2012 was a year where the ruling Barisan Nasional government further exerted its hegemony by stirring up racial and religious sentiments.
By Charles Santiago
As we rejoice in the New Year celebrations, the family of an odd job worker would be clamouring to figure out how he ended up dead in a police lock-up. K Nagarajan’s body was found with bruises. In a classic cover-up, the police say he died from a fall in his cell.
His family was not informed of his arrest until much later. The authorities are yet to explain the reasons for the wounds on Nagarajan’s body and the post-mortem report is still pending, after seven days.
His grieving mother wants an explanation. Chances are there would not be any from the police to provide closure for the family, as colourful display of fireworks light our sky above the KLCC.
Malaysia ends 2012 with yet another custodial death.
But this is nothing new as 10 people died in custody since last year, while 25 died in police shooting. According to statistics revealed by the Home Ministry, 209 persons died in police custody between 2000 and September 2012.
And 2012 also ends with threats from businessman, Deepak Jaikishan, saying he will reveal more dirt on the knots that tie corruption, land deals and the murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shariibuu to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife.
If Jaikishan keeps his promise, Najib would start his New Year with a bang of a different kind.
But the carpet dealer’s statements, although full of mysterious twists and turns, has failed to get anti-corruption officers off their feet. There are no investigations to check if Jaikishan’s claims are true and Najib has not been instructed to reveal his assets.
In sharp contrast, non-governmental organisations, activists, civil society members, the coalition for free and fair elections and every other dissident who questioned the government’s skewed policies were hit hard.
Suaram is facing severe persecution for trying to expose alleged corruption in the government’s purchase of French submarines, which is directly tied to Shariibuu.
They are being attacked for receiving funding from the Open Society Institute headed by George Soros and the government says it wants to introduce rules to prevent NGOs from receiving money from overseas which it claims could open Malaysia to foreign interference.
The year 2012 also saw a continuation of the suppression of freedom of expression and information, with religious police JAWI confisticating copies of celebrated author Irshad Mani’s “Allah, liberty and love” in May.
And we also have the frantic passing of the Peaceful Assembly Act, a new law that is undemocratic and gives absolute power to the police with the power of appeal resting with the minister.
It was used as a tool to further harass the opposition, particularly opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar and his deputy were charged with helping to incite protesters to defy a court order and break through police barricades into Independence Square during Bersih 3.0 where tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding electoral reforms.
Even if Anwar receives the minimum penalty, he could lose his seat his parliament and be prevented from running in the upcoming general election. And the much-needed reforms are still up in the air.
The revelation that the government gave Malaysian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and stateless people in order to hold on to power has also been swept under the carpet.
We know the formation of a royal commission to look into this issue is mere shadow play.
The statistics are astounding.
Sabah’s population grew from under one million in 1980 to more than three million people today.
Foreigners make up 27 percent of that number, a larger proportion than the biggest indigenous group in Sabah.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, has always depended on winning an overwhelming number of seats in Sabah to remain in power nationally. But many ethnic Indians remain paperless and the government’s nationwide campaign to register stateless Indians is politically motivated to lobby Indian support and does not signal genuine concern for the community.
If this is not enough, the country’s investment policies only serve to make Malaysia a toxic dump- site.
Thousands of people have repeatedly protested against the opening of the Lynas rare earths plant saying its radioactive byproducts are a serious health and environmental hazard.
But despite the protests and legal action, the government granted Lynas a temporary operating license to process the minerals imported from Australia.
Now, in the face of continued opposition, the government says Lynas must ship all the waste products out of Malaysia or face the loss of its license. Lynas says it has no plans to do so.
But we all know it’s all just a charade and that Lynas would never have invested so much it unless it was confident of getting the government’s approval.
Malaysia’s education system is also on a slippery slope, forcing students to go overseas. And the government’s solution to stem decline in Mathematics, Science and English by proposing to bring in English teachers from India and give tax breaks to parents who enroll their children in the science stream is simply ridiculous.
In short, 2012 was a year where the ruling Barisan Nasional government further exerted its hegemony by stirring up racial and religious sentiments, continuing to discriminate the marginalised and targeting dissidents.
This has to stop in 2013.
Charles Santiago is DAP’s MP for Klang.