28 April 2018

It is elections fever and our nation is now abuzz with chatter about everything politics! In conjunction with GE14, dubbed as the ‘mother of all elections’, Safespace has compiled insights from Malaysia’s Christian activists and thinkers to help us wade through the sea of issues to discern the way leading to the elections.

In this series of articles, we asked our eminent friends ranging from civil rights activists to a veteran foreign diplomat to weigh in on the these questions:

  • Is Malaysia in a crisis? Why do you say so?
  • How crucial is GE14 for the fate of the country?
  • Most governments around us have records or anecdotes of corruption. What’s the big deal about corruption, and why do Christians need to be concerned?
  • What are the top 3 needs in our country that need to be met?
  • What are the top 3 problems in our country that need to be addressed?
  • What is your message to registered voters reading this?

We begin with the question: Is Malaysia in a crisis? Why do you say so?

“Yes, Malaysia is in a crisis.”

Rama Ramanathan

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RAMA RAMANATHAN

Civil rights activist

A crisis is a time of intense uncertainty. So many nations have prosecuted people for funds misappropriated from 1MDB but Malaysia insists nothing has been stolen. In so many nations, politicians resign or are removed from office for much lesser wrongs. Yet in our nation no one has been prosecuted.

Amri Che Mat, Joshua and Ruth Hilmy, Pastor Raymond Koh (and many Turkish nationals and many suspected gangsters) have disappeared. The police – who showed themselves so capable in investigating the assassination of Kim Jong-nam – have brought no one to justice. They actually say they have no clues; and, they have taken steps to end the Suhakam Inquiry into the disappearance of Raymond Koh.

We have large income disparity in Malaysia. The situation is worse than depicted in official statistics because of the large number of foreign workers who are not included in measures of income and wealth disparity. Due to the drop in the value of the Ringgit, these workers are finding it very hard to make ends meet. This puts us at risk of riots.

Yes, Malaysia is in a crisis.

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IVY JOSIAH

Women’s rights activist

For sure there is a moral crisis, we are being led by corrupt and unscrupulous elected officials.

“We are engulfed in numerous scandals, first and foremost the 1MDB kleptocracy but also administrative misdeeds…”

Dr. Lee Hwok-Aun

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REV. DR. HERMAN SHASTRI

Council of Churches Malaysia

Malaysia stands at the crossroads: moving forward with progressive and democratic principles that help the country to take up its place in a transformed 21st century. If the country continues to “divide and rule” its people and play up racial and religious issues, the country will dig deeper into a crisis.

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DR. LEE-HWOK AUN

Development Economist

Yes, there is a crisis brewing in Malaysia. We are engulfed in numerous scandals, first and foremost the 1MDB kleptocracy but also administrative misdeeds like the gross mishandling of investigations into Pastor Raymond Koh and the other apparent forced disappearances, the Election Commission’s despicably biased and unfair redrawing of electoral boundaries, the tyrannical anti-fake news law, the manipulation of the RUU355 issue, which was again punted forward with no parliamentary debate.

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DATUK DENNIS IGNATIUS

Foreign policy consultant

I certainly believe so. There’s a crisis of confidence in the current leadership and its ability to tackle critical challenges facing the nation.

The present government, in my view, does not seem to have a real and viable vision for the future; it is just more of the same. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? The present leadership has proven itself to be part of the problem not the solution. Almost every single government leader is tainted by scandal, a lack of integrity or a lack of credibility. How can we expect such a government to lead us out of the morass we are in.

I’m convinced that nothing will really change until we have a change of government. Sixty years is a long time in office; if BN hasn’t been able to make things better, it’s time to go. The Opposition is far from perfect, of course, but the very act of changing government and seeing the emergence of a two-party system will have a cathartic, a positive effect. Let’s give the opposition a chance to see if they can replicate what they achieved in Selangor and Penang at the national level.

“There is a mistaken belief that the church shouldn’t get involved in politics or that we should be neutral; I don’t share that view. As both citizens and Christians, we cannot be neutral in the face of injustice, the abuse of power and unrighteousness.”

Datuk Dennis Ignatius

I’m not suggesting that we give the opposition a free pass or treat them like saviours. To quote Lord Acton, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We must never again entrust absolute power to any leader. If the opposition wins we must continue the struggle to hold them accountable as well and rebuild our institutions to ensure we don’t end up once again in the same kind of mess.

I can tell you that the country I was once so proud to represent as ambassador – a secular democratic and just nation built on respect and tolerance – barely exists today. It is like I came home to a different country.

The crisis that is facing our nation is not going to go away until the citizens determine that enough is enough and do something about it. GE14 gives us that an opportunity to do something about it by voting for change.

There is a mistaken belief that the church shouldn’t get involved in politics or that we should be neutral; I don’t share that view. As both citizens and Christians, we cannot be neutral in the face of injustice, the abuse of power and unrighteousness. To be neutral or indifferent to what is wrong is to dishonour the Lord. When John the Baptist confronted Herod over his illicit relationship with his brother’s wife, John was not being political; he was simply standing up for what is right.

Sure, there are consequences when Christians speak truth to power but aren’t we supposed to be salt and light no matter the cost?

“Our important institutions like the civil service, the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, are being cored out and undermined.  And our academic freedom and educational institutions are being seriously eroded.”

Andrew Khoo

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ANDREW KHOO

Human rights activist

Yes. Because so many things that are wrong are being brazenly done, with no attempt anymore to hide or deny them.  Racial and religious discrimination, greed and shortcuts, non-adherence to laws and regulations, are happening everyday. Our important institutions like the civil service, the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, are being cored out and undermined.  And our academic freedom and educational institutions are being seriously eroded. Overall, we are living beyond our means on borrowed money and borrowed time, with the government as the main instigator and perpetrator of these issues.

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REV. FR. CLARENCE DEVADASS

Director of Catholic Research Centre

I won’t say we are in a crisis but we are at the “crossroads”… crossroads that is going to define Malaysia in the generations to come.