Malaysiakini Letter

It's about equal rights, not special rights

Seethalakshmi Suppiah  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I believe many of us are familiar with the term ‘divide and conquer’ as both the Roman and British empires put this tactic into practice. In order to maintain power and control, they resorted to turning the people against each another.

Typically religion, language, or caste is brought into play to turn people against each another, thus making it easier for the would-be controllers to exploit and take control. They realised that people who are united would be able to oppose their rule.

This divide and rule, although sometimes a slow process, is evidently effective and subtle, so subtle that we do not recognise it happening until it gets out of hand. This strategy normally involves:

  • Creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects in order to forestall alliances that could challenge the sovereign.

  • Aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign.
  • Fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers.
  • Encouraging frivolous expenditures that leave little money for political and military ends.
  • As an example of divide and rule, the British Empire exercised the following tactic in Sri Lanka where hey made it mandatory for race to be indicated on official documents and forms.

    Does all this information ring an all too familiar bell? Does this all this seem to be happening around us? To us? To our loved ones? To our acquaintances? To our fellow citizens?

    It puzzles me that we hardly see ourselves as Malaysians. Why do we identify ourselves as Chinese, Iban, Malay, Indian, Punjabi, and everything in between but never just as Malaysian? I think these divisions have been implanted into our system over the years. Our minds, from a very tender age, have been tempered with and manipulated.

    We are all citizens of the same country, from the same vernacular although sometimes we refuse to see it. Who is to say that if someone fights for our rights which are due to them, that they should return to their country of origin? How is this logical when this is our homeland? We were born on this land, we are Malaysians.

    We should not have to go to some foreign country to get our rights, or to make it in life or to feel accepted. Nevertheless, this is the case here in this country and this is a serious flaw. This flaw in my opinion cannot be addressed unless we all see ourselves as Malaysians, we unite, we love and respect each other and we demand equal rights for all.

    I strongly believe that this is not an impossible dream. My friends and I of various race, religion, colour, size, sexual preference, gender and so on and so forth have been able to discuss everything under the sun without inciting hate or getting offended so I’m sure the rest of us can too. In fact, I must add, we have grown so fond of each other that we love and respect a person for exactly who he or she is without holding against anything them.

    My point is, it is not about special rights, it is about equal rights. Our rights belong right here on this land, this country. I remember so clearly citing Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh so many times in school in full spirit though all the while we were being separated. Are we really going to sit around and take it? Don’t you think it is time we joined hands and embraced each other for what we truly are, Malaysians?

    The way I look at it, it is pretty much in our hands. We are not to be afraid of the government. It is after all supposed to be the people’s government and not the government’s people. As diverse as we are, let us unite. Vote wisely.

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