I recently completed reading Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. It took many late nights/early mornings to finally finish reading the book.
One time, I took the book along with my other academic readings to the library for a serious study session. The plan was to read my academic stuff and when I got bored with those, I’ll read the “leisure” book. But I made the mistake of reading the “leisure” book first, and I couldn’t put the book down and spent 2 hours reading about the life of Nelson Mandela.
Reading this “leisure” book turned out to require more of my mental capacity than my academic readings. As I read the book, I often stopped and pondered about the issues that Malaysians are facing in Malaysia. I’m not saying that there’s apartheid in Malaysia, but Mandela talked about justice, freedom, good/bad governance, democracy, sacrifice, human nature, politics….and all these things are very relevant to what’s going on in Malaysia.
Mandela talked about marches and rallies that Africans had to demand for freedom and equal rights, but the white government came down really hard on people who were involved in these “demonstrations”. And all marches and rallies became illegal. It was only when the ruling white government was almost ready for true democracy, that Africans could march in the streets without being harassed and assaulted.
I see the same thing happening in Malaysia. Even a peaceful walk to celebrate the International Human Rights Day was prohibited.
Mandela talked about about the many disagreements and quarrels that went on in his party, and the disagreements and quarrels that went on with other African political parties. There were always talks to try to resolve issues, give-and-take, and sometimes things were not resolved. And finally when the Africans were at the edge of freedom, the fights and quarrels were at their worst, and he realized that the saying that it’s always the darkest just before dawn was true.
Reading this made me realize one thing: the local newspapers like to emphasize the disagreements that DAP, PAS, and PKR have with each other, and play up the issue of disharmony. But from the way I see it — these disagreements show that these parties are equals. There’s room for discussions and disagreements. I think we really should be worried when there’s only one or two people who are speaking and the rest are silent in “agreement”.
Towards the end of the book, Mandela wrote about Mr. de Klerk claiming to not know that his government was funding covert organizations that committed violence against Africans. Mandela stated that “if a man in his position doesn’t know about such things, then he is not fit to be the head of the government.”
And that got me thinking about my own head of government who didn’t know that 40,000 Malaysian-Indian children did not have birth certificates. Maybe this is a small non-issue for him, but think about the 40,000 kids that lost their birth rights as Malaysians. Of course, the government is now doing something to help these kids regain what was denied of them, but that’s because it’s election time.
Vote for a Change!
Don’t exchange your civil and human rights for the promise of a street light outside your house.