Are jitters ahead of Umno-Pas rally justified?

The Umno-Pas rally on December 8 has been a talking point for some weeks. The rally is being held to “celebrate” the government’s backing down from ra

Dec 07, 2018

By Anil Netto
The Umno-Pas rally on December 8 has been a talking point for some weeks. The rally is being held to “celebrate” the government’s backing down from ratifying the UN International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Whatever the turnout — and it is unlikely to be anywhere near the scale of the Bersih rallies — we cannot be held hostage to the divisive sentiments of race and religion. That is so passé — it is the old politics that we thought we jettisoned out on May 9 but still remains somewhat entrenched.

The government deserves credit for allowing the rally to take place, thereby upholding the right to peaceful assembly. Now the onus is on those assembling to ensure that they respect the law. Hopefully, the security personnel will contain the rally and its aftermath while allowing those in the Klang Valley to move around peacefully, without fear.

The recent Seaview Hindu temple rioting has not helped to calm nerves. That episode shows how easily violence can erupt from a localised dispute and result in the burning of vehicles, intimidation, and fights, appallingly leaving a firefighter in critical condition.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and security personnel eventually contained the situation and prevented it from spreading. We pray for the quick recovery of the injured firefighter.

Still, a sense of worry and unease is in the air in the run-up to December 8. But should we be unduly worried?

In Mark Chapter 4, we see the contrast between the frantic disciples and Jesus when confronted with an imminent storm. Notice Jesus enjoying a deep slumber while around him a storm was brewing and the waves were lashing into the boat.

37 Then it began to blow a great gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped.

38 But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.

39 They woke him and said to him, “Master, do you not care? We are lost!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet now! Be calm!” And the wind dropped, and there followed a great calm.

40 Then he said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?”

41 They were overcome with awe and said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.”

So, despite the tempest of uncertainty swirling around us, we are called to be peacemakers, calling out for calmness in the middle of a storm.

But before that, we have to cultivate our own inner calm… undisturbed by the gale and the lashing waves.

Why worry. Leave matters in the good hands of the Lord.

But that doesn’t mean we sit back and relax. There is work to do.

The nation is faced with numerous challenges — a listless economy, a weakening ringgit, huge debts and a slump in oil and commodity prices. Mega projects threaten the environment — think of Taman Rimba Kiara, the Pan Island Link highway and massive land reclamation in Penang.

Over in Kuantan, the rare earth controversy refuses to go away. What to do with all that waste? When will the permanent disposal facility be built. How safe will recycled waste be?

Critically, the anxieties of the bottom 40 per cent of the population must be tackled. Policies that favour Big Business have to be reviewed to put people first. How affordable is housing?

Do we have decent affordable public transport? Why should the new Klang Valley travel pass be limited to Malaysians — and not extended to migrant workers?

Our healthcare system appears to be following a neoliberal trajectory: full-paying patients can now enjoy quicker treatment in general hospitals but what about those who cannot afford those fees? How long do they have to wait? Meanwhile, the emphasis given to medical tourism will aggravate the brain drain of skilled medical staff from the public healthcare sector.

We need to calmly go about our task of building bridges and working for peace and social, economic and environmental justice. A Muslim friend told me, “We should not hug the possibility of nation calamity so close to us the way some people do… a haunted, hounded look upon our faces with a fear that is not conducive to our wellbeing.”

Indeed, we need to lift this veil of fear and anxiety, to dispel the old insecurities. We need to think positively, and have faith and confidence in the goodwill of our fellow inhabitants of this blessed land. In solidarity with them, we have to put shoulder to the wheel and propel the new Malaysia into an era of peace, justice and solidarity.

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