Monday, 19 January 2015

Hoping for a Better Year

Sin Chew Jit Poh
1 January 2015


When I was a boy, the New Year was always a time of some excitement. Apart from being given the rare opportunity to stay awake till late, it always felt like a chance to start again. A clean slate, a new chapter, a New Year.

Over the years I of course realised that this sense of starting afresh was merely an illusion. January 1 is not some magical date after which things will change. Things generally stay the same and change if it happens, will happen when it does, unbound by any man made date. So it may be New Year to many, but to me it is just Thursday.

However, even though this idea of a New Year being a new start is logically flawed, I can see how it can be important psychologically. Especially when the previous 365 days had been particularly bad. And in Malaysia, the past fifty two weeks have been very bad indeed.

We have had three airline tragedies in one year. Statistically this should have been a near impossibility and yet it did happen. So many people’s lives lost, so many families grieving. Of course more people die in road accidents and illness every year, but the intensity of so much suffering in one single incident means the effects on the nation is undiluted and therefore more excruciating. And we had to face that three times.

Then just as the year is closing we suffer the biggest floods in over a decade with tens of thousands displaced and tremendous loss to property and, even more tragically, lives.

Throughout the year we have also seen our nation slipping down into a mire of bigotry, racism and extremist behaviour. We have become a country where the views of the wicked have been given so much prominence it makes one wonder sometimes if this is not the true ugly face of Malaysia.

And we have also seen the use of repressive laws in such a way as to be reminiscent of Ops Lalang a quarter of a century ago. One would have thought we would have matured as a democracy but no, the opposite appears to be true, and those with the power seem intent on reducing us to an autocracy.

Just as some seem intent on bringing us backwards in time by introducing incredibly harsh criminal laws which if debated openly and freely surely could not be accepted in this day and age.

Even the usual distractions have not been available to us. Lee Chong Wei’s doping conviction and the football teams’ last minute failure at the AFC Cup means that the transient joys of sporting achievements were also denied us.

Yes, it has been a terrible year for Malaysia. There has been a palpable sense of cynicism and pessimism in 2014. Therefore at times like this, the illusion of a new start in a New Year is perhaps a good thing.

I don’t expect any magical thing to happen as the clock strikes twelve tonight. I know for sure that for those of us who strive for human rights, democracy, and a progressive mind-set will continue to struggle in 2015. I just hope it would not be as harsh a year as 2014.

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