Despite their past, help Bernama, Utusan workers

As I got down to writing about Merdeka, I found myself wrapped in gloom.

The khat issue has taken a toll on my spirit. Once again, Malaysians are fighting with each other with all sorts of labels thrown about on social media.

I thought of the title “A meaningless Merdeka” but found no strength or spirit to put words on the screen.

However, the news about the plight of Utusan and Bernama staff plucked me from my melancholic trance. I pondered on a simple question: what is the meaning of our humanity after so much modern education, so much religious knowledge, so much money spent going to pilgrimages? When it comes down to the crunch, we abandon our humanity, spirituality and simple sense of goodness in the face of human need.

It is painful to think of Utusan and Bernama workers, some of whom cannot buy milk for their children. I stared blankly at the computer, reading of how some had resorted to money lenders.

Are we a destitute nation? Has our country been ravaged by a natural disaster or a financial meltdown that we no longer have the economic infrastructure to extend a helping hand to these people?

For more than 60 years, we have been together as a nation. All we have learnt during this period is hatred and mistrust.

Some Malays still follow their opportunistic leaders, nurturing a racial crusade. The non-Malays meanwhile are suspicious of everything the Malays do in order to protect what they see as their own identity.

We are a dysfunctional family living under one roof. After six decades, our grade is still a fail.

Some would disagree because we do not kill each other with bombs and knives. That has happened only once or twice in 60 years.

In my book, though, if there is still hatred and distrust after all this time, it is a failure by any measure.

Why we can’t help the workers of Utusan and Bernama and others who will probably suffer the same fate in this time of economic uncertainty?

Why can’t the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) take the lead in helping these people? After two years of writing so many articles about how the EPF is the solution to the PTPTN study loan, only now, realisation comes forth.

Should it take two more years before we can say that EPF should release some of the workers’ fund to them in this time of great need?

Is the present government sitting by and gloating at the misery of their one-time enemies who call DAP leaders all sorts of names?

These workers are Malaysians. Malaysia belongs to all of us, including the Bernama and Utusan workers.

We have money to spare for useless projects like the flying car and the third national car. We should also invest in compassion and charity.

It would only require a mere few million ringgit to give a soft interest-free loan of RM10,000 to the workers, payable once these workers can put their lives back in order.

Thirdly, what about our banks? Are these entities manned by artificial intelligence with hearts of screws, nuts and bolts? Do we have to apply to a heartless, smirking Industry 4.0 robot for a loan to feed our children?

Where is our heart and compassion if bankers are truly humans? A soft loan at 2% interest should be able to help the workers, with instalments to begin after a two-year period. Tak boleh kah? Susah sangat kah? Tak ada duit kah?
This is certainly not a business investment. It is a human investment.

Finally, what of the non-Malays in this country? I have never in my career written negatively about any race or religious adherents other than those of my own. I have earned the anger and disgust of my own Malay and Muslim brethren for writing to remind them to be generous and forgiving.

This time I ask my fellow Malaysians to look deep into their hearts and pray for compassion for those that have treated them shamefully and as less than an honourable citizen.

I call on the compassionate spirit the Prophet showed when he took control of Mecca. I call on the forgiving spirit of Mandela in his time of triumph. I call on the humble spirit of the Mahatma in treating those from all faiths as the children of God.

This is a turning point in our country. I have thought long and hard about economic, educational, religious and political solutions to unite this country. None can work.

However, this is an opportune time to act out a gesture of charity and forgiveness to help our own citizen-brethren regardless of their past deeds, as a new generation that will douse the embers of hate and mistrust.

I have been ashamed of my own people for all the corruption that they have tolerated and their false religious sense of righteousness. But nothing would make me feel sadder and more ashamed than being a Malaysian who fails to help another Malaysian in dire need.

So, will it be another meaningless Merdeka, or a Merdeka of compassion?

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