On a cold day in hell/pada satu hari di neraka

“We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts.”

-Patrick Henry1775, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”

It is time to take heed and pay attention. A Government of Malay-Muslim supremacy has never served Malaysia’s diverse people. The current Malaysian government with its’ policy of Malay-Muslim preferential treatment has in effect begun to assume tyrannous properties, causing embarrassment and grief to Malaysians at home and abroad. Women are especially affected. The vicious murder of the Mongolian national Altantuya by Malaysian police officers, and the persecution of the Malaysian Christian Lina Joy are two recent insufferable examples. No less critical to the Malaysian Crisis are the shameless appropriation and seizure of dead bodies by Malaysian religious authorities claiming converts to their religion.

EC Ambassador Thierry Rommel’s honest words regarding Malaysia’s need to address the Bumiputra policy ought to be received and considered with gravity by the Malaysian government and people. Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak lacks credibility when he bristles over honest words spoken with no malicious intent. Ambassador Rommel has merely provided Malaysians with constructive criticism and analysis of the state of our nation. He advocates transparency, dialogue and education – what is wrong with advocating this as a path to peaceful non-violent social change in Malaysia? Other educated international experts on the nation and region, like Mr. Michael Backman, author of Asian Eclipse and five other books, have opined in similar vein. By taking offence, Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak is behaving like the proverbial abusive husband in a domestic violence case. The Deputy Premier is demanding that no one intervene or interfere.

I am a Malaysian national and a woman poet. I cannot in good conscience remain silent. Further I shall not be intimidated or silenced by a bully politician whose only advantage over me is his peculiar and impious status in Malaysia as Malay and a Muslim. The status that Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak wields as a whip over me, and other women and minorities like myself, finds its basis in the Bumiputra policy and the ridiculous and public claim that he has made on the international arena.

Consider the Deputy Premier’s brazen claim: “In the 446 years of oppression under the rule of foreigners from 1511 to 1957, it is impossible that what was owed to the Malays could be repaid in a mere 20 or 30 years.” Basically, Najib Abdul Razak is saying, “you owe me.” The personal pronoun “you” is amorphous. It is questionable what his intentions are in articulating such a claim. Who are these foreigners Najib Abdul Razak is referring to? And was the Deputy Premier even alive 446 years ago to demand pay back
time now? Honestly, what strain of madness is this from a Malaysian leader, a representative of the Malay race on the world stage? Do Malaysians really require another tinpot tyrant, like Dr. Mahathir Mohammad previously to represent her for another few decades?

The current Deputy Premier of Malaysia has made a public declaration of victim-hood for the Malay-Muslim race; I wonder how many Malays share his views and wish to be identified as victims for the rest of their lives? The benefits and privileges of this kind of victim-hood within Malaysia are perhaps beneficial to those who presently identify themselves as Malay and Muslim but for those who seek a just God and government, I propose alternate and just government under the rule of law. The process by which Malaysia can arrive at this is obvious – it will take surviving the Malaysian crisis – through transparency, dialogue and education, and yes, as EC Ambassador Thierry Rommel so astutely points out, some short term political risk. It will also require genuine friendships, goodwill and sincere cooperation with the likes of EC Ambassador Thierry Rommel, the United States and other modern, forward-looking nations.

Until recently, I had neither courage nor the social conscience or political will to question the oppressive environment in my country of origin. As a Malaysian, born in 1963, I am of that generation of Malaysian sons and daughters educated in the National Language, Bahasa Malaysia and taught loyalty through the Rukun Negara or Principles of the Nation. These principles include belief in God, loyalty to king and country, adherence to Parliament, submission to the rule of law and cultivation of a civil and civic mind. It is on these firm foundations of Education laid in Assunta Secondary School, my alma mater, that I base my present arguments against the erroneous and unrighteous claims of the current Malaysian government with its archaic and now redundant Bumiputra policy. My conscience also informs me that loyalty to King and country cannot be blind in nature for that violates the first of our nation’s principles that is – kepercayaan kepada Tuhan or belief in God.

As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, on the American Crisis, these are times that try men’s souls. Malaysian leaders, like the former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, have availed themselves of western education and scholarship and use this to manipulate and intimidate the minds of the Malaysian people for diabolical political purpose and personal gain. Neither Dr. Mahathir Mohammad nor current Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak articulate ideas that serve our nation and its’ diverse people. When we look to Malaysia and Malaysians for representatives, ambassadors and stalwart members of the world community, we turn to the likes of former MP Lim Guan Eng, Irene Fernandez, human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar ,Steven Gan and the other independent thinking journalists of MalaysiaKini.

There are many more Malaysians who I am not yet acquainted with, who deserve public recognition and international support. These are the sons and daughters of Malaysia who serve God and country with integrity. They may never receive the kind of public accolade, recognition that Dr. Mahathir Mohammad has gained with his sectarian politics and firm grip on power but the aforementioned are public servants of the highest order serving God and our country in their office in good conscience and will.

