You are at the mercy of the system. Do you not want to make sure it is does not oppress you?
The majority of us are ordinary citizens. Ordinary in the sense that we go about our own lives without much influence on the system that surrounds us. However, with every turn, our lives are affected by the system we live in. Let me make myself clear by giving an example.
It can be a very simple thing, for example: You want to start a small business because you want to support your family and earn an income. Having registered your business, you now may want to apply for the relevant permits or licences. This application process should be a simple and routine process. The relevant authorising officer should simply ascertain whether your application complies with the law. If all requirements under the law are complied, then, the application should be expeditiously approved. If there are any shortcomings, he should advise you to rectify the same. After all, civil servants are supposed to be civil and “servants” of the Rakyat.
However, do things always go according to what I have described above?
You may meet an officer who wants to be taken “care of” before he can “speed up” or even approve your application. You are in a dilemma.You are starting a business because you need income to live but you have to pay “toll” first. You also know that the request is immoral and illegal because it is corruption. You get frustrated, maybe angry but you realise you need the licence.
You have bills to pay. You have a family to support. You have to find money to live because God has given you a life. So, you need the licence or permit. All you want is to do a business and earn honestly. But the system seems to oppress you and prevent you from doing so.
So, you weigh your options. You can report the officer to his superiors – but will the superior protect his officer and put you into trouble instead? Your mind worries. All you want is just the licence or permit. Maybe you should report the officer to the MACC, you wonder. But all you want is just the licence, your mind insists. Further, you are concerned about “how to prove.” It is just your word. You are also concerned that your application for the licence may be further jeopardised. In this country, we still do not have an Act to protect whistle blowers adequately.
You may also consider the last option of doing your business without the licence – illegally and running the risk of “greasing” enforcement officers instead. Or finally, you may decide to forget about the licence application and tell your family that they just have to starve.
Someone comes along and suggests that you get a letter of recommendation from some MP or ADUN or better still from a political secretary to a Minister. They tell you that the “surat sokongan” will help. You do it and go back to the officer. Two things may happen:
(1) he asks you how much you paid the political secretary for the letter (you didn’t pay but he does not believe you anyway!), and/or;
(2) he still insists on his toll payment which you refuse, and/or;
(3) Your application is “considered” and rejected though you comply with all the requirements of the law.
You go back home and tell your kids that papa cannot afford to support them since the government does not give him the licence to start a business. They and your relatives begin to hate the government whom you now see as wanting your family to suffer. Your kids ask what wrong have they done. You have no answer. It is the system that YOU have allowed to evolve.
I am not exaggerating here. Over the years, I have heard these complaints so many times from low and lower middle income people who want to start a small business honestly. I have offered to pursue the matter but most of them are afraid. It also does not help that some of the complainants are Malays because the oppressive officer is also a Malay.
It is such stories that have convinced me that corrupt and evil people come in all skin colors and labels. They eat the flesh of the weaker ones from any tribe including their own to satisfy their evil and selfish desires. This is why I have always maintained that tribalistic mentality is not good for the majority weaker ones in the tribe. Racism is a cover to exploit one’s own race and spread hatred.
You can apply the above story to every aspect of your life – every single government department, agency, the so called Courts of justice, etc. There are rotten people everywhere. However, not all become unjust due to money. There are other motivations or reasons – friendships, pure laziness, indifference, arrogance, etc.
The effect is: You are inflicted with injustice and you feel powerless to do anything about it. You feel alone in the fight.
The system should work. It should work for the People. We have to study the system and rectify its weakness so that ordinary people are not being pushed around, bullied and oppressed. People must insist that they too have a dignity that must be respected and recognised.
If you have a high sense of dignity and refuse to be cowed by people in seeming power lording over you unjustly, what do you do? You know there will be risks in opposing these people because even other citizens may not support you. Citizens tend to be selfish. “Not my problem.” may be their mindset.
I am sure many times, you may have wanted to take the law into your own hands and “get justice.” Inflict a pain on the oppressors. Make them suffer as they make you and your family suffer. However, such an approach will not solve the problem in the long run. It may also get you into problems with the law.
So, if you are a Rapera, what would you do? What would you do?
What I know is that a single voice is never loud enough to be heard.
LB: This post originally appears in the writer’s blog, Rapera.