Barisan Nasional is Not Malaysia
Last night, while I was talking with my aunt, she finally found out about what I'd been writing online. She was shocked, to say the least — isn't it illegal to criticise the government?
If that were so, if disagreeing with the Barisan Nasional government were illegal, I chuckled, then wouldn't it be illegal to vote for anything other than the dacing (BN's logo)?
Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is very prevalent in Malaysia — that to be loyal to the country, you must also be loyal to the government.
This kind of thinking is normally prevalent in presidential systems — it is not quite as marked in constitutional monarchies, where the symbolic monarch, as opposed to the political president, represents the state.
However, Malaysia has fallen prey to this as well — to the point that even the government can't tell the difference between the head of state and head of government. Some people have fought back by pledging loyalty to the monarchy, but I'm equally wary of going overboard — I fear some may now be fetishising the royals.
In any event, it is terribly depressing how we seem to believe that to be loyal to Malaysia, we must be loyal to the government — and that to do so, we must be loyal to the Barisan Nasional.
This ludicrosity was reflected a couple of nights ago when, in a reenactment of the events of exactly 50 years before, none other than Khairy Jamaluddin raised the Malaysian flag.
Who is this guy to the Malaysian people? He's Deputy Head of UMNO and Barisan Nasional Youth, but why should that matter? Is he a Minister, or public figure of some sort? He's just a politician, with no role whatsoever in the Malaysian government — so why is he the man with such attention?
While Khairy was raising the flag, fluttering in the crowd were flags of Barisan Nasional political parties — most notably the flags of the Malaysian Chinese Association. Later, a guard of honour comprising members of the Barisan Nasional Youth wings was presented.
What message does this send to the people of Malaysia? In effect, it means, unless you're a member of Barisan Nasional, you are not supposed to celebrate our independence, our nationhood. Unless you support the regime in power, and the people behind it, you are not a true Malaysian.
Some people are tempted to see this as a recent thing — that before this, our sense of nationhood was not as bound up with the government and the political parties controlling the government.
Of course, nothing much has changed. Remember, they were reenacting the events of 31st August 1957 — fifty years ago, it was an Alliance guard of honour that was presented to Tunku Abdul Rahman for inspection.
It's time Malaysians reclaimed this country as our own, rather than a country owned by the British or by the Barisan Nasional. You don't need to be an opposition supporter to share this goal — you just need to support an identity as a Malaysian, rather than an identity as a Barisan Nasional lapdog.
We shouldn't have to be members or supporters of any political party to share in the joy of being a nation. Why must this state of affairs persist? Why must we continually conflate our government and the state? Is this truly the way we want to go?