taking actions that are ‘detrimental to parliamentary democracy’” when “actually, they are the very people who are struggling for democracy and political freedom”.
“Those who seek democracy are called the enemies of democracy.
“Meanwhile, those who really are the enemies of democracy – the people who close newspapers, charge opposition politicians with sedition, round up the leaders of peaceful protests, and arrest government officials who are investigating corruption at the highest levels – call themselves the ‘patriots’ of the nation and the defenders of parliamentary democracy.
“How perverse it all has become under Najib.”
Because of Najib’s actions, Malloy said Malaysia can no longer claim to be a democracy.
He said: “Democracy means freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. It means that there are checks and balances – that the judiciary, the press, the parliament, and so on, can comment and criticise what the government is doing.
“But today in Malaysia, none of that exists. There is no check on Najib’s power. There is no institution that can balance his power, especially when the police are so ready to arrest anyone who dares to criticise Najib, including government officials who are investigating the many allegations of corruption against him and his wife.”
When renowned author Alan Paton penned the words – “Cry, the Beloved Country” – as the title of his seminal novel in 1948, it ultimately became a call for South Africa to put its past behind it and look to a new and a brighter future.
Are Malaysians capable of putting the past behind them and look to a new and brighter future that can only come from the welding of the wealth of the diverse races, languages, religions, cultures and civilisations which meet in confluence in Malaysia or are we condemned to end up as a failed and rogue state?
Lim Kit Siang
DAP PARLIAMENTARY LEADER & MP FOR GELANG PATAH
Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 6th January 2017