The Jerit cyclists’ 16-day odyssey embodies all that is inspirational about the Malaysian spirit. There is so much about these cyclists that the nation should celebrate. Despite being harassed, vilified, and intimidated, this group of cyclists showed us all the true spirit of Malaysia. They didn’t quit. By not quitting – by persevering in order to raise the public’s consciousness and to risk their own well-being for social justice, they taught us all a most deserved lesson.
The spirit of these Jerit cyclists should give us all reason to celebrate that young Malaysians continue to display a strong sense of conviction and care about social justice. In recent years, it had become quite popular and fashionable to pick on and bemoan the apathy of the youth. [This is certainly ironic, considering the apathy of the adults – especially our politicians – in addressing the genuine and pressing social injustices that plague us.]
For some time now we have seen the momentum build for further and genuine reform in many areas of our lives. And it would be the understatement of the year to say that the public’s call for the abolition of the ISA has been the most pressing of these calls for reform. We have seen the abuses that this piece of draconian and fundamentally flawed legislation enables; not to mention the absolute and inherent flaw in such an unjust law. It has become cliché to say, but any law that denies an individual due process to defend oneself is inherently flawed, unjust and indefensible. Any society that purports to belong to the community of nations where the rule of civilised law prevails cannot in turn opt to hide behind unjust laws.
Yet, we find the regime make the most absurd of arguments to defend the need for such an unjust law. Indeed, it shows you how desperate the regime has gotten, when the home minister even has to invoke the fallacious and untenable claim that the ISA is necessary to deter terrorism! How many alleged terrorists have to date been arrested and held under the ISA? How may of those currently being held under ISA are terrorist? Surely arresting Teresa Koh and Raja Petra Kamaruddin under ISA was a far cry from working to thwart terrorism!
I would venture to guess most informed Malaysians – like those Jerit cyclists – could remind the home minister that the ISA has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Yet, the regime insists on using this scare tactic to perpetuate such indefensible instruments of state oppression.
Our politicians like to use the propaganda that we are a nation of laws. You see, the fact is, being ‘a nation of laws’ is not a big deal. Zimbabwe is a nation of laws, Burma is a nation of laws, North Korea is a nation of laws, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a nation of laws, and Mahathir’s Malaysia was a nation of laws. Being a nation of laws does not make for a just society. It is not that we should aspire to be a nation of laws; we need to be a nation of just laws!
The ISA is not a just law.
Jerit typifies much that must be commended about many of our youth; it indeed reminds us that there is yet much to be done. The Jerit cyclists - and indeed all Malaysians who urged them on - remind us that they still care about building a just society. And just as the cyclists persisted in arriving at their destination, they managed – against the odds – to make it into the parliament; a true testament to their perseverance. Most importantly, they showed us that there is no turning back – no gostan.