Between A Nightmare Dream and a Hope

Last night I had a dream. I dreamt that Pakatan Rakyat had broken up due to deceitful overtures by Umno to PAS for unity talks which drove a wedge between the coalition partners.

And Anwar Ibrahim languished in jail, convicted for sodomy in a sham show trial which exceeded all norms of decency.

With the opposition in disarray, Prime Minister Najib Razak lost his fear of losing the next general election. His half-hearted attempts at reforms were discarded as the country passed a defining fork in the river of time.

As I dreamt on, time seemed to be compressed into fast changing glimpses of unfolding events.

With Anwar’s unjust conviction, civil society was demoralized and faith in the enforcement bodies fell to new lows. The government put down the outbreak of sporadic demonstrations by force and shrugged off the torrent of local and international condemnation as it carried on business as usual.

Najib revealed his true colours as an authoritarian in the mould of Mahathir. His 1Malaysia concept was ignominiously discarded and democratic space was severely curtailed. Control over the online world was tightened and opposition politicians arrested over the slightest infraction. The ISA was liberally used to quell dissent.

The heavy political oppression led to the drying up of local and foreign investments and sent the economy into freefall. It reeled under the on slaughter of massive corruption and the implementation of unproductive mega projects such as the crooked bridge and the Bakun undersea cable which did not benefit the people but were vehicles for enrichment of a greedy elite.

The country’s reserves fell, the ringgit depreciated drastically and the gap between rich and poor widened as people’s lives became harder.

Free and fair election no longer possible

When the time came for the 13th general elections, the ruling party pulled out all its tricks to win.

Free and fair elections were impossible with the total control of the mass media by the ruling party and the use of threats, intimidation, vote buying, repression of the opposition and massive cheating.

As the opposition parties lacked a united front, they were unable to deny the ruling party a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Meanwhile, the shrinking economic pie led to a resurgence of Malay nationalism instigated and encouraged by Umno leaders to blame other races for the economic downturn and hide their failures.

Chinese, Indians and other non-Malays faced a fresh slew of racially based polices which imposed new limits on their education, employment and economic opportunities.

The best and brightest of human capital fled overseas to escape the discrimination. On their heels followed other Malaysians seeking work overseas as maids, labourers and other unskilled workers as unemployment soared.

But for the ordinary Malays themselves, life did not improve. They were deceived by the nebulous notion of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, Malay special rights and NEP which did little for them except to benefit a ruling oligarchy.

The BN government became very unpopular and was hated by all races. Despair and hopelessness pervaded the national mood but it was too late to turn back the clock. With two-thirds majority in Parliament, BN was able to change the constitution to create a pseudo-democracy so that it could never lose another general election.

Deteriorating economic conditions led to sharp increases in the price of oil and rampant inflation. There was widespread social discontent but suppression of public demonstrations had become more brutal.

I watched as intimidating looking red-helmeted FRU armed with clubs and shields beat a defenseless crowd demonstrating over the high food prices. The air was thick with the acrid smell of tear gas and a short distance away, a water canon spewed a powerful gush of chemical laced water as the crowd ran helter-skelter.

Amid the noise and the commotion, I heard a sharp crack and an old lady fell in front of me, her wrinkled face lined with pain as I woke with an abrupt start with her scream reverberating in my ears.

Moonlight filtered through the windows and rain pattered on the roof with a steady rhythm. I was drenched in cold sweat with a feeling of extreme disquiet. The alarm clock read 2.00am, it was too early to get up so I had a drink of water before settling down again to try to sleep.

I thought of Malaysia, the future of the country and the fact that social injustice and authoritarian methods always lead to economic decline. I drifted off again and was soon in the dimension of dreams.

But there is hope still

It was the opening of Parliament with all the pomp and ceremony and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was addressing the lawmakers in the presence of the King and Queen.

He promised a new Malaysia where all races were equal partners in the economic and social life of the country while the special rights of the Malays guaranteed under the constitution will remain protected.

Corruption will not be tolerated, social justice will be upheld and emphasis given to reviving the economy and making it competitive.

Under the new government, wide-ranging reforms were passed to repair severely damaged democratic institutions. The judiciary, the police, the MACC and the Election Commission were rejuvenated with reforms which accorded them true independence from the executive.

An independent police complaints commission was set up, the powers of the attorney-general clipped and good men were appointed to helm all these institutions. A host of oppressive laws such as the ISA, OSA, UUCA and PPPA were repealed.

On the economic front, open tenders were conducted for all government contracts and non-productive projects which do not benefit the rakyat were cancelled. Unfair one-sided agreements with toll concessionaires and IPPs were re-negotiated.

The billions saved were used to subsidize oil prices and used for projects which really benefit the people. Foreign investments flooded in with competitive market policies without race based restrictions and the ringgit appreciated to new heights.

The much abused NEP was replaced by the Malaysian Economic Agenda which channels affirmative action based on need instead of race so help flowed to those who really needed it. With proper economic management, foreign inflows and a stronger ringgit, the per capita income of the people increased and a social welfare net was created to help the poor.

In the new climate of meritocracy and equal opportunities, the brain drain which had afflicted Malaysia for decades reversed itself. The country no longer bled its best and brightest youth to foreign shores and local professionals and specialists who had gone overseas made a beeline back to the country they still called home.

Meritocracy in education revived our universities to recapture their places as among the world’s best.

The end of race based policies and racial politics brought the various races closer together. In schools and colleges, in work places and entertainment outlets, people of all races mingle and interacted in the spirit of genuine friendship.

Malaysia became a shinning beacon of democracy and a vibrant melting pot where the various races live together in harmony while retaining their cultures and traditions. A true ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ began to emerge.

The cheerful sound of big band music sliced through the clear morning air as Malaysia celebrated its independence day. It was a joyous occasion which saw a grand parade of colourful uniformed bodies marching proudly past a spellbound crowd.

In the grandstand, Anwar led the crowd to raucous shouts of “Merdeka!” as a rain of confetti floated down and the shrill ringing of the alarm clock became louder and louder until it cut through the reverie to wake me from my slumber.

Outside, the rain had given way to a cool breeze rustling the leaves outside my window. Night was slowly receding to the golden light of a new day; a flock of swallows flew past in the pink and orange streaked sky while the faint barking of a dog could be heard in the distance.

I looked at the new dawn breaking above the horizon and dared to hope.

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