Still waiting for a better Malaysia

We recently celebrated our firstborn son’s first birthday. It was, as you can imagine, a monumental event.

A year ago, just as the 13th General Election was reaching its zenith - polling day - I was worried sick that my wife would give birth as she stood in line to cast her ballot.

I was worried that if my wife did indeed go into labour as she voted for her MP and ADUN, given my work in Lembah Pantai, that I might not be able to reach the hospital in time (thankfully it did not come to that).

I was worried about what might take place after polling conclude, if people who held power vehemently refused to let go, or if things were to take a turn for the worse.

Alhamdulillah, my wife was fine. And, sadly, change had yet to pay Putrajaya a visit.

In the last few days of campaigning, I told audiences at the mega ceramahs that my then unborn son was waiting for a better Malaysia to be born. I’ve also jokingly said that that’s why he refused to vacate his then “premises” when he reached and passed the 40-week mark - because a better Malaysia had not yet arrived.

A year later, as we laid a cake with a lone, lit candle before my son, I felt that a better Malaysia is still not here.

Not when groups like Isma and Perkasa still spew divisive, racialist rhetoric with impunity and without respect for and understanding of the spirit of the Federal Constitution.

Not when groups like Umno Youth can barge into the august Penang State Assembly or physically threaten their political opponents in Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan, despite the meagre objections of their Chief.

Not when during the recently concluded by-election, certain ministers can claim things like knowing certain groups of people who voted or didn’t vote (and the veiled implication that they might also know who voted for whom), without regard for the inviolable secrecy of the ballot.

No, there is still much ground to move and foundations to lay before the dawn to a brighter and better nation comes.

One area which we must quickly and fastidiously work on is education.

A few days ago a minister said that teachers should return to the Barisan Nasional (BN) fold. Yes, this is well and good as all Malaysians have the freedom to associate and be part of any political party under the Federal Constitution. Yet the reality is that teachers who do not want to be in the BN fold, or in some minds, worse still, want to be in the Pakatan Rakyat fold, will not be treated equally as those who openly submit themselves to BN.

The media has already highlighted several cases, including that of a teacher who stood up against Putrajaya on the school-based assessment (SBA) system and was subsequently transferred to another school some 200km away. Or that of a teacher who was “advised” (read: ordered) to remove the campaign poster of Dyana Sofya from her facebook page.

Thus, we see yet again how there appears to be one set of rules for those who are with BN, and a completely different set of rules for those who are not with them. Is this really the way to treat those who impart knowledge to our young and educate them to be good, loyal, and conscientious Malaysians?

Perhaps it is time for civil society to create a “Bersih” movement for a freer and fairer education system. It will be not just for teachers or politicians or parents. It will be for our collective future. It will be for a better Malaysia.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

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