March 3, 2009

Hope sinks in limbo land

WHILE some are busy debating morality, our constitution and ethics over recent fiascos, a section of Malaysians know very well how political changes can directly impact their lives in what could be very real and lasting manner.

Watching a video interview of some Perak-ians recently, I saw the immense disappointment in their eyes as they spoke of the political turmoil in the state.

"Macam orang gantung pada langit", a man described how they have never felt Malaysian for the past 51 years; the orang asli in Perak have been denied their rights to their land and a chance to live as equals ever since Malaysia gained independence.

In finding an urban parallel, I imagined a foreigner telling me that I have to leave my home because it belongs to them according to "their" new set of laws. Then the house they claimed from me is sold or used for immense profit. In the meantime, these powerful people decide to do "good" by running a programme and hire me to work in the house for RM400 a year. Anyone in their right mind would revolt at the injustice. But such is the situation of a marginalised community with little access to recourse or opportunities. They live at the sidelines, without a voice, and pushed around as and when someone else with the power and money want the land they have been living and toiling on.

Imagine their sense of hope, when what had not been achieved in 51 years, was done in a short span of 10 months since the last general election. Systems were put in place to assure their voices were heard by the state, and the process of ensuring their right to their ancestral lands were started; they showed that when given a chance, they could work hard to exercise their rights, to live as equals, and hope for the future. (For more info, see:
But the recent fiasco in Perak has left them worried – with mixed emotions of quiet anger and hatred – at those responsible for the political turmoil that could mean a permanent end to whatever progress made since March last year.

One wonders if some middle-class Malaysians whose emotions run high because they feel like "2nd class citizens" have spared a thought for the orang asli, and perhaps include them in their demands for justice? One wonders also if those who thump their chest in anger because they feel besieged or "challenged" by those who questioned the manner of Perak’s takeover, have considered the orang asli community whose lives may be relegated back to how their rights have been trampled on for 51 years?

Land-grabbing is happening right under our noses, under the glare of our media, preoccupied with sensationalising private lives of politicians. Aside from stunting the progress of civil society, such gutter journalism supports the malicious intent of those bent on discrediting one of the few politicians who makes a firm stand based on just values.
Threats against politicians like Elizabeth Wong are a threat to her country at large which will continue to inherit the kind of processes that put profit above lives, should her kind of work not continue. We don’t need politicians who allow landslides to happen, only to appear at the next tragedy site when people die to donate money and shed some tears for the press. We don’t need state policies that continue to marginalise certain communities, and then do so-called charitable work from fat profits off the land taken from the very people whose rights were denied.

We surely don’t need politicians – no matter how articulate – to opine or justify their hypocritical actions, along with tabloids disguised as newspapers, for these irritatingly distracts us from the reality on the ground that speaks for itself.

1 comment:

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