Saturday 1 September 2012

Merdeka is about rights - Jeswan Kaur

The 'Janji Ditepati' theme has left the people confused, wondering why Merdeka Day is being misused to achieve objectives that go against the grain of 'independence'.

There is nothing more precious than “independence”, be it that of a nation or of self. In this respect, Malaysia has yet to savour both, as evident from events of not too long ago.

The 55 years of Merdeka or freedom from British rule have yet to teach the leaders of this country a thing or two about not taking independence for granted.

The theme for this year’s independence day celebration is “Janji Ditepati”, one which has been condemned by the opposition and even the public as it gives no hint of the significance of Aug 31, the date when seven chants of “Merdeka” reverberated at the city’s Royal Selangor Club field in 1957.

As far as the thinking person is concerned, this year’s theme smacks of a political agenda, a harbinger of the coming general election. The “Janji Ditepati” theme has also left the people confused, wondering why Merdeka Day is being misused to achieve objectives that go against the grain of independence.

In the face of such frustrations, the Barisan Nasional government celebrates Merdeka Day today, hardly fazed that its trickeries have left the people unhappy.

If that is the fate that has befallen Aug 31, why then blame the people for hitherto not being enthusiastically patriotic in commemorating the country’s independence day?

Can the BN leaders give the people a reason to believe in “Merdeka” and why Aug 31 deserves their utmost attention, instead of being looked forward to merely for its PH (public holiday) status?

Merdeka lost in political cesspool

The date for the next general election has yet to be determined by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration, but the desperation in wanting to win big time in the 13th general election has left BN attempting desperate measures, the latest being the “Janji Ditepati” propaganda.

The move to drag political pursuits into a historical event has earned the BN government brickbats but as always, BN refused to pay heed to the rakyat’s dissatisfaction.

Seen from a bigger picture, Merdeka Day is lost in a political cesspool created by BN. A sad day indeed when Malaysia’s independence is remembered through the “lip services” paid by the federal government.

Five decades later, the people are left wondering just for whom the Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day are meant for. Promises unkept, the plight of the poor and needy dismissed and fundamental rights of the people not respected – this is far from what Merdeka stands for.

From Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak, the helping hand of the BN government has failed to reach those crying for aid. In fact, Najib has no shown no interest in recognising the native customary rights (NCR) land of the indigenous people of Sarawak.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Amar, in his capacity as the Selangor Umno deputy chief, had chided urban voters for being ungrateful for the initiatives implemented by the BN government, as seen from their refusal to vote for BN in the Sarawak state polls held on April 16, 2011.

In August 2011, Sarawak State Land Development Minister James Masing, labelled the Penan NCR landowners as thieves, accusing them of stealing oil palm fruit bunches from four major government-linked oil palm plantations, costing the Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA) and its joint-venture partners some RM33.6 million in losses.

Masing further humiliated the Penans by tagging them as “good story tellers” when the Penan women and girls cried rape at the hands of timber loggers.

The people of Sabah are just as heartbroken with the empty promises made by the federal government. With its “poorest state” status, there is no reason for Sabahans to rejoice vis-à-vis the Merdeka Day or Malaysia Day that was formed on Sept 16 and the abstruse “Janji Ditepati” theme.

To Chua Soon Bui, the Tawau MP, the federal government has a lot of explaining to do.

“What promises have been fulfilled in Sabah when, despite being an equal partner of the Federation of Malaysia and once the richest state in Malaysia, with rich natural resources including oil and gas, it has been reduced to the poorest state in Malaysia?

“What promises have been fulfilled for Sabah in term of 20-Point Agreement when Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963, 49 years ago?

“It is a shame that Sabah is the most impoverished state in Malaysia today, with poverty rate of 19.7% as compared to Perlis – the second poorest state with a poverty rate of 6%. Sabah is 5.5 times poorer compared to the national poverty average of 3.6%,” she lamented.

Marginalised communities ignored

What does today hold for the marginalised communties whose plight the Najib-led government is far from listening to, what more reaching out to them.

An annual forum held for the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders last year took a severe beating after it was declared illegal by the authorities. Seksualiti Merdeka’s sexuality rights programme came under attack by the BN government which alleged that the event was a deviationist activity that could destroy the practice of religious freedom in the country.

In December 2009, Immigration Department director-general Abdul Rahim Othman said a Malaysian transsexual fighting deportation from Britain would be punished for bringing “great shame” to Malaysia.

Mohamed Fazdil Min Bahari, a pre-operative transsexual known as Fatine, married a British man in a civil ceremony but was refused permanent visa on technical grounds.

Is Merdeka exclusively for a certain strata of society instead of all regardless of their backgrounds?

If yes, how then does the Najib administration go on claiming that it has “kept its promises” or “janji ditepati” so much so that Aug 31 has been given a connotation so misleading, all because BN has much at stake come the 13th general election?

If BN claims otherwise, then can it give the rakyat reasons to believe in “Merdeka”?

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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