by Syed Zahar
We are living in interesting times. Here and now is a crucial episode in Malaysia’s modern political history, where things can go either way. To put things in perspective, it is a national duty of writers and media practitioners to feed Malaysians with the lowdown on the political situation in this post-March 8, 2008 era. And one writer has stepped up to the plate since even before the historical 12th General Election to do Malaysians a big favor by helping us make that informed decision come poll day.
Following his March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up (2008) and its sequel, March 8: Time for Real Change (2010), veteran journalist Kee Thuan Chye’s latest book is aptly titled No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians. It’s a compilation of his trademark straightforward commentaries on Malaysian politics that were published in various print and online media (including Malaysian Digest) as well as the author’s past speeches, political plays, poems and interviews with various media.
Malaysians now can be categorized into four political mindsets. To put it simply, there are the staunch Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters, the fence-sitters, the strong Opposition supporters and then those who are more than willing to vote for the Opposition for the sake of change and to get the two-party system going. I would say Kee belongs to the last category as we can see from the following excerpt from his new book:
“It may be difficult to trust the old hands in the Opposition team, or to put much faith in some of their newbies, or be certain that their company won’t fall apart because their ideologies are different, but if we want to retain this situation of two coalitions battling for our benefit, we have to nurture it. It sure beats having a monopoly. We have to keep the March 8 spirit alive.”
“If people were to ask me how I’d vote at the next GE, this is what I’d say – why vote in the people who have been taking us for a ride and robbing us blind? They may actually bring about a slew of reforms just before the elections in order to win our hearts and minds… well, let them. We can accept that, like some voters who accept money, and still vote them out. Why not let in a group of people and see what they can do? At least at the beginning, they will be so blunt on winning our approval, they will bring us a further slew of reforms – until they get corrupted or prove to be incompetent. If that happens or if they don’t come up to our expectations, and the other salesmen clean up their act, we can choose anew at the following GE.”
“That’s a simplistic way of looking at it, of course. More importantly, I think we need to get in fresh government because the old one has become too entrenched in its ways. They know the system too well to use it to their corrupt advantage. What’s more, we need to undo the damage that has been inflicted to our country by the man who outshines Avatar. We need a massive spring cleaning.”
– Kee Thuan Chye, No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians
Although Kee regularly participates in political rallies doesn’t see himself as an activist but more of an observer who wants Malaysians to be more politically conscious. Back in his days as a fulltime journo for several mainstream papers (namely, New Straits Times and The Star), Kee had gained notoriety for his provocative articles. You see, most journalists in this country have accepted the shameful reality that they have to submit to the political interest of the owners of the organizations they work for. Kee is a rare breed for he is not one of them, and this had landed him in trouble with his editors in the past. As he said in No More Bullshit when talking about how the media have willingly restricted themselves since the Mahathir (the person he refers to as the man responsible for messing up the country and to whom have dedicated a special section to) era, the only thing worse than censorship is self-censorship.
Despite having gained a reputation as a ‘troublemaker’ in various editorial departments during his younger days, it is only lately (after 2008) that Kee stumbled into his newfound fame mainly for his candid and honest political commentaries that were published on various non-mainstream media. Kee has not held back his punches in No More Bullshit as his commentaries would still be considered provocative, for Malaysian standard anyway. This is a writer who wants the Opposition to win so bad because he truly believe that making this possible would benefit rakyat in the long run. In fact, at times, he almost sounds desperate for change as he’s had enough, and this defiance is not for the sake of dissent but for the love of the country. As quoted by Kee in one of the opening pages in No More Bullshit:
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” – Howard Zinn, American historian, academic, author, playwright and social activist
Notwithstanding his hope for a change of government, the author is pessimistic about the Opposition winning in the coming election though, deep inside, he looks forward to be pleasantly surprised.