As the year comes to an end, the latest press statements from two civil society organisations, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) and G25, provide renewed hope that the struggle for the freedoms and values of a robust democratic system will continue, with key stakeholders providing overdue support.
For too long most Malaysians - outside the political arena, who are well-positioned to resist the authoritarian political and religious forces seeking to kill off moderate positions with regressive and illiberal socioeconomic policies and programmes - have remained quiet.
They have been spectators, or have stood outside the political process, hoping that the long-entrenched ruling government is truly committed to building a cohesive and inclusive nation, where no ethnic, religious, geographical or class grouping is denied their rightful entitlements.
Non-Malay votes remain solid with PKR in Gombak
They have also expected BN to be consistent in pursuing a genuine pluralism that can be the foundation stone for peace and progress in our multiracial society.
Many among our elite have also remained passive in the belief that opportunistic and repressive, and what constitute the more dangerous and real – not imagined – anti-national forces can be countered by institutional stakeholders located in the executive and legislative branches; as well as by the other constitutional checks and balances.
That these two organisations – Patriot and G25, whose service and loyalty to the nation is irrefutable and unimpeachable – have come out openly on developments which the government is in denial of, or prefers to draw a curtain of silence over, reveals the deep concern and despair of respected armed forces and civil service leaders with current developments, and their lack of faith that the BN leadership is up to the task of steering the nation in the right direction to a better future.
Losers of the NEP
The subject of concern for Patriot is the New Economic Policy (NEP) and its successor policies, and their impact on the ethnic composition of the armed forces. Calling on the government to increase the recruitment of non-Malays by 10 percent annually, their statement explained that it was giving its views as truthfully as possible on “some of these issues that are ultra-sensitive.”
In their opinion, a policy favouring Malays in promotion, and discriminating against non-Malays has made the latter feel demoralised and marginalised. Coupled with an increasing Islamic culture, this has negatively affected esprit de corps and comradeship in multiracial military units.
According to Patriot president Mohd Arshad Raji, these factors have not only affected the military, but also the police force and other public service organisations.
Arshad noted that “the problems faced today are an outcome of the policies and decisions of our government of the past few decades… The problem is endemic, a cause-and-effect of the ‘unwritten’ rules and regulations of the past.”
He pointed out that “to solve the problem, we have to first recognise the problem. The intention here is not fault finding, rather to fully comprehend the grievances from the perspectives of the non-Malays, and help those in position make decisions for the betterment of our country.”
A critical but balanced and rationally-based independent position can be similarly seen in the statements of G25 on the socioeconomic and religious controversies that have beset the nation in the last few years.
It released a statement addressing the recent controversies relating to the influence of political Islamic ideology in the country, and the effort by Malaysian Islamic Research Strategic Institute (Iksim), the government-supported Islamic think-tank, to censure and punish Universiti Malaya professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and G25 member Noor Farida Ariffin for their views on religious radicalism.
G25 has noted that while it “recognises the fundamental rights of individuals and Islamic activists to advocate their beliefs of political Islam,” government officials and leaders need to reassure the public that the government does not agree with such views, as they are contrary to the intent and purpose of the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara.
To G25, it is “when the government leaders keep silent and pretend not to hear that the public gets worried whether the government is using religion for its own politics.
“It’s the official silence and apparent acquiescence that make locals and foreigners get the idea there is radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia.”
Standing up for all
What is especially encouraging about the statements by these two Malay-dominated organisations is not simply the commitment to what G25 describes as a “national ideology of tolerance and respect for the diversity and differences among Malaysians.” It is also their willingness to stand up for the rights and freedoms of “other” Malaysians.
One response by a Patriot member to criticism by the defence minister of Arshad’s press statement provides comfort that even if 2018 turns out badly for moderate and progressive-minded Malaysians on the political and religious front, there will always be our true patriots to fall back upon.
This is what Patriot member Mior Rosli Mior Jaafar wrote in his reply. It provides such a contrast to the saccharine sweet, vacuous and meaningless New Year messages that will soon flood our print media from the PR offices of the country’s political leaders.
His entire note should be required reading for all young Malaysians, and those of us who have become cynical about developments in the nation:
“We, the veterans Armed Forces officers and the ex-senior police officers are the real patriots. More patriotic than any of you ‘power and kleptocracy’ crazy politicians. Don’t ever belittle us. If there is a war to defend the soil, we will be the second or third liners behind the regular forces to defend this country. Please don’t mess us up with your political dreams.”