I have never expected that the beginning of the New Year would be so tumultuous. Topping the list is of course the incident involving one overbearing lady berating a female undergrad at a university forum. The footage of the video, recorded on December 8, 2012, went viral and scored several thousands hits on YouTube and on online news portals. It embarrassed the Establishment so much that it prompted a deputy minister and the UMNO Youth chief to engage in damage control to prevent it from affecting the ruling coalition’s chances in the coming 13th General Election.
What is most infuriating, however, is the audacity of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen, the speaker at the Universiti Utara Malaysia forum, in chiding the poor student for speaking her mind. Zohra’s now famous mono syllable, “listen” which she repeated 11 times when confronting Bawani, the student on the lecture hall floor, has gained such notoriety that it has become the opening remarks of many speeches made in reference to the ruling coalition.
Zohra’s mannerism typifies the top-down mentality associated with those in the corridors of power. The contemptuous “you-listen-when-I-talk” attitude does not go down well with the rakyat today. The days of “the government knows better” paradigm are long gone. Perhaps, a more realistic and holistic approach in engaging the rakyat needs to be adopted. But this is easier said than done.
What is most disgusting about the whole episode is how unfazed this cocky little lady has been. After coming out of hiding, she issued a statement forgiving Bawani for her outburst and not one of remorse for her own actions. The extent of Zohra’s cockiness is simply mind-boggling. This could be the result of indoctrination conducted on a grand scale to re-orientate the minds of the youths, especially the Malays. One gets such subtle messages from the mainstream media, both the print and electronic forms.
The antics of Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau or BTN) are well known. Established in 1974 as the Youth Research Unit (Unit Penyelidikan Belia) under the Youth and Culture Ministry, it was renamed and transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department in 1981. The bureau’s stated objective then was “to nurture the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence among Malaysians and to train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts”.
However, no sooner had it been transferred to the PM’s Department, the programmes were revamped and syllabus revised. They became controversial and were deemed to explicitly promote Ketuanan Melayu(Malay Supremacy) and the legitimacy of the ruling coalition. In late 2009, opposition-held Selangor and Penang state governments issued a ban prohibiting state civil servants, employees of state subsidiaries and students at state-owned institutions from attending BTN courses.
That put paid to some of the lofty aims of the agency long regarded an appendage of the Establishment and often referred to as a propaganda machine akin to Joseph Goebbels’s infamous Reichskammer (Reich Chamber). Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Minister, Dr Joseph Goebbels had successfully divided the press, radio, film, music and literature into divisions or chambers with influential figures heading them. The objective of these chambers was the purge of Jews, socialists and liberals, as well as practitioners of “degenerate” art forms such as abstract art and atonal music.
One other disturbing development, which is, irrefutably, the work of a cunning mind, is the on-going Royal Commission of Inquiry on the granting of citizenship to illegal immigrants in Sabah. Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir’s reasons for his “wisdom” seem so flimsy and devoid of substance. His allusion to first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s granting of citizenship to over a million Chinese, Indians and others prior to Independence Day on August 31, 1957 is in poor taste. This is definitely a cheap way to deflect criticisms directed at him.
On the subject of immigrants, both legal and illegal, one should take a ride into downtown Ipoh on weekends or on public holidays. You will be overwhelmed by their number. The city’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Sultan Idris, is literally swarmed by them. If the National Registration Department’s P6 programme to legalise these foreigners, conducted nationwide in 2011, is to be taken seriously, I am worried for the future of our children, and their children after them.
The result of the January 26 by-election in Singapore is a good indicator of what awaits those who have a stranglehold on power. Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian, 34, a middle-class corporate trainer, beat People’s Action Party candidate Koh Poh Koon, 40, a prominent surgeon who was backed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in the ruling party’s stronghold of Punggol East. High on the voters’ list of discontent is the influx of immigrants which has resulted in job losses, rise in housing prices, social problems and straining public services. The scenario is no different here.
In view of the foregoing, I feel it is only appropriate that those in positions of power take heed of developments around them. The conundrum will only be answered if they listen, and listen attentively to the wishes of the rakyat. Doing a ‘Zohra Jabeen’ is definitely not the way forward.