Don’t shut out ‘good conscience’

If we believe in freedom of expression and thought, we should be able to exercise that freedom regardless of who our PM is.

By Clement Stanley

I followed the articles by former diplomat Dennis Ignatius prior to GE14. He was a very strong critic of former prime minister Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

He wrote with distinction and that I believed carried a lot of weight with those who saw his writing as being objective. Netizens describe him as being brave and forthright because he dared to speak up against Najib’s kleptocratic government.

Within a span of 60 days, in the eyes of some netizens, Dennis has fallen from hero to zero all because he questioned Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s move in agreeing to the normalisation of ties with North Korea and the reopening of its embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Dennis said the move was premature as Pyongyang was implicated in the murder of Kim Jong Nam at klia2, which put Malaysia in the spotlight. However, nasty comments were directed at Dennis with some accusing him of being a dedak eater and a person out of sync with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Why? Just because he spoke with a clear conscience and felt compelled to point out what he believed was the truth?

Are we witnessing the beginning of the curtailing of freedom of expression from the public who do not wish and want to hear anything negative about the PM and his policies?

We criticised Najib for attempting to curtail our right to free speech. With one voice we condemned him for the use of the instruments at his disposal to try and silence his critics like Zunar, Tony Pua, Fahmi Reza, Maria Chin Abdullah and a host of others.

Are we not sinking into the same pit now just because someone else has a different view from Mahathir?

On June 9, incoming Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said that the public at large should not wait for 100 days before criticising the new government. She said that if we felt things were not right, we should say it now. Isn’t that exactly what Dennis is doing?

The argument is that if Dennis does not know what Mahathir’s reason for reopening the North Korean embassy is, he ought to keep his mouth shut.

Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, none of us common folk are privy to the thoughts of our PM. In due course, the reasons may be disclosed. In due course we may understand why. We don’t know as yet.

But to remain silent otherwise, would mean we are choosing to look the other way. This should not be the case.

If we believe in freedom of expression and thought, we should be given the space and time to exercise that freedom. Condemnation of such a voice will give way to fear and a couldn’t-care-less attitude by those who believe their views will be subject to insults.

Rather than being ridiculed with taunts of being a dedak eater and the like, such voices will eventually fade into the distance.

Change is something the people voted for in GE14. Enough was enough. If change involves encapsulating the right to express one’s thoughts, accept it. Let your conscience speak for you.

As Edmund Burke once said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Been there. Done that.

Clement Stanley is an FMT reader.

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.


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