Malaysiakini, now a respected source of alternative views, continues to provide a forum for diverse views regarding Malaysia's current political climate. This digital forum has its obvious limitations but at least we have an open channel to voice our opinions.
The Malaysian government has recently cracked down on the various people deemed responsible for organising rallies and demonstrations. The promise of an open and approachable government is slowly returned to a closed system. Some might even argue that the prime minister's efforts to reinvent BN was all a show.
The question is whether or not this is a fair assessment? The Abdullah administration, in its attempt to turn back state renovations of the Mahathir era, has had a tough time dealing with entrenched interests. Within and outside Umno, Malaysia's ruling elite have found Abdullah's emphasis on corruption, judicial reform and public accountability difficult to abide by. Now, the more conservative elements in government appear to have the upper hand.
Hindraf has succeeded in awakening the monster of communalism. Malaysians who forget that our government is predicated upon ethnic nationalism do so at their own peril. The Bar Council, opposition parties and even NGOs must realise that once the bogey of Malay nationalism is awakened, not even Mahathir can control matters.
We may live in a globalised and digital era but we must not forget that we are also living in a world predicated upon consumerism, where economic interests are more important than idealism. Few Malaysians will want to leave their comfortable lifestyles to support human rights, even when it is their own rights at jeopardy. This is not a cynical view but a realistic assessment of where we are currently. Yes, there are progressive elements who keep fighting for a more
equitable society but there are also those far behind, easily manipulated by the mainstream media into a particular way of thinking.
Change is not in the hands of either group. It lies with the large, sedated population who are only interested in shopping malls, computer games and self-realisation through the Internet. If we want change, it can only come through the awakening of this large group. The government may not agree with this. The failure of the opposition is sometimes a failure of imagination.
Yes, the ruling elite wants to remain in power but they also want to rule over a wealthy nation. It might actually be profitable for the government to expand the middle ground, discipline the ethnic nationalists and then be able to accommodate dissenting opinion.
Hindraf may have been propelled by genuine concerns but the way it is presenting its case at this point only serves the objectives of extremists. Bersih is a totally different kind of protest. It is a non-communal fight for a better state. They both should not be linked lest the poison of communal politics takes over and distorts the true nature of things. It would be good if both the government and the opposition find some middle ground on these issues. For the rest of us, we only have the ballot box to make our views known.