Thursday, September 02, 2004


Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, is finally freed after six years of imprisonment. Has it been that long? There’s speculation on whether he’d be back in the political arena but some think that he won’t become a major force, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Personally, I feel glad that he’s finally freed, over what a lot of people view as false charges over “sodomy” (any homosexual acts are considered an offense in Malaysia). After all, the key witness changed his story many times. Maybe the corruption charge is a different issue but when it comes to the Malaysian government, it’s like the kettle calling the pot black. The whole debacle was scary especially when you consider that this could happen to a former deputy prime minister (not to mention that he was severely beaten up in prison by the police and is still currently in health risk) – what about your average joe citizen?

Who are we kidding? As Malaysians, we have no form of political dialogue that is useful. All you read in the papers, and watch on local tv, are just approved press releases from the government. I recently talked to a prominent Star journalist (of a major national newspaper) who confessed that she had many of her articles suppressed because the editor-in-chief was afraid of repercussions from the political big-heads. I asked her what about up-&-coming journalists, new graduates, coming into the system – are they bringing in new enthusiasm, hope? She laughed bitterly and said that all the young journalists are only interested in doing fluff pieces – fashion articles, movie reviews, celebrity interviews etc.. No one wants to do speculative pieces that require diligent homework, checking of facts. Why bust your ass over hard work that would eventually be denied the light of day anyway?

I suggested that she post her articles on-line but she said that she had given it serious thought but “sooner or later, someone would figure out that I was the author”. She doesn’t just write opinion pieces, she writes articles based on facts, and interviews from various people. All of which could eventually pinpoint her as the source.

“So how do you stay sane over all this then?” I wondered out loud. She replied that in her own way, through her connections as a journalist to a prominent national newspaper, she’s been able to alert other sources, as such NGOs, over issues that the media wouldn’t normally bring it up. They kick up a fuss, and everyone has to take notice. Sometimes it works, most of the time, it doesn’t. But someone has to keep trying, don’t they?

To me, that’s true patriotism. More so than having miniature national flags on the hood of your car.

Malaysia recently celebrated Merdeka Day on the 31st of August – the day when Malaya (or West Malaysia) achieved independence from the British. Let’s not forget September 16, 1963 – the date when Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form today’s nation, Malaysia*.

*technically, Singapore was also one of the original states that joined Malaysia but we kicked them out because there were too many Chinese on the island and the Malays needed their political majority, which continues today in the form of the ruling UMNO party that pulls all the strings in the country. Malaysia Boleh!


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