This is the question that fellow Australians most frequently ask me, and indeed that I frustratedly keep asking myself, about why I keep writing about Malaysian politics.
And it gets more difficult every week to come up with a convincing reply.
Back when I started in 2006, however, my motives seemed as simply and plausibly explicable to others as they were clear in my own mind.
My main motivation, as I recall explaining in the introduction I wrote for the my first book of collected columns, ‘Mad about Malaysia’, was to make some meaningful contribution to the country that my wife, daughter, extended family and a great many good friends and valued colleagues called home, and in which, though a foreigner, I was temporarily welcome to work.
Less altruistically, but just as sincerely, I also felt driven to be involved with, and if possible help support, Steven Gan, Prem Chandran and their staff in their courageous struggle to ensure the survival of their inspired creation, the country’s first source of true news and independent views in living memory, Malaysiakini.
These days, however, now that Malaysiakini is no longer merely surviving but mightily thriving, and my wife and daughter have long-since embraced life in and become citizens of Australia, it’s not so easy to explain to myself or anyone else why I persist in writing columns calumnising the criminal regime that’s still apparently endlessly running and in the process ruining Malaysia.
Mainly what keeps me persisting in this frustrating and thus-far utterly futile endeavour, of course, is my feeling of sympathy, solidarity and comradeship with all those intrepid and truly patriotic Malaysians who have chosen to struggle to save their beloved country, not by leaving it and criticising its criminal misleaders from a distance, but staying at home to fight.
But despite their fighting with all their might, and my own and others’ efforts to support them from beyond the battle-lines if not out of sight, the vast majority of Malaysians are still apparently failing or refusing to see the Umno/BN blight in its true lying and larcenous light, and so Malaysia remains in a terrible plight
As the head of the allegedly blatantly Umno/BN-biased Election Commission (EC) Mohd Hashim Abdullah lamented recently in a laughable attempt to portray himself and his officers as politically-impartial, 4.2 million Malaysians citizens who are qualified to vote have not taken the trouble to register, and millions of those who have registered can’t be bothered turning up on election days to cast their votes.
A distraction from ‘manipulation of constitituencies’
What Mohd Hashim failed to mention, however, was that a great many voters have become hopelessly cynical about and thus alienated from participating in the electoral process by the EC’s shameless alleged manipulation of constituencies, which are constitutionally required to be of similar voter-population size with a maximum permitted variation of 20 percent, but currently range from around 5,000, as in the blue-ribbon Umno seat of Putrajaya, to 150,000 or more.
He was also using his regret at low levels of voter registration and turnout as a distraction from this and also the lamentable reality that in many electorates a great many of those who do both register and show up to vote only do so in the expectation of allegedly receiving gifts or outright cash payments for supporting Umno/BN candidates.
Another Umno/BN bigwig working hard this week to convey an illusion of care for the country more than for himself and his own privileged position as a prominent member of the Umno/BN regime was attorney-general (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Despite the universally-known fact that he was promoted over the politically dead body of the former AG to pander to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s allegedly dire need to be declared innocent of any larcenous intent or even meaningful involvement in the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial misappropriation and money-laundering scam, Apandi had the gall to hector his audience at a Conference of the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ Legal Officers in Malacca on the topic of corruption.
“Corruption is like a termite infestation that will slowly weaken the country without the people realising it,” he thundered, as if his own legal officers, like the rest of us in Malaysia and around the world weren’t aware that the Umno/BN regime he represents, or rather misrepresents, wasn’t a nest of the nation’s allegedly most notoriously voracious – and at the same time least veracious – political termites.
Just as former chief minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib ‘The Termite’ Mahmud, built a multi-billion mound of money by allegedly chomping his way through his state’s rainforest-timber resources, Najib has devoted his time as prime minister to systematically white-anting the entire nation of Malaysia.
With the aid, support and protection of his hordes of alleged sycophants in government, the judiciary, the police force, the ‘mainstream’ news media, the aforementioned electoral commission and all the other civil services, he has allegedly consumed countless billions of Malaysian people’s rightful shares of public money and natural resources, and allegedly undermined as many as possible of the Malaysian citizens’ civil rights and legal protections.
Yet there he was this week trying to kid attendees at the Prime Minister’s Department monthly assembly that the recent and current string of graft charges against civil servants “is a reminder that those in government must not take away what rightfully belongs to the people.”
The rest of us know very well that this just another Najib-style lie to conceal the fact that those being targeted for corruption are either small termites, or slightly larger termites who have made the mistake of failing to pass the expected cut from their country-consuming scams up the line to the termites at the top.
So, who cares about Malaysia? Certainly not Najib, Apandi, Mohd Hashim Abdullah or any other members, cronies or supporters of the Umno regime. Which leads me to the conclusion that it’s up to all the millions of Malaysians who claim that they care about Malaysia but do nothing to show it, to finally summon-up the interest, energy, integrity, courage or whatever else it takes to demonstrate that they truly do give a damn about making a difference.
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.