JoFan Pang shares his thoughts on the current post-GE13 kerfuffle.
The recent turn of events has been nothing but way too familiar for me. From the campaigning period, to the results of GE13 and then to the arrest of Adam Adli, there is nothing very new in all this Malaysian drama. Just a glance through the news today brought me to a feeling of déjà vu, flashing back to the night of the 9th of July 2011, when I was arrested during BERSIH 2.0.
Those were the days when 90% of my Facebook newsfeed were shares of love quotes, constant changes of relationship statuses, talk of food, game notification and whatnot. Not many of my peers were politically aware and neither did they care very much about any current issues, political or not. I remember telling myself even a few years before that that if all I could do back then as a high school student was being the sore thumb on my newsfeed and simplify these “unpopular” information in a language my peers could understand, I was going to do it. And sure enough, that was what I did from my high school days up until college, when I realised that I could actually do more than sharing — I could participate in a protest rally. I was never a fan of all talk and no action,; having the liberty and opportunity to walk the talk was one of the highlights of my recent years,and so, together with two friends, I joined the rally.
I still remember how we were probably the only few protestors of Chinese ethnicity and more so the only ones our age. It was an odd scene but the experience was probably my “baptism of fire”, in the words of an activist friend, and it really changed my perspective and life forever. I still remember fleeing to Tung Shin Hospital and up the hill behind, struggling as it was slippery and raining. The Malay guys were screaming to the rest, “Bagi Cina dulu! Bagi Cina dulu!” and all of them offered their hands to me as I was guided up the hill, knowing that us Chinese were probably new to rallies. I also saw Chinese protestors holding the hailer and forming a human barricade around the Malay protestors as they did their prayers. It was a feeling of unity like no other; I felt like I had experienced the Malaysia I have always dreamed of in those few hours. Nevermind that it was merely a fraction of Malaysian society; from that experience I had a clearer picture of the Malaysia I would dedicate my life to fight for.
Fast forwarding to the lockup at IPD Jinjang, I remember also being guided and helped out by the majority of Malay protestors who made me felt completely at home as we enjoyed the amazing nasi kandar they served in the lockup (I am serious) and I was asked this question: “Mana kawan-kawan awak? Kenapa tak turun?” (referring to Chinese protestors). I could only respond by shrugging and giving an awkward smile. I thought the question was completely legitimate and I agreed with them, thinking only to go back and share my experience on Loyarburok and hopefully encourage more involvement next time around.
Little did I know, as I was having the time of my life in the lockup (not joking), news had spread on social media of my arrest and my friends had started off a campaign for me on social media. Apparently #ReleaseJoFan trended on Twitter (thank you to all of you who participated — I still don’t know who started it because many individuals have claimed credit for it!) and I came back to my Facebook to find more than half of the people on my newsfeed turning their profile pictures to pure yellow, with hundreds of messages encouraging me even though it was merely a nine-hour detention.
I also remember walking out of the remand centre seeing many people standing in solidarity for all those who were arrested that day, clapping and cheering after each person was released. All that was absolutely humbling to me. It touched me even more to see my peers, from my close friends to those who are mere acquaintances, be finally aware of these important issues which affect their future. At that point in time, I thought that if my arrest could really spark that much awareness among my peers, it was really worth it and I would do it again.
The rest is history. I got BonConned, showered with blessings of purple bananas from His Eminenceness the great Lord Bobo, so on and so forth, and I have never regretted one bit of it.
I hope by this point you will understand why I think the recent turn of events are such a familiar experience to me. It’s like a whole cycle is happening with the new Home Minister and new IGP who obviously learnt nothing from their predecessors’ lessons. Nevertheless, as the government continues to commit apparent suicide in the decisions they make, much has changed since then. So much so that even the Prime Minister claims that there was a “Chinese tsunami”. The BERSIH 3 and Stop Lynas rallies answered the questions me and my mates asked in BERSIH 2. Even my Facebook newsfeed now consists of more than 70% shares of current issues and many of my peers have taken initiative to participate in political causes or attend rallies or other political events.
But there is now one major problem.
It may all seem very encouraging, but over the past two years, the more I realise that it did not turn out to be exactly how I pictured it to be. The Opposition has been extremely aggressive in recent years as they garnered more support leading up to GE13. I understand that it is the accurate political and marketing move for them to do in hijacking bandwagons, manipulating sentiments and fanning the flame against their political opponents, but I am extremely disturbed by how things have turned out.
Instead of democratic discourse, I see personal attacks. Instead of inciting love among the people, I see incitement of hate between the rakyat. Instead of freedom of expression, I see abuse of information. Instead of bi-partisanship, I see blind-partisanship. Some of the same people who supported me that night I was arrested have turned to call me a ‘neutralist who lacks conviction’. I understand the need for change of government and I know where I stand; change is inevitable, but is this “change” in which they speak of a change at all in terms of character and mentality? Political parties aside (they do what they do), are there fundamental aspects that we have missed in the process of this change?
This article is not written to make any conclusions, but to reflect a reality. I have friends who speak strongly against such extremism and would discourage people from doing any such things at all. But I disagree with that purely because I know how difficult it was to finally get people aware and to speak up on issues that matter. What we do not need now is for people to go around asking people to shut up.
Is this a process of growth towards democratic maturity or are we remaining stagnating, with the exception of having more people condemning each other on things that matters least? Honestly, I do not know. All I know is that it has been increasingly difficult and tiring for me to scroll through my Facebook newsfeed or to even read the news lately, because all I see is hatred, all I see are attacks on persons and not issues, all I see are misleading personality cults, besides the normal nonsense already in the news. Of course it is very comforting to have amazing fellow Lord Bobo minions at LoyarBurok and UndiMsia who still retain some level of sanity, but the question remains: Where exactly do we move from here?
All I can think of is that while all this nonsense continues, we keep calm and continue educating true democracy and rakyat power. Move with us!