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.
Your Ah Kong used to ask me, “If a person told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?” His point was: do not follow instructions blindly but rather, think for yourself before you do anything.
Just the other day I read reports of the police arresting people for wearing yellow clothing. The Home Minister had earlier declared illegal a rally dubbed “Bersih 2.0“. Bersih 2.0 was made up of NGOs calling for clean and fair elections. It was mind boggling for the police to arrest people based on the colour of their clothing. When asked why they were doing do, the police simply replied, “Arahan dari atas!” (directives from superiors). Should lower ranking officers obey their superiors blindly? Are they not allowed to object?
During the Cold War, Germany was divided into two (1949 – 1990); West Germany and East Germany. The city of Berlin (located within East Germany) was also divided into two. West Berlin was controlled by the Americans, British and French (Allies of WWII) while the east side was controlled by the Russians. The communist regime governing the east built a wall to prevent its people from escaping into the western side. This wall, nicknamed The Berlin Wall, included guard towers manned by East German soldiers with order to “shoot to kill” any East Germans trying to flee into the Allies’ sector.
After the Berlin Wall came down and Germany was reunified, the guards who shot at people fleeing were put on trial; put on trial for obeying orders to kill! Chief Judge Theodor Seidel who sentenced the first East German border guard patrolling the Berlin Wall said, “The legal maxim ‘whoever flees will be shot to death’ deserves no obedience.” Peter Fechter was another East German shot at the wall. The guards who shot him were sentenced to 20 months in prison. They were following arahan dari atas. Why did they not pretend to miss the target or shoot above his head? If they did, they would not have been in trouble for murdering an innocent man.
During the Bersih 2.0 rally on 9 July 2011, the police and Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) shot tear gas at unarmed protesters. The protest was largely peaceful as reported by many foreign media. The police and FRU were not in danger of being attacked, yet they fired volleys of tear gas at the crowd; arahan dari atas. What is next? Shooting to obey orders like the British soldiers did at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre?
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (also known as the 1919 Amritsar massacre) happened in India. The days before were marked by protests by the Indians against the British government occupying India. There were also rumours of a conspiracy to topple the government. At a Sikh festival called Baisakhi, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer commanded 90 British Indian Army soldiers to open fire at 15,000 unarmed men, women, and children without warning. 379 innocent people were killed and 1,100 people injured. During the Hunter Commission Enquiry, Dryer said, “I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing…” Why did the soldiers open fire, aiming to kill civilians? Arahan dari atas.
During the Bersih 2.0 rally, the police and FRU fired tear gas into the KL Sentral tunnel trapping the leaders of Bersih 2.0 S Ambiga and opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Abdul Hadi Awang, Tian Chua and Nurul Izzah. Daddy’s friend Fadiah Nadwa and auntie June Rubis were also in the group. As the group ran for the opposite exit, they were blocked by another group of police and FRU beating and arresting the protesters as they gasped for air. Why did the authorities fire so many cannisters of tear gas in an enclosed area? Arahan dari atas. Did they not realise tear gas can kill? They did not care; they were only following arahan dari atas.
Sadly, people are generally susceptible to following orders. In 1961, the famous Milgram Experiment was conducted. You can watch a video of it here. In this experiment, ordinary people were put in the role of a teacher who administered an increasing electric shock for wrong answers. The research found that ordinary people could be prodded to do wrong things against their will and conscience if they thought they were merely following the rules or orders or an authoritative figure! This shocking experiment is chilling and mind numbing. Why did most of the participants administer the final fatal electric shock even though they heard the victims asking to be released several times? Did they think they were not at fault since they were merely following arahan dari atas? Yet, it was they who pressed the button that delivered the fatal electric shocks.
Dear Paprika, when you are growing up, you will meet many authorities in your life: your parents, your teachers, the police, the government and your boss but you must never follow their instructions blindly. Use your own judgement and conscience when faced with conflicting principles.
If a person asked me to jump off the cliff, I would not. And neither should you, Paprika.
* allowed by Muslim laws
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.