The sinkholes beneath our feet

ON July 2, the nation – and particularly residents of Klang Valley – was served with two major events: One, that the suspect in a New Zealand criminal investigation into an alleged burglary and attempted sexual assault was to be sent back to assist in investigations; and Two, that twin massive sinkholes developed along the path of an underground tunnel at the intersection of Jalan Imbi and Jalan Pudu.

The former was greeted with some relief by members of civil society, while the latter is still a developing story with the exact nature of the sinkholes still under investigation.

Without doubt, how both incidents were handled give reason for us to reflect on the state of our nation today. In this article, I wish to dig into the latter due to its obvious metaphorical elements.

My hypothesis is that – over the last five decades – subsurface political, social and economic “tunnels” have been dug in such unsustainable ways that have led to the emergence of sinkholes that today threaten to swallow this nation whole.

These tunnels were/are dug as shortcuts, burrowed deep within our national consciousness in order to circumvent the perpetual above-ground gridlock. You can call it “kowtim culture”, or “close-one-eye syndrome”, or “sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality”. These tunnels are really attempts at short circuiting public discourse, undermining criticality and disempowering discontent.

Today, the substrata of our national consciousness are filled with these tunnels, and everywhere the feeling that it might all cave in is becoming increasingly real: extremist voices by ultra-right “bogeymen” that are rarely checked and in fact appear to be encouraged; a Federal Government that has ballooned our national debt from RM88 billion (or 36.4% of GDP, circa 1998) to RM560 billion (or 52.2% of GDP as of 1Q14, according to Bank Negara); attention to fundamental issues affecting Sabah and Sarawak that is long overdue; policies and politicking that have done little to resuscitate our standing in global rankings for tertiary educational institutions.

In short, the lack of strong, coherent and consistent direction has in part led us to where we are today. We the rakyat are also to blame, for being thus far unable to collectively change things.

We must wake up. We must see that these proverbial “tunnels” are not solving the principal issues of the day, that in order to end the these “gridlocks” we must acquire the political will to attack and force policies to change, and that these “tunnels” must stop.

We must make a stand and say that we will allow the ground beneath our feet to fall away no more.

We will have to bridge the class gaps, to cross the political aisle, to reach out in the spirit of “persaudaraan” (brother- and sister-hood) because this Malaysia belongs not to one group of people, not to one political party, but to all of us.

And in order to do this, we must call out for statesmen to raise their voices, to share their visions and agendas for the future of our nation. We must seek the leaders who will guide Malaysia out of the caverns of poverty, mismanagement and disrepair back into the light.

Let the statesmen and true leaders arise!

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