Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Impending Collisions

It’s taken half a century for us to get to this point. There are some ominous signs that we’re on a significant collision course on two specific fronts. For the first time in a generation, we are seeing the prospect of the BN regime’s grip on power loosening somewhat. As a result, the regime seems desperate and adamant about ensuring that it does not suffer further blows to its hegemony and monopoly on political power.

While some forces have coalesced and brought us some historic changes, we are also on the threshold of some other unprecedented changes including, for the first time in our history, to experience a government not controlled and dominated by UMNO. Being on the brink of such an eventuality may be one defining moment. But the path to such a potential eventuality involves a high-intensity ‘poker-game’ that is building up to a serious clash between the powers-that-be and a maverick politician seeking to redefine the Malaysian political map in ways most could never have imagined only months ago. It is apparent that this drama is building up and the script writes are literally writing the story with each passing moment.

Those who do have the power to write the script are putting us on a path which could well jeopardise this young country for a long time to come. It may not be much of a consolation, but history will judge the script-writers as individuals who had the fortitude to preserve, respect, and strengthen the integrity of our political institutions by respecting the will of the people, or will we simply be another footnote in the annals of history as one more republic whose political elite succumbed to the temptations of power and turned a budding democracy into a despotic state.

Then, not unrelated to the above is the ominous collision between secular and anti-secular forces. Clearly, no matter how the above collision between the regime and the opposition plays out, a deeper schism – one that has been periodically but progressively agitated - has once again been exploited. The threats and mechanisms for undermining our secular institutions have always been there. Political opportunists – past and present - have never been shy to undermine the integrity of our secularism for narrow and self-serving political interests. We’re now being reminded again that those hell-bent on making Malaysia a theocratic state masquerade as moderates, tolerant, and principled. They espouse grandiose religiously motivated ethics and morality but act duplicitously, treacherously, and with contempt for the commitments they make to their fellow citizens. For me, these are hypocrites par excellence. They make a mockery of the religious morality and ethics they espouse and seek to impose on others.

The above is all the more reason that the various ethnically based parties that have for the longest time given their unwavering support to UMNO and blindly acquiesced to its dictates need to seriously and very carefully re-assess the implications of their blind adherence to their political master. This is the same ‘partner’ willing to seriously – and once more – undermine our secular institutions in the name of political expedience. Do these parties want to be implicated in slowly but surely burying our secular institutions? As UMNO continues to court PAS and entice it with visions of an ‘Islamic state,’ will these other traditional allies of UMNO simply sit back and see our secularism destroyed? Will Malaysians committed to preserving the fundamentals of our secularism continue to sit silently as UMNO’s allies continue to sell out Malaysians wanting to protect the vision of those who struggled for our freedoms and a secular Malaysia?

Either one of these collisions will reshape the nation is ways that may be irreversible for years to come. Which path will the script-writers be tempted to take?

G. Krishnan