WAMI’s 2008 New Year Message
More Freedom To Ensure Greater Harmony in 2008
Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) wishes all Malaysians a great year in 2008, with greater freedom to usher in a more representative polity, a more vibrant economy and a more harmony society.
Malaysians’ lives have unfortunately deteriorated in various aspects in 2007, making the Government’s grandiose celebration of 50 years of Independence superficial and hollow. Politically, the heads of the Judiciary, the Police and Anti-Corruption Agency were all tainted by allegations of corruption, adding on to the list of unaccountable ministers and misbehaved legislators. Socially, ethno-religious relations have fallen to its low when families and marriages are torn apart by religious zeal and judiciary passivism. Economically, the nation’s productivity and competitiveness continue to be curbed by red-tapes, corruption, discrimination and protectionism while ordinary citizens of all ethnic backgrounds pays higher fees to rent-seeking private operators of public goods like highways.
In 2008, Malaysians must put a halt to our national decline. We must reclaim our freedom to choose and decide in our political, economic and social life. The problems that haunt Malaysia now are all linked to one single cause: a government that is unaccountable, inefficient and incompetent but wants to control almost everything in the country.
Ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity is not and never a threat to our nationhood. Banning the thoughts of Karen Armstrong and Charles Darwin, demolishing or prohibiting certain types of house of worship, monopolizing the use of the term “Allah” for one faith, or detaining the Hindraf 5 without trials under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), is not making Malaysia more harmonious let alone more progressive. Contradictory to the official rhetoric, the state’s insatiable urge to control is not the cure, but the disease.
What guarantee peace, harmony, progress and the growth of spirituality in Malaysia is freedom – our freedom to think, to believe, to express, to receive and disseminate information, to gather peacefully, to form association, to make our political, economic, social, cultural and personal choices. With freedom, we will learn to respect others’ freedom and listen to them because we want them to do the same. In freedom, we will reach genuine accommodation and find creative solutions to problems. To claim that Malaysians cannot afford to live with freedom like other people is the ultimate insult that Malaysians are genetically or culturally inferior.
In 2008, Malaysians must bury the specter of May 13 and break free from the irrational fear of ethnic conflicts. We must denounce not only fear-mongering politicians but also freedom-hating mainstream media. A product of the Chinese community’s boycott of MCA-controlled media in 2001, WAMI welcomes the calls by activists in Gerakan Anti-Salah Maklumat (GASAK) , People’s Parliament and others to boycott those newspapers unworthy of their names. The civil society must continue to push for a thorough reform of all media-related laws, its goal declared on the World Press Freedom Day in 2005. The larger battle is however one on democratization – Malaysians must advance the cause of electoral reform to make politics more competitive and accountable.
Let us work together and may 2008 be a freer and happier year for all.