Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bah Kut Teh, Anyone?

I don’t mean to rub salt into our collective wound nor do I want to stick this to us all by saying, “I told you so.” But the fact of the matter is, like it or not, we are reaping the results of years of our complacency. Of course I’m referring to those of us who have either almost blindly given our allegiance to UMNO/BN, who simply succumbed to their intimidation, or saw it as a convenient quid-pro-quo only to become enablers of UMNO arrogance and a doctrine of UMNO superiority.

In the process, we undermined the basic and albeit nascent roots of a democratic culture in the country. Year after year, election after election and in episode after episode, the majority of us took the easy road. Whatever the road happened to be in each of our specific situations, typically, this easy road ended up being one of openly or tacitly reinforcing the UMNO culture of supremacy. Rest assured I’m guilty of this too; in my own way, I know I also have been complicit in perpetuating this problem. It goes without saying that those in the opposition remained in the political wilderness for what has seemed like, in political terms, an eternity.      

Meanwhile, the arrogance of UMNO continued to beget more arrogance coupled with a sense of infallibility laced with intensifying rhetoric of racial superiority – all under the guise of supposed national unity. And all along our naivety, complacency, or some combination of the two simply kept compounding the dilemma.

Surely now undoing all that damage is not going to be easy. We see now that our public institutions, such as the judiciary and police especially, have become deeply – if not thoroughly – politicised. Indeed, a manifestation of the unchecked supremacy of UMNO.        

And we all know that when a cancer become malignant and aggressive, the probability of arresting it steadily and surely diminishes. Even despite radical surgery (3/8) or other forms of therapies and mini-victories (a by-election here and there), it is difficult to contain the cancer.

And so whether it is deploying goons to bully a member of parliament – and that too on the premises of the People’s House – or delivering threats through the mail, the cancer eats away at our society. Whether it is the police repeatedly conducting itself in a blatantly politicised manner and without even the slightest regard for even appearing politically impartial or the judiciary similarly unable contain its expressed preference for the established and entrenched political establishment, like a decaying cancer infected body, the sanctity of our civil institutions of democratic governance simply further wither away.

Let’s call a spade a spade. What’s happening in Perak, Kedah, Selangor, with Elizabeth Wong, Karpal Singh, the Kugan murder, the torture of individuals in police custody, the Altantuya murder trial, the politics of personal destruction (sodomy charges against Anwar), the intimidation of opposition politicians, and much more just over the last few months all can be linked back to the cancer of arrogance and superiority deeply rooted in the UMNO political establishment.

It is indeed a sign of the times and of the aforementioned cancer, that a state assembly speaker can be so disrespected and insulted as to be reduced to having to convene an assembly under a Bunyan tree.

Perhaps if only we hadn’t been so complacent, indifferent, and too preoccupied all these years with merely enjoying our bah kut teh, rojak or whatever else at a stall under some Bunyan tree somewhere while our civil institutions were being corrupted, we would not have had to witness our nascent democracy ripped to shreds.   

G. Krishnan