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The other side of midnight

September 4, 2012

All the flag-waving and cheering cannot hide the deep troubles gnawing at the country.

The greater the darkness, the brighter shine the little lights.– EM Forster

The other Merdeka story was not given much play in the mainstream newspapers. The government chose to ignore the celebration that took place on the eve of Independence Day near Independence Square. Not too long ago this very historic site was a scene of violence when a citizens’ movement for democracy was ruthlessly crushed. Still, a sea of people swamped Dataran Merdeka to usher in Merdeka Day with a grim reminder: the government has failed to live up to its promises to the people.

The deliberate downplaying of the other Merdeka Day celebration serves no purpose at all because the people were able to read all about it in the alternative media. Click on the news portals and there is the extensive coverage of the event. Thousands took to the street not to cheer 55 years of democracy but to defend democracy.

The crowd that gathered on the eve of that historic day was more representative of the people of Malaysia than the assembled multitude on Independence Day. They represent the common citizens who fear for their future because of the actions of unscrupulous leaders. They marched not to the artificial beat of patriotic songs and Generation Y tunes but to the real throb of anxiety and disquiet. They waved the flags not to show their love for the government but for the country bleeding from the grievous wounds of greed and corruption.

The tale of two Independence Day celebrations speaks of a serious divide in the life of the nation. It tells the story of the clash of principles and values. It highlights the struggle of one side fighting to restore justice in the face of great odds and of the other more powerful faction bent on keeping society in mental and moral servitude. In a sense, each is fighting for independence – one to be free of the clutches of a faulty political system and the other of check and balance. Success for the former means a new lease of life for the people. Victory for the latter means a licence to commit more abuses unhindered.

House of Najib

The restraint shown by the police when Dataran was occupied that night is understandable. They did not want the place messed up for the official celebration the next day. The peace was grudgingly kept more out of the need to ensure the meticulous preparation would not go haywire than to show a new-found respect for the popular movement. If it had been any other day, the yellow tide would have been pushed back again with great violence. Yet for all their discretion and well-mannered conduct, the police are planning to press charges against a national laureate for merely reading his poetry on that night. Apparently, his stirring poem had disturbed the peaceful assembly. This goes to show that the tiger has not changed its stripes.

The government cannot pull the wool over the people’s eye with the staging of a big party at a stadium. The flag-waving patriotism has nothing to do with love for the country and everything to do with making a final pitch for votes. It was a campaign to showcase the dubious achievements of the ruling coalition. It was a platform misused for a political end. All the cheering and applause cannot hide the stark reality that all is not well with the House of Najib.

The popular movement for democracy will not disappear from the radar screen. It will continue to occupy the national podium as long as the political bosses keep riding roughshod over the democratic process. Every public event will be an opportunity for the movement to sound the alarm over the bad designs of the governing state apparatus. By now, the realisation must have seeped into the mind of the ruling class that yellow will be a permanent feature in the largely dreary political landscape.

Time is running out. The most crucial political contest will soon be upon us and yet the demand for justice has not been met. People are still fighting for independence, for rights and liberties, at the most pivotal time in the country’s history. When the dust finally settles, the next Merdeka Day may truly see a people’s parade that will celebrate the triumph of democracy. Then it will be one big party for the whole country.

Also read:

Janji Demokrasi: 10,000 near Dataran Merdeka


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