Have Malaysians taken their basic freedoms for granted? Have we all forgotten that such treasures need to be defended?

Mark Twain once proclaimed that:

“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have these three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practise either of them.”

Growing up in a suburban city, it has never occurred to me as to how much of an impact a word could carry. I only have to Google the word ‘freedom’ to find that much has been made about the literal meaning of this word. In today’s modern climate, however, the word ‘freedom’ is often spoken of only in the context of debates and laws which precede our societal standards. As such, very few in the present day actually understand or appreciate the underlying significance and meaning this word holds. The questions that beg to be answered then are: (1) What exactly is the definition of freedom?, and (2) Why is it of paramount importance that the Malaysian youths of today recognise, realise, advocate and preserve its intrinsic value?

From the early days of slavery and rebellion of the ancient Romans to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, men have always stood steadfast in their fight against oppression. The term ‘liberty’ has more often than not contributed to raging wars, dividing countries and countless lives being lost. Closer to home, the independence we enjoy today comes at the expense of our forefathers who gave up everything to liberate our beloved country from the shackles of the British Empire. Yet fifty-four years after our official Independence, the connotation of freedom has altered with a shift in paradigm. And we now face a far more complex conundrum: a battle to preserve a different kind of freedom against  – not invaders or conquerors – but rather the current ruling regime itself.

Is freedom burning bright for Malaysia? | Photo by Angilee Shah via Flikr | Source: www.flickr.com/photos/angshah/2064920375/

Malaysia today in all her glory is plagued with various problems that have hindered her progress, constricting societal development as a whole. Five decades of being governed by a single party has certainly taken their toll, the end result being the compromise of democracy, basic human rights and freedoms of the people. The political framework upon which our country is built has long since been proven flawed. Without going into details, the fact remains that we face a sad disposition where the alternative appears no better than the incumbent government. This has led to many believing that hope for progressive change is indeed lost.

Barring the select few who continue to fight for the cause, we have begun to enter a spiralling decline where we simply accept and settle for a flawed system. The dire plight of our country only came to light after the post-Mahathir era and it was plain to see how the regime in power had breached various articles of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) 1953 to stay in power.  These include the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Fair Trial.

Meanwhile, archaic laws such as the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance until recently have been abused to arrest reformists and activists who are not in line with government policies. The media has not been spared either as laws and sanctions have been put in place to block news deemed unsuitable for the masses by the government. Failure to comply with the rules in place, too, would lead one to the revocation of licenses to broadcast or publish. Elsewhere, the Police Act of 1967 doesn’t only prove to be in direct violation of Article 12, i.e the Freedom of Assembly; it also gives law enforcers heightened powers to restrict and regulate the movement of people. The recent Bersih 2.0 rally is concrete proof of how basic freedoms have been violated.

For far too long, we have been forced to live within the boundaries set by men put in power to serve both country and citizen, but men who have far fallen short. If ever there was a need to point fingers, however, and ask who is to be blamed for the predicament we now struggle in, we need look no further than the mirror before us. In our quest for domestic luxury coupled with the fear of stepping out of our comfort zones, we have not only forsaken, inch by inch, our rights as citizens of Malaysia. We have also become afraid to think and question.

A personal favorite quote of mine (based on the Gunpowder Treason) reads this way: ”The people should not be afraid of the government; it is the government who should fear the people”. There will be those who will ask in turn, “What can we do as normal citizens?” Being a firm believer in moderation, the first issue to be addressed has to do with breaking free from the chains of biblical ideologies that have for so long suppressed intellectual thinking, positive reforms and progressive change. Lucid reasoning will tell you that by thinking independently and questioning critically, proper checks and balances to the incumbent government will automatically occur.

We the Future | Photo by Roslan Tengah via Flickr | Source: www.flickr.com/x/t/0093009/photos/lanraga/3890151956/

In one of his many speeches, Ronald Reagan said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We cannot pass it to our children via the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.

Never before have these words held more true than now as the coming generation of today’s youths and the future leaders of our country come to pass. I will not be the first, and neither will I be the last, to state that the only way forward, the only way to champion this noble cause is to educate the succeeding generation. After all, a man can be captured, tortured and killed, but an idea can never be put to end. The fight for freedom will always continue and is a never ending one at that. It is a privilege accorded to us by our founding fathers that should always be treasured for only when it is taken away, will we truly cherish its value. I end this article with a quote from Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 2:

When our actions do not, our fear do make us traitors.

More on this topic when you check out the following articles:

1. Malaysian Pride

2. Malaysia: Ripe for Revolution

3. Heroes?

4. Freedom, Imagined

5. Stop Talking. Start Doing

(Featured image accompanying this article on the main page courtesy of Dhammika Heenpella, source: www.flickr.com/x/t/0091009/photos/photosofsrilanka/3255216002/)

The writer is a born and bred Malaysian currently pursuing his LLB (Hons), a diehard Liverpool FC fan and passes his time interpreting the subtle nuances of the many voices of the planet while sipping...