You were born in 2009, in the most beautiful country in the world: Malaysia. Yet, there are those who are willing to destroy what our forefathers worked hard to establish, for their own selfish gains.
When you are older you will read about dictators and governments who detained their countrymen without trial as part of their cling to power. Uganda had Idi Amin who tortured his political enemies and ruled his country with fear and corruption. This group includes Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Chile’s Agusto Pinochet, China’s Communist government, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Libya’s Muammar al-Quaddafi, Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Ayatollahs, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Russia’s KGB, and East Germany’s Stasi. These are only some of the dictators who were in power during my lifetime.
Here are some abuses of power closer to home: Phillippines’ Ferdinand Marcos had his political opponent assassinated at Manila’s International Airport; Pol Pot converted a high school into the infamous S-21 Prison where people were tortured and killed; Indonesia’s Suharto imprisoned families and relatives of his political opponents for “guilt by association”; China ordered their military to open fire at unarmed protesters in Tienamen Square; just to name a few.
Their modus operandi is similar: the authorities will detain a person late at night, usually on trumped up charges, the detainee is usually denied representation, denied access to information on their detention, tortured or beaten, and put away almost immediately.
The people most at risk are political enemies (it does not matter which side they are on) and people who criticise the government.
Our peaceful country is not spared this appalling abuse of power. Here are some cases in recent years:
- 19 year old Muhamad Arif Abu Semah was detained under the Emergency Ordinance under suspicion of motorcycle theft in 2011. Auntie Fadiah Nadwa together with other lawyers are working on the case as I write this letter. A. Kugan died while in Balai Polis USJ’s custody in 2009. He was a car theft suspect.
- Teoh Beng Hock died while being interviewed as a witness by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in 2009.
- R. Gunasegaran was brutally beaten to death at Balai Polis Sentul on suspicion of drug possesion in 2009.
- K. Selvach, who bravely testified at R. Gunasegaran’s inquest was later detained without trial.
- Anwar Ibrahim was punched by IGP Rahim Noor in 2008 while in detention on suspicion of sodomy.
- Handicapped tom yam hawker, Kadir Hashim, was detained under the ISA, suspected of being involved in “subversive activities”.
- Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa, a Mongolian national, was murdered by C-4 explosives in 2006. Her murderers were members of the Malaysian Police Special Action Force.
Statistics between 2000 and February 2010 showed that 144 people died while in police custody. This statistic may include natural deaths but I doubt it applies to most of the 144 cases. And in most cases, the court usually rules an open verdict thus indirectly condoning the actions of the culprits.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, everyone has “the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty” and “a right to legal recourse” (to defend oneself), and not be hauled away without reason and beaten without a court’s judgment. Do you think we can be proud of our country if our government practices such abuses of power?
I hope this abuse of power will diminish when you are an adult. If not, you will live in fear like the Germans did under Nazi rule or like the Russians under the watchful eyes of the KGB. The people were oppressed and led miserable lives much like rats in the sewer. Those who complained disappeared in the night, tortured, sent to prison, or killed without trial. But in the end, as history shows us, these oppressive governments self-destruct. Idi Amin, Marcos, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot and Mubarak are no more. In 2011, a revolution swept Tunisia and Egypt. Their own people rose up, made their voices heard and did not back down until their corrupt leaders stepped down.
Tunisia sparked off because of high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. In my opinion, this sounds very much like Malaysia’s situation today. But it can change. Our politicians must have the will to effect this change for the good of every citizen of our country. They must not spend their time playing the blame-game nor silence their critics. Instead, put into effect plans and strategies, and work hard towards the goal of country that can stand proud in the world. Or else, these leaders deserve to be voted out of government.
We elect our government because we hope they will serve us and the country, and not abuse us. I end this letter to you with a quote from the protagonist in the movie V For Vendetta: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Your loving father,
Pepper is the father of two adorable children named Paprika Lim and Saffron Lim. “Dear Paprika” is a series of letters written for posterity. When Paprika is 20 years old, he will be 61. If he does die before his time, he hopes these letters will be there for her, so she knows what her father wants her to know, but could not tell her in person. His family lives in beautiful Malaysia, a country rich in natural resources and unlimited potential. He has plans to make his family proud.