United in grief, but still a nation divided
COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
Published: 24 August 2014
Yes, Malaysians are united in grief over the twin tragedies of Flight MH370 and Flight MH17. How could anyone not be moved to tears and feel a sense of hollowness by the numbing loss of both these incidents?
But let us not demean this period of mourning and introspection by milking the shooting down of the aircraft for cheap political gain or gimmicky headlines. There has been no shortage of attempts by Barisan Nasional politicians and the mainstream media to turn the Flight MH17 tragedy into the coming out party for the Najib administration; supposedly a showcase of the Prime Minister’s empathy, diplomatic skills and great skill at uniting this nation.
Lost in all the mulch has been the fact that Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been prime minister of Malaysia for more than five years, and not three months.
Mingguan Malaysia, the weekend edition of the Umno mouthpiece, trumpeted Najib’s handling of the Flight MH17 tragedy as an example of the government’s upward trajectory. The PM himself today said that the government’s policy of neutrality helped it to broker a deal with the separatists in Ukraine – the same separatists who may have blown Flight MH17 out of the sky.
This praise fest is now reaching a crescendo and we are on the cusp of something really dangerous – allowing this propaganda blitz to convince Malaysians that we are now a united bunch.
One nation. One vision.
Stop. Just stop, please.
The posturing following Flight MH17 and naked attempt to ride on the wave of sadness is nauseating enough. But to try and use tragedy and sketch a warped picture of a nation united is disgusting.
Yes, Malaysians feel for the crew and passengers of flight MH370 and flight MH17, but this is not a kumbaya moment. Our sense of solidarity with those who suffered loss cannot paper over deep fissures in our society.
We are far from a united nation and the blame for that lies squarely with those who occupy Putrajaya.
Just think back to the last 24 months and only one picture of Malaysia comes to mind – of government-sponsored fringe groups pushing a right-wing agenda; of unprecedented religious and racial tension; of sedition charges being brought against Opposition politicians; of discredited stories of the Christianization of Malaysia; of a yawning income gap between the rich and the rest of Malaysia; of the demonisation of non-Malays. The list is non-exhaustive.
Coinciding with this period of uncertainty, threats have been indecision, apathy, inertia of the government. There has also been some degree of complicity of the Najib administration because it has refused to shut down Perkasa, Isma and other strident right-wing voices. Heck, we don’t even know how to shut down extremists like the militant Islamic State (oh, sorry. I guess that’s our much vaunted neutral diplomacy at play).
Against this backdrop of a country torn asunder came the twin heartaches of Flight MH370 and Flight MH17. The case of the missing aircraft was handled abysmally by the government while the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft over Ukraine was handled well.
The people in Putrajaya and the mainstream media would like Malaysians to buy the narrative that the tragedies have brought us together and the government of the day should take some credit for this new found unity.
We may be united in grief but the racial, religious and class fault lines in Malaysia are open, festering wounds. – August 24, 2014.