THE Merdeka celebrations are around the corner but to many the past one-year has been an unhappy time.
More and more young Malaysians are leaving the country as a result of some policies, which in my view are now outdated. Can we continue down this road?
Less than a month after last year’s Merdeka celebration, we saw the Walk for Justice, followed very closely by the Bersih and Hindraf rallies and the People’s Freedom Walk in celebration of the World Human Rights Day.
The first quarter of this year saw the general election and the shocking wave of change brought by it.
Soon after that the people struck again with various rallies and assemblies, big and small, in protest of the fuel price hikes. There were also other less sensational rallies and assemblies and hype over Namewee, Fitna and the arrest of Raja Petra.
Then came the furore over the Bar Council’s forums on the “Social Contract” and “Conversion to Islam”. In the latter’s case, the abbreviation of the title, which resulted in much misunderstanding, is still very much in our minds.
The latest was the UiTM students’ assembly. And not to mention the cancellation of Ella’s performance and Beyonce’s concert. I am pretty sure I have missed a lot more!
And yes – all these happened in just one year. The reason for these can be summed up in three words – race, religion and politics. Perhaps not in that particular order.
In the closed network of young legal practitioners, we have been busy attending farewell parties. Our friends, mostly non-Malays, have been leaving in droves to work in Singapore. Most of those leaving are up and coming lawyers who I think are amongst the best brains of the new generation in the legal profession.
Our friends from the engineering and architecture departments back in college are suddenly quitting their jobs and moving their families to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and even Syria.
Our friends who are now medics, high achievers in their respective overseas universities, only exist to us as online identities in Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, Skype and Facebook.
They simply refuse to come back and serve in the country and they have convincingly good reasons for doing so.
We also often hear “good news” from some other friends that their applications for permanent resident status have been approved by a foreign government – generally Australia.
This “brain drain” or flight of human capital has been an increasingly worrying trend for quite some time now.
Having gone past the golden anniversary of Merdeka, we Malaysians have become an unhappy lot. We have a lot to shout about. We are running away!
What are the causes for this state of unhappiness?
In the eyes of a Malay Muslim young lawyer keeping tabs with of all these calamities of late, I would say, it is the curtailment on our freedom of thought which has been instilled in each of us since a tender age.
Didn’t our parents tell us that we should become engineers, doctors, architects or lawyers when we grow up and that becoming musicians, painters, professional hockey players or go-kart drivers would not take us anywhere in life?
So some grew up believing this and later realising that it was not entirely true after all.
How many of us grew up listening to the pearls of wisdom from our elders that the only way to get ahead must be to seek the help of a certain Yang Berhormat or business tycoon who is close to a certain Datuk if we want to enter boarding school, college or university; or to get scholarships, government jobs or business opportunities? And that these are our privileges.
There are also some of us who grew up being told that these privileges do not apply to us. We watched our friends enjoy the privileges in silent envy and we secretly harboured contempt for them.
And we were reprimanded by our elders not to say anything about it as it is a “sensitive” issue.
Some of us grew up realising that we could have made it, and did make it, on our own without such privileges after all. There are still some of us who have not grown out of it.
We need to halt this fiction. The only way for us to grow is to believe that we are the ones in control of our destiny.
We must remove the shackles of generally accepted standards or privileges afforded to some of us at the price of creating discontent amongst others.
Malaysians born post-Merdeka, Malays and non-Malays alike, whether they realise it or not, are screaming for a complete makeover of this orthodox paternalistic approach.
Continued interference with their liberty of action and their freedom of choice, and outright discriminatory means which is used to preserve the rights of one section of Malaysians over the other irrespective of their actual needs should no longer be seen as a necessary form of protection, but a weapon of mass self-destruction.
The makeovers the young ones want, to a large extent, entail real changes in our laws and policies.
Feel good community service messages such as “I am not Chinese, I am not Indian, I am not Malay, (altogether) we are Malaysians!” just won’t cut it anymore.
Our Proclamation of Independence says that we “shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”
After 51 years, it seems to many that this has not been fully achieved.
/> The writer is a member of the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC). Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, please visit www.malaysianbar.org.my/nylc