WE are two weeks into 2009, but I am not over the garish retrospectives in the newspapers at the close of 2008. You saw them: full-page spreads of (carefully) selected news from the year past, and pictures of fireworks on the front page.
The experience became surreal when I compared both the traditional papers and alternative news sources. Malaysiakini‘s list of top 10 news of the year, for example, found little space among New Year messages by Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders faithfully carried by Umno- or MCA-owned news publications. As a nation we remain as divided as ever, united only in the cynical belief that we can trust no one.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed New Year, if only because there was a sense of optimism and celebration that I haven’t experienced since the March 2008 elections. This is despite the apparent sex orgy scandal splashed across the tabloids. But even this “scandal”, I think, reflects that the more repressive a society is in its mores and taboos, the more outrageous the ways in which people will try to taste freedom. For the ones with money, it can be as expensive as hopping on flights to countries with more permissive laws. Others make do with what they can have, be it sex, drugs, or downloading anarchic punk music from the internet.
In the bloom of 2009, during which Malaysia will turn 46, I have only a few wishes:
In all honesty, I don’t think I am asking for the impossible, though it will take more than a year to achieve all of the above. But we can start now. If you can believe any of the numerous astrological predictions for the coming year, then what is so unrealistic about believing every one of us has the capacity to achieve more than what we’ve eked out since 1963?
There are many things flowing on from 2008 that will continue to confront us in 2009, one way or the other. Whither the Pakatan Rakyat administration? Will we succumb to familiar pessimism instead of treating the Pakatan Rakyat state governments just as any other elected government, though also recognising the pressures they work under, including a BN-controlled traditional media? What about the violations of rights of women and girls, such as the alleged sexual assault on Penan women? Will we continue to keep a vigilant eye on the human rights commission (Suhakam) and the authorities, or will we forget about them just as we would tabloid gossip? Will we continue to hold the government and our elected representatives accountable, as we did on 8 March last year?
I think it is only fair, then, that my own New Year resolutions be those that will help bring about what I hope to see. I am one person among millions, yes, but these are the things I can do:
I hope that 2009 sees a better year for all of us.
Yasmin Masidi works for an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur. She enjoys long talks on the beach.