On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Calling the kettle black

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang addressing the crowd at the Icerd rally in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

MALAYSIANS are a very strange lot. Not all of us, mind you, but a big portion of us seem to find it easy to contradict our own behaviour and thoughts.

It’s like some form of dissociative identity disorder. While that is exaggerating a little, it’s at least a milder version of the condition, which, scarily, slips in without us even knowing it.

It’s like we suffer from a multiple personality disorder because of complex psychological conditions, which disconnects us from our thoughts, memories, actions, feelings or sense of identity.

Those of us who outright reject blame on mental health reasons accuse us of hypocrisy.

Take, for example, how when Malaysians travel overseas, we proudly declare our nationality, even when damning news about the nation has us cringing in embarrassment.

By now, most foreigners also think there is no retirement age in Malaysia.

We must explain that the rules don’t apply to legislators since they make the laws, and that there will only be one 93-year-old who can be a Prime Minister – twice.

We fill up immigration forms without a second thought. Nationality – Malaysian. That’s it! And when we bump into fellow citizens overseas, we break into smiles because we feel a sense of camaraderie among us as fellow Malaysians.

From our conversations, be they in Bahasa Malaysia, English or some Chinese dialect, we can quickly suss out the Malaysians in the crowd, and we feel pleased that we are together in a foreign land.

But the minute we are back in Malaysia, there are those of us who seem to transform, as if possessed and controlled by a demon. Suddenly, we are no longer Malaysian first.

We are Malay, Chinese or Indian first, or Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu first.

It doesn’t help in Malaysia – strangely, nowadays, even more than six decades after independence – we are asked to state our race and religion when filling up forms.

In most developed countries, it’s an offence for any employer or government to ask a potential employee or a citizen to state his or her race, religion or even gender, as it’s regarded as an intrusion into a person’s privacy.

But no, not in Malaysia. We are still required to state our religion and race because these statistics apparently assist the government in carrying out various programmes.

Of course, we can all agree on being devout and pure Malaysians during National Day celebrations, and especially during sports events.

When our national football team or badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei plays, we’re all swept up by the hysteria of patriotism.

And, honestly, why do we put up with politicians who have pretty much looted the country and incited racial hatred to save their own skins, and who now have the audacity to put on straight faces and claim they are doing so in the name of the race and religion?

None of them gave a second thought to race and religion when they stole the people’s money, so it must be shocking that huge numbers of people still actually believe in this political/religious propaganda.

But despite our racist and religious biases, we barely complain when enjoying public holidays on the auspicious days of various faiths in this country.

That glut of off days earns us the reputation for being one of the countries with the most public holidays.

For the first time now, we heard Kelantan declared today a public holiday to boost attendance at the protest against the implementation of the Inter-national Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) in the federal capital yesterday.

We have heard of cuti sakit (medical leave), cuti kahwin (marriage leave), cuti bersalin (maternity leave), and we now have cuti protes (leave to protest).

I’m sure many of us are curious how the state government could have reached this decision.

The question that begs to be asked is, does a person’s race, religion or gender matter if the person is competent, able and carries out his or her responsibilities with integrity? The answer is “no”.

What we have seen in Malaysia is that those who have created the loudest racket about race and religion are the ones who have been charged with draining the country’s wealth, which is ironic. And the size of the anti-Icred rally yesterday proves that race and religion still make handy weapons.

It also doesn’t stop those who whip out the race and religion cards from targeting their fellow Malaysians, from instilling fear that the Malays are in danger of losing their rightful and privileged places.

While this is all pure fiction, it is necessary that moderate and rational Malay leaders convince their community about what the Icerd is all about, particularly since other Muslim countries have ratified it.

The federal government’s booboo was announcing its intention to ratify it before gathering consensus and building confidence was done.

This allowed the government’s political opponents – Umno and PAS – to attack Pakatan Harapan. And whether we like it or not, these two parties are doing what they ought to as the Opposition.

It is also their right to stage a protest rally, an entitlement in any form of democracy.

And the organisers of the anti-Icerd protest must be commended for the orderly and peaceful gathering.

It was a huge and impressive turn out, and they exercised their democratic rights.

And lo and behold, those in the government who asked them to stop the rally, were themselves embroiled in illegal street protests previously.

And, of course, these former ministers now on the Opposition bench, used to criticise street protests, saying it disrupted businesses and contributed to millions of ringgit lost, and that such demonstrations should be confined to stadiums.

All this reasoning is now conveniently forgotten.

Many PH supporters, who used to take part in Bersih protests, have also questioned the need for demonstrations, saying they trigger fear and public disruption.

So there you go. In Malaysia, we suffer from many health concerns, not just diabetes and obesity, which is among the highest in the world, but also, mental disorders.

Political amnesia must rank highly for many of us, and we must be wondering how in an increasingly religious Malaysia, up until last year, corruption was running riot.

Surely a country that is so fearful of God, would not be so sinful.

Many things make little sense in Malaysia, but we still love this place because there is never a dull day.