Categorised | Columns

A letter to readers

dear reader, hand writing on letter
Dear reader… (© Cierpki /

Dear reader,

The year is drawing to a close and it is giving me cause to reflect on our relationship. Thank you for your support as well as your criticism. There were times when it stung, but in the larger scheme of things, I hope it has made me a better writer and a better person.

I’m sorry for the times when I didn’t give my all to our relationship; when I thought I could get away with doing lazy research and dishing out half-hearted articles. But you knew better, and you held me accountable.

But there were other times when I felt that I couldn’t always let you have what you wanted, or liked. I felt you were too biased, and it was my job to help you see things from other points of view, or things as they really were.

fuzzy writer holding pen
Is my judgement clouded? (© Aleksandra P /

And yet, when I did, you couldn’t accept it. You said I wasn’t sensitive to your feelings and that it was my judgement that was clouded. You were offended if I mentioned the gentlest criticism of those whom you supported. You were quick to rant that I had gone to the other side, that I had switched allegiances and had become no better than … so and so.

You would name names of other writers, and compare me to them, and accuse me of having their agendas. Oh, compare me to them! But why? What would give you cause to do that? Have you not seen how hard I strive to bring clarity to your understanding? I don’t wish for you to be fooled by anyone!  

You see, dear reader, you must know what you truly want. You must not support one side unquestioningly, simply and only because you dislike the other. Neither should you support any personality, system or institution solely because they have so far served your needs. Your needs may be sated, but at what cost? If you want more for Malaysia, as I do, you have to look beyond.

And if those you support claim to represent the ideals you want, then test them, challenge them. Throw the law at them. Don’t let them get away with deflecting problems onto their rivals. If all is not right, demand explanations of them. Otherwise, how can they improve? If we expect them to rule over us one day, don’t we have the right to know that they will serve us and not themselves?

I write this to you, dear reader, because it has been bugging me for a long time now. It bugs me that few out there objectively appraise those who rule over us and those who try to woo us. It bugs me that sides are so often taken and the positions are either to vilify or defend. It bugs me that disagreements are silenced using emotions rather than facts. It bugs me that that more amongst us prefer to listen to rumours and gossip than to look at principles and values. It bugs me that as a whole, we are more polarised than ever. Oh yes, I am bugged.

You and I have a duty… (© Zsuzsanna Kilian /

You and I have a duty to create a middle ground. When we do that, our leaders will respond likewise. They will see that what we are after are the facts and results, and that these are delivered fairly and justly. They will see that it is not personalities or ideologies that we want, but sound policies, democratic practices, and corrupt-free governance. We have to tell them what we want, not what they want us to have. Perhaps then, they will stop believing in their own hype.

I am glad to finally get this off my chest. I am sorry if you find my letter a burden to read, but there was no other way to express what I feel. So many things are easily misconstrued these days. It is the bane of our society to be so politically polarised.

Let us not get caught up in that.

I wish you insightful reflections of the year that was.



Deborah Loh always feels melancholic at the end of each year.

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8 Responses to “A letter to readers”

  1. KW Mak says:

    Hey, I feel that way with PJ residents! Alas, such is the nature of things. People are never satisfied and few are willing to shoulder the responsibility of doing what they preach. It is always someone else who must bear responsibility.

    Asking the people to change the politicians is just not the Malaysian way. We have had it too good from the authoritarian ways of old.

    Futile as it may seem, my heart still believes in something called hope. There shall be no other reason for why we do what we do.

    As for the melancholy, perhaps it is a sign that no one seems to understand the words that your heart speaks silently, and every attempt to put those words down ends up in frustration because they are just that complicated (or embarrassing).


  2. MarinaM says:

    Bravo Deborah! I know exactly what you mean, different standards for different people! Good for you for saying this out loud.

  3. Pratamad says:

    You have been doing fine, Deborah!

    The points you are making here are very important, especially [for] those M’sians who have started to build the wrong/unreasonable expectation of the change to come. They need to know how to support the change in the right way.

    Sometimes during my low moments I, too have self-doubt as to whether M’sians are capable of effecting the change needed. But I tend to have faith in them, as 8 March 2008 was mostly beyond imagination but it did happen.