Speaking of the power of Education, I happened upon the American Fulbright scholar Dr. Harold Schiffman’s paper,“Malaysian Tamils and Tamil Linguistic Culture,” in Language and Communication Vol. 22:2, pp. 159-169, April 2002. Education opened my eyes to the painful truth of our condition as non-Malay/Muslim citizens of Malaysia.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Harold Schiffman’s paper:

“Language policy in Malaysia is a topic that cannot be openly discussed without fear of being charged under the Sedition Act of 1948.[6] It is only one of those taboo issues (the place of Islam, the special status of Malays) that may not be discussed in Malaysia, for fear of disturbing certain ethnic sensibilities. Therefore the only writing one finds on the topic of language policy are filiopietistic articles extolling the virtue of the system, its natural fairness, its commitment to building up the national culture, and so forth. It can be described, but it cannot be criticized, so criticism of it will only be made outside the country.”

As an educated Malaysian Tamil woman writer and poet, I find it abhorrent that religion, race/language/ethnic and gender policy is manipulated for political purpose in Malaysia with impunity. Deputy Premier Abdul Razak Najib has some nerve to attempt to control the minds and seasoned speech of members of the international community who will, yes, intervene and opine on matters of grave international concern and consideration such as Malaysia’s treatment of women and minorities. Malaysians are a strong, dynamic, diverse and capable people. We are capable of great contributions in the arts, sciences, engineering and literature.

We, as empowered individuals, do not require the permission or approval of Deputy Premier Abdul Razak Najib in a flat and free world to think, to seek and to speak the truth. The Malaysian Deputy Premier is selling Malaysians a bill of goods that argues that the state of the nation is due to 446 years of oppression. The Portuguese arrived in Malaysia in when Malacca was under the Malay sultanate – how does the civilizing influence of the Portuguese suddenly become the oppression of the Malay?

Malaysians coming of age in the twenty first century regardless of race, religion and ethnicity can decide for themselves whether they wish to buy the Deputy Premier’s bill of goods. The Deputy Premier is free to propose his ideas/interpretation of history and maintain it for his personal sake and gain but as a woman, a Malaysian poet and a member of the international community, I reject his ideas. Education, for me, is not the confirmation of prejudice but the reasoned examination of it.

Just imagine if I were to walk around as a woman claiming oppression by men from time immemorial, demanding that the world pay me back for its’ poor treatment of those of my gender. It would take an honest man (or woman) to then kindly approach me and say, “Excuse me, Madam, but your slip is showing.”

Such are the honest words from EC Ambassador Rommel. If we were to have good sense, our collective heads would not to refuse correction. Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak was once the Minister Education in Malaysia. Methinks he needs to check some books out of the library, pour over the good book of his faith and have his head examined. The fraternity of God, good books and good men will surely give him better counsel than he currently has.

For far too long, the public education system in Malaysia has curbed freedom of speech, thought and written expression. The Malaysian national language and religion, in essence the Bumiputra policy, is used as nails not to secure us our liberties but to seal us in a coffin or a prison not of our own making. By availing ourselves of Education, speaking up, and aligning ourselves with the cause of the nation and its’ liberties, we are acting in truth and in spirit as one, as Malaysians. I believe in our nation and our economic, political and social future as a diverse people. There is hope for Malaysians and Malaysia as a powerful force of good against evil. I believe that Malaysians can and will rise up in peaceable ways to effect the changes that all persons of goodwill wish to see happen in our nation.

As a Malaysian Tamil poet, I long for better days. I sing now my truth from a tree planted in another great nation, the United States of America, that has accorded me the liberties of conscience that is withheld by an evil government in my country of origin. Until then, my fellow Malaysians,(and international readers) my heart laid bare before you. Let it not be so that it is only on a cold day in hell that I return. Let instead our freedoms ring making glad the heart and mind of God and man!

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka
I’ll produce the poems, saya akan mewujudkan karya sajak/puisi dan pantun
From these raw elements, truth, daripada unsur-unsur asal ini, kebenaran
We will build a united nation, kami akan membangunkan negara perpaduan

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka
I’ll believe the Malaysian Government , saya akan mempercayai Kerajaan Malaysia
From it’s efforts, a national identity/ daripada usha-usaha kerajaan, identiti nasional
We will birth a united nation, kami akan melahirkan perpaduan negara

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka
I’ll say good-bye America, saya akan mengucapkan selamat tinggal Amerika Syarikat
Soil the good name of the British/ the Japanese, memburukkan nama British/Jepun/
We will oppose internal threats/ kami akan menentang masaalah dalaman

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka
I’ll buy and sell the truth, Saya akan jual beli kebenaran
From these individual efforts, die, daripada usaha-usaha individu ini, mati
We will return the peace earth cannot give/ kami akan mengembalikan keamanan yang dunia tidak boleh memberi

On a cold day in hell, pada satu hari sejuk di neraka
I’ll spill my blood on Tanah Melayu, tanah tumpahnya darah ku
From my own efforts try to save the land, daripada usha-usaha sendiri cuba menyelamatkan negara
We will fly the Malaysian flag / Kami akan mengibarkan bendera Malaysia

At that time, pada ketika itu.

©Anushka Anastasia Solomon 2004.

Byline: Anushka Anastasia Solomon (www.atthewindow.us) is a prize- winning Malaysian-Tamil writer and poet in exile from Malaysia. Her poetry chapbook, “Please, God, Don’t Let Me Write Like A Woman” will be available later this year.

Acknowledgement: On A Cold Day In Hell/pada satu hari di neraka was first published in MalaysiaKini.com, on http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/69791, July 11th 2007.

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