Monday, March 3, 2008

Let's stop the pretence: Barry Michael Raj

One recent morning, I had just taken a gulp of my favourite java when I suddenly felt quite tempted to throw the hot coffee in my hand at my laptop screen.

It was not because my IBM Lenovo was giving me problems that I hate it so much or have a few spares lying around to use if I destroyed this. No, I love my machine very much, it works beautifully and I can't think of a life without it.

The object of my contempt that morning was a story that had popped up on my screen quoting our enlightened prime minister telling us – through that idiotic news agency Bernama – that Malaysian opposition parties were envious of his Barisan Nasional's success in administering the country and commanding the support of the people.

So now the opposition is jealous of Malaysia's success? I asked, unable to stop my lips from curling into a crooked smile. I thought all these while it was foreigners who were jealous of Malaysia's success?

Soon, the humour in me dried up and in its place, a nauseous wave of anger rose.

"What the…?" (a cursed word escaped my lips). "How long are they going to keep up with this…?" (more unprintable words followed).

Inflation is suffocating my fellow Malaysians and thousands are taking to the streets to get relieve from innumerable injustices. And our prime minister thinks the opposition is jealous of his success?

I ask this because Bernama had quoted him as saying that opposition parties "make up various stories".

"The opposition parties hope that by making up these stories they can influence the people to support them when BN is divided," he said.

He added that the opposition "know, but pretend not to know" what's happening in the country.

In my near 40 years in Malaysia before my career severed my umbilical cord from my beloved motherland, I knew of only two groups of people who knew everything that was happening in the country and yet pretended not to.

The first group comprised of Joe Publics like you and me who religiously read everything printed daily by our mainstream newspapers and pretended not to know that all the feel-good rubbish there was indeed rubbish.

The second group represented the primary source for the rubbish we were fed: the Government or "Gomen", depending on your favourite term of endearment for this company.

To me, it is the fault of the first group of pretenders that has kept up the song-and-dance of the second group. And the level of pretence by both groups had just gotten better over the years.

The "BN had led Malaysia to become the most developed country among the developing nations in the world", Abdullah proudly declared.

Indeed, I thought. With a foreign direct investment level even lower than Vietnam's, we must soon be swamping Singapore in the development stakes.

Abdullah said if the poverty level in Malaysia had been 10 percent previously, it had now gone down to 5.7 percent. "We cannot deny that this is another success," he said.

Sure, I thought. Let's pretend inflation is still digit-inflation like what your Gomen has been claiming the last 50 years -- although prices at restaurants and petrol pumps are up 30 and 70 percent in the last 5 years alone.

"Praise be to God that we have achieved success (in many areas)," Abdullah continued, without missing a beat.

I leafed through our many success stories and found a ranking below South Africa on the international corruption index and a police force unflatteringly compared with the Gestapo as among our achievements.

Abdullah showed he had more venom for the opposition when he said its ultimate aim was to make Barisan Nasional parties "suspicious of each other".

This will lead to "chaos, quarrels and eventually we become weak" he said.

I quickly admonished myself for thinking BN parties were out to kill one another when they actually loved each other to death. It must have been only the opposition that had condemned UMNO for all the keris-waving at the latter's assembly, not the MCA, I decided. It must also have been the opposition that caused the premature political demise of an MCA porn star by hiding a camera in his hotel room although he suspects his party colleagues did him in.

Abdullah finally ratcheted the pretence ante all the way by taunting the Joe Publics: "Who dares to say that his race is not developed or that they are always at the losing end ever since BN ruled the country more than 50 years?"

"Who dares to say that his community's wealth and assets have not increased over the years?

This was when I decided to end my pretence.

"Look here, you Gomen, I'm telling you," I hollered, my voice reverberating through my tiny San Francisco apartment. "Barry Michael Raj is telling you: My Indian Malaysian race has been at the losing end since the day your damn party started running this country 50 years ago."

"Barry Michael Raj is telling you that his community's wealth has vaporised over these last 50 years and those riches have not gone to poor deserving Malays but to the elite sons of your damn Gomen. I will also tell you that Indian Malaysians have less than 1 percent of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's market capitalisation; that there are less than 3 to 4 percent of Indian Malaysians studying in Gomen-run universities; and less than 1 percent of all scholarships awarded by the Gomen are for Indian Malaysians. Let me know if you want to hear more."

So, my fellow Malaysians, I have decided to end my pretence and come back and do the right thing on March 8.

Are you going to as well?

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