Crippling the nation’s progress by stifling opposing voices

It has been said, time and again, that children are the future of any society and if there are to be any attempts to cripple the progress of a nation, the best way to stifle opposing voices is by instilling some level of fear in hopes that dissenting voices will be silenced in the wave of trepidation.

For decades, the Barisan Nasional led administration did exactly that and today, on March 22, during a closed dialogue session held with former prime minister Najib Razak, Malaysians were reminded of the brutish behaviour that still exists within those who are still steadfast in old ways that we are fighting to get rid of.

A group of university students staged a peaceful protest and were met with physical onslaught by Umno supporters lead by its Supreme Council member, Lokman Noor Adam.

According to reports, during the dispute, witnesses claimed that a man dressed in a white shirt, ‘grabbed University Malaya Association of New Youth president Wong Yan Ke by the neck and attempted to drag him across the railing’.

Although Umno has denied any affiliation with the group, the garish behaviour exhibited is something we know too well.

In the era of the New Malaysia where we as a nation are finally able to start laying down the groundwork for socio-political reforms, such unabashed intimidation tactics are not to be tolerated at all.

This raises a lot of questions but one stark reality is this: we have not entirely removed the culture of fear-mongering and violence that have ostensibly permeated into the core of our nation’s sovereignty.

Many painful lessons can still be drawn from the past and present – the tragedies we have witnessed represent a distressing call to see justice prevail without fear and without prejudice. The re-emergence of scandal-laden former political leaders who attempt to revamp themselves into hip caricatures armed with hashtags and slogans can short circuit intellectualism and propel us further down the spiral of all things illogical and specious.

Testing the health of our nation’s democracy is done by examining how society treats its citizens, especially the young, the minority and the underprivileged. When we, as citizens of a nation, are continuously subjected to violations of civil liberties even after a change of regime, how can we blame the distrust felt by Malaysians who fought hand in hand with us to see the much needed socio-political reforms materialise?

In the aftermath of May 9, Malaysians, especially our young, have become collateral damage. They have become the most recent victims of those who are hell-bent on returning to some ounce of political relevancy and to see our nation remain in a state of permanent conflict – be it based on differing political views, values, orientation or ethnicity. This is continuously done by denouncing their opinions as unpatriotic and eroding certain rights and privileges.

Sadly, Malaysia’s colourful history shows that fear-mongering and violence has always been the customary tactic used to rally public support (no matter how obtuse or unfounded) and acquiescence for interventions that are both unnecessary and irresponsible. We have seen it before and we will continue to see it again unless we can collectively learn to identify, fight back and counter these false appeals from these peddlers of fear, violence and hate.

If we fail to do this, we will only be leaving an unfavourable legacy: one where we continuously wrestle with our own shadows with no end in sight.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid is the Seri Delima assemblyperson.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.