Greetings fellow Malaysians. I am a 37-year old woman, a commoner like you, a civilian just like the rest of us and all of us have the same problems as anyone else in this world, from relationships to debts and looking for a place in our societies while pursing success in our lives. However, beyond our individual selves, as Malaysians we do have a concentration of big problems that badly translate the seemingly united brand that is currently espoused by the ruling coalition, and circumstances that surprisingly happen only in underdeveloped and lesser privileged countries are starting to become part of our public concerns on a daily basis, that affect you, me and all of us.
Soon, we are going to have the 13th General Elections, and once again we are going to the polls to choose between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, with both parties doing their best to show us their vision and mission for the country if they are given the democratic mandate to run our nation. As you prepare to cast your votes, please allow me to share from my experiences and others, about how things are going on these days for me, family and friends here, especially in the last few years. You may or may not know about these, but it is a good reminder all the same.
I have been a Christian for 22 years. In the past few years, I have seen a church persecuted for giving aid plus assistance to Muslim women and being accused of proselytizing to Muslims. Churches have been burnt down by irresponsible parties, with hate groups threatening to burn our bibles going unpunished. The intolerant lot are getting a slap on the wrist for desecration, and we can only call God with limited languages. My Hindu friends are not spared. If they want a temple, they are met with extreme opposition, if they have one, it may be destroyed. Many of our spouses and children are forced into a religion through marriage.
As a transsexual person born with Gender Identity Dysphoria all my life, I have a valid mental health condition classified by World Health Organization. Instead of being offered help and medical assistance, people like me are incriminated for having the medical issue. We are labeled by the Prime Minister as being an enemy of Islam. And if they want to “treat” my disorder, instead of using preset medical standards of care and guidelines, they do the opposite by sending us to camps to “man” us up, citing pseudo-evidence of reformed cross-dressers. There is even a state funded hate theatrical play about us.
Having yellow skin colour, like my friends’ black skin colour, makes us not entitled to many privileges that those given the title “bumiputeras” have, even though we are all born Malaysians. Although we are born in this country and paid our dues, we are often called immigrants. Because of this race tag, many of our children are not given opportunities afforded to those who are bumiputeras, hence their lives start at a lower playing field. Our children are now told in schools, as we are today, that we should feel thankful being second class citizens, and if we do not like it, we can get out of our country.
My job as a marketing person demands me to travel a lot, and my challenges are increased by expensive petrol prices I have not much money to bear with, which surprisingly is one of the highest in the world. I have to avoid mat rempits at all times to avoid trouble. My car tires are damaged on a regular basis due to potholes which are ignored for weeks to months though we diligently pay road taxes. No government authority like JPJ cares about the lorries going on the fast lane, and the vehicles emitting unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide everywhere, especially public busses. If a motorbike hits your car, chances are you will be blamed as being in the wrong.
Being an outgoing woman, it is sadly no longer safe now. People are often murdered for no reason. Favourite restaurants are a target for robberies, with many friends losing their belongings. Women are deemed responsible in an event of crime, being told by the police to be careful and vigilant, even preaching about what we should wear, instead of telling us they will solve the increasing crime rate in our neighbourhood. Men are not spared, with burglars leaving uncles in shops bloodied and money lost. Even running around our hills carry a risk of us being killed. And if we stay at home in a guarded community, house break-in incidents are rising.
I am a citizen of this country, like most of you, and the value of our currency is low but for some reason the prices of our housing and transportation are very expensive, so for most of us it is difficult to get around and live within our means, but we are told to limit our spending while our overvalued essential goods continue to increase in prices. Also, I can see some people are criminalized and discriminated because they are in love with people from the same sex. And while these people talk stuff about life, like how to take care of each other and their families and what to do if a partner passes away, religious institutions are given the license to misuse religion to condemn them with threats of fire and brimstones, upholding heterosexuality as supreme.
What more? Regardless whether you deserve it or not, in our country Malaysia, it seems at most times you can only get everything or get away from everything if you are malay, muslim, heterosexual man, who supports apartheid and be part of a corrupted system. Anything else, and you will probably be given a heavier weight to bear or pay more than you should. We seem to be one of only countries in the world that revels in division using wedge issues, and one of those whose religious organizations are part of the secular state.
Most shockingly today, the most important fundamental of society for me, our education system, is deeply flawed as children are not learning to question and just accept everything as truth. Their impressionable young minds are taught to discriminate and to separate themselves based on classes. The textbooks, if they do not contain some lies, contain information and lessons that are outdated or way behind world standards. And our children are internalizing their roles in Malaysian society based on who have more or less privileges and entitlements, instead of telling them we are all one big family.
Please look at our country today, and ask yourself whether you want a better Malaysia. We are a developing nation that looks like an underdeveloped nation, and there seems to be no signs of improving. In fact, things are getting worse, as our country is continuously plundered of its natural resources by the rich and the wicked, and when they want to have more we are forced to pay for it, whether by the toll fees we have to pay on highways or having to spend a lot for expensive groceries. Crime is rising and rising, and we no longer have peace and harmony that our parents use to have.
Everybody wants happiness in their country. Of course, there is no ideal country in the world to be in that is completely perfect. However, consider everything we have in Malaysia, a brilliant mix of so many cultures from food to music to clothes, a country with very few natural disasters, and the different people and their life experiences that can inspire all of us, if only we allow ourselves that chance. Decades ago we did, when social equality is for all Malaysians, in an environment where we embrace everybody as friends and it is safe to catch up at food stalls, when we still had a governance for the rakyat.
Who could we trust now with our country? Do something before it is too late. It is not my place to ask you who to vote for. All I am hoping from you, is to read between lines in all that have been said and parroted for a long time, and to observe what has been going on for so many years in our beloved land, leading towards the coming general elections. And ponder if there will be hope for a better nation with the current administration, or would a change of ruling parties help our country finally achieve its potential. For most of us, this is the only land we can call our home. Vote for a better future.