Sunday, July 14, 2013

How Seditious Can We Get?

I use to fear the word. It planted in my mind a punishment without trial although the utterance of seditious words itself may not be severe enough to bring the charge under the now abolished Internal Security Act or ISA. But in recent years more seditious words have been uttered and gone unpunished to make me wonder if the crimes were noticed or selectively ignored. I tend to believe the later. People got so used to hear racial and religious slur words that we have become desensitized. Many of us just ignore them and get on with life.

But not dealing with violators embolden them to violate further thus aggravating the aggrieved parties. This is no way to handle domestic differences and the government in general and the police in particular cannot turn a blind eye (or deaf ear) to the complaints of selective prosecution. Indeed the federal laws are written for all citizens and visitors to the country. Not enforcing the laws uniformly will lead to further division and loss of respect for the law enforcers.

Since around 2008 I've read so many derogatory comments on news portals to make me shiver. Don't these commenters know they could be tracked down and charged? But of course the numbers were so huge that the police couldn't find room to put them all in the lock ups. This itself suggest how serious race relation and trust in our government has deteriorated. Not acting early to nip the troubles has allowed them to brew and ferment. The government failed to study in depth why we have become a seditious nation, a very racist one like the way the United States was in the 1960s when the KKK clandestine movement went round burning houses of people they hated. We don't want that to happen here, not in this 21st century when the human race is supposed to be more civilized.

The SA had put a number of people in jail and it helped clamp dissenting views. But is it wise to put a tight lid on a boiling pot of water that is steaming? There must be room to express differing views and compromise an agreement. Ours is a plural society and no extreme comments such as getting out if you don't like what I say will change our status. We still live under the same roof and must learn to make the best of this land we all call home. The continuing application of SA will do more harm to a very expressive and vocal society that has awakened to its right to define the future they want to live in. So it was correct that the prime minister Najib Razak decided a year ago to abolish it and replace it with another act, the National Harmony Act, which sounds less threatening and certainly point to the right direction. Take out the symptoms and find a solution. The NHA should allow mature and responsible public discourse on sensitive issues with a view towards resolving the problems. Whether it deals with special privileges, religious issues or education, one by one they must be dealt with with acceptable agreement among all the races, religious bodies or stakeholders and they must be adhered to whoever rules the nation in the future. Going forward we cannot afford to back pedal or stay in the same spot arguing and fighting over the same issues raised 30 or 40 years ago. Malaysia will not progress and certainly not respected or admired if we fail to resolve rudimentary domestic issues that certain extreme people keep harping again and again. My appeal is get on top of the issues lest they drown us. But first thing first - please learn to respect each other and accept our differences.

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