Merdeka: A crime of thought and feeling
Writer: Wong Chin Huat
Published: Fri, 18 Nov 2011
First, it was Prof Abdul Aziz Bari of International Islamic University Malaysia. He was suspended and even prevented from entering the campus by his university simply because he commented unfavourably on a certain practice of a constitutional monarch. His suspension was lifted only after students protested against it. He is still under investigation for sedition.
What is Prof Aziz Bari’s field of expertise? Constitution! So, why can’t a professor comment on his own discipline? What is left of our universities when our professors cannot even speak freely on their own specialisation?
Then, it was Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual event since 2008 for the sexual minorities to learn about their rights. It was first labelled by a few groups as a threat to morality and the nation. Not long after, it was banned. And its organiser, Pang Khee Teik, supporters, and the special guest for the opening ceremony, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, were questioned by police.
You need not agree with Prof Aziz Bari’s constitutional opinion or the "sexual minorities" lifestyle. By all means, challenge them with logic and facts. But who are we to silence them? What right does any government have to arrest someone for a crime of thought or feeling?
These two nonsensical and outrageous incidents ironically reveal the emperor’s new clothes in our politics of slogan.
Suppressing academic freedom is denying one’s right to have an independent mind. It’s denying one’s right to think.
Suppressing sexual orientation is denying one’s right to have a free soul. It’s denying the right, of some if not all, to love.
What is 1Malaysia when you are not allowed to think independently and love freely? I dread to recall a Lite FM DJ’s irritating propaganda: “No, no, 1Malaysia is not a dream… it’s what we were and can be again.”
Was Malaysia 40-50 years ago a pathological society that tried to force everyone into the same mould? I am not old enough to haved live through that, but it could hardly have been if it was like the laidback and relaxed society in P Ramlee’s movies.
To me, independence is not about overthrowing a political class that is foreign in origin. It’s about us being the masters of our destiny. This means not only must we have the right to elect our government, but we must also have some rights beyond the reach of the government we elect.
Our government must not dictate to us who to love or who not to love. In short, our government must not be an Orwellian Big Brother.
To me, colonisation starts when a government becomes a Big Brother that invades and tries to control our hearts and minds.
We become slaves when our hearts and minds are occupied and controlled by others. Put simply, white men are not a necessary condition for colonialism. And political independence is not a finished business with just the departure of white men. It is constantly renewed every minute we exercise our rights as a free person. It is reversed and needs renewal when our rights are infringed.
Prof Aziz Bari and Pang Khee Teik are my Merdeka heroes. They are fighting not for their personal professional freedom or personal passion, but our rights as free humans. I long for the day they can think and love freely, and everyone else can also criticise them freely.
The crime that Prof Aziz Bari has committed is one of thought. The crime that the sexual minorities have committed is one of feeling. They are both crimes of conscience. These crimes have a common name: Merdeka.
Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!