  4. Jordan Tang says:

    Dear Deborah,

    Well said. Keep up the excellent work.

  5. zorro says:

    Deb, I am on self-imposed silent mode until Sunday. It has given me time to think out my role, present and future. And in between I came across your letter. It would be an honour if you allow me to produce the piece, as you spoke for us (bloggers). The little time we spent in the Permatang Pasir by-election was sufficient to convince me that the ink that flows through your pen flows from the heart. […]

  6. Hooi says:

    Thanks for your efforts. As an occasional (weekly) visitor to The Nut Graph, I don’t know your work very well, but your piece above was heartfelt. Perhaps I shall visit more often.

  7. Azizi Khan says:

    Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for taking your time to write to us. I really appreciate that you take your time to look at your work objectively and it really reflects in your articles.

    Allow me to defend my fellow Malaysians for a moment. A lot of us grew up learning that submission to higher authority was the key to a better Malaysia. We grew up during the scandals of Perwaja, the judicial crisis and the infamous Anwar Ibrahim trials. Everywhere we turned we were facing corrupt cops, corrupt system, corrupt politicians.

    Malaysia has to be the only country in the world that every Malaysian know every dirty little dirty laundry item of the government and it is discussed at every mamak stall.

    When we turned to religion – we again found that our choices were again taken away from us. Especially for Muslims, we have our rights stripped away from us. But the fact of the matter is, no one is even allowed to question these rules whether they are even truly Islamic at all!

    The result – we Malaysians are a jaded bunch. We are cynical of everything and we don’t trust the system. So at every opportunity we try to beat it.

    The result, from every single parking ticket to the ministerial appointment – we just don’t believe in it. Our lives are spent trying to make the most of what we have.

    But something happened in the last decade. Malaysians became more organised. They realised they are not alone in thinking that there are a lot of pent up frustrations around them. Years of neglect by the people whom they voted for made some realise that things may never change, so they accepted their fate. Others however wanted change so bad their voices in the dark grew louder.

    So you see dear Deborah, it’s not hard to understand why Malaysians seldom take the middle ground in anything. Most of us are just kids rebelling against the elders for the first time in their lives. We never learnt the subtle art of diplomacy – it was either submit or resist.

    With every single avenue such as the mainsteam media, police, MACC, EC (and even the royalty) under the tight leash of the ruling party it’s hard to voice our opinions and be heard. So when we do voice it out, how can we not be biased ?

    In fact I find most Malaysians most restrained because they have been putting up with our leaders under the most difficult conditions and yet give respect to them instead of throwing sandals like in other countries. In return, this respect is paid back by unleashing the police, firing tear gas at women and children and arresting lawyers.

    Unfortunately Deborah, my fellow Malaysians don’t know when to stop. They dump everyone they come across into the same bowl and come out with stinging critiques to friend or foe. How could they – they never learnt rationalisation. When you write something they like – you’re a hero. If not – you are devil incarnate. Nothing is taken with a pinch of salt and time to reflect.

    Look on the bright side Deborah. For the first time in the lives of most Malaysians, old and young, we are truly expressing ourselves – because the powers that be cannot stop us. They can kill our spirit, they can kill our bodies – but they cannot kill the idea of a better Malaysia. And this Deborah, is why you and I are here.

    Deborah, I believe it’s apt to finish with the lyrics from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (for those who are used to this song, it is about the defining moments in US history…) :

    Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
    South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

    Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
    North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

    Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
    Brando, “The King and I”, and “The Catcher in the Rye”

    Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
    Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
    Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

    Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
    Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

    Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
    Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

    Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
    Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
    Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge On The River Kwai

    Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
    Starkwether, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

    Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
    Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

    U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
    Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
    Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

    Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
    Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

    Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
    J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
    Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

    Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
    Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

    Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
    Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

    Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
    Rock and Roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
    We didn’t start the fire
    But when we are gone
    It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire…

  8. D Lim says:

    Way to go, Deborah! We need to hear the good and bad to learn to differentiate.
    Why do you feel melancholic at the end of each year? Because you are adding another year to your age?

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