Is patriotism worth RM250? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, August 11, 2018
Malaysiakini : “The flag is the simplest and cheapest symbol and for the cost of eight cigarettes, we can buy and wave the flag.”- Rais Yatim, in 2013 when he was the social affairs and cultural adviser
COMMENT | When some people say we
can finally raise the Jalur Gemilang with pride after May 9, I go, huh?
Why can we finally raise our national flag with pride? I suppose you
could make the argument that we finally become a democracy, if the
yardstick is changing governments, that is. But some would argue that
the big change was merely a reshuffling of the deck.
Indeed, waving the Jalur Gemilang and patriotism go hand in hand.
Except, if you’re from the LGBTQ tribe, or liberal Muslims or
‘chauvinistic’ Chinese, or ‘traitorous’ Indians, or not from the
'bangsa' Malaysia tribe (the negation of ethnicity/culture in favour of
partisanship), then waving the flag or even depictions of you waving the
flag means that you are promoting something which goes against the
group think of the state or not wanting to spook the majority in case
they have second thought about the Pakatan Harapan government.
In January of this year, I asked why would the non-Malays be patriotic to this country – “And really, what is it the non-Malays have to defend? We have to
defend our ‘success’ in Tanah Melayu. We have to defend the fact that we
have to work hard because we are not beholden to a system of privilege –
ideological, religious and constitutional – that enables us to think
for ourselves and realise that the world does not owe us anything. “We have to defend how we spend our wealth – too expressive in the
luxuries the fruits of our labour afford us, and we are deemed
un-Islamic, corrupt in our excesses, and of course, corrosive to the
Please do not claim that things will not change immediately. That is
not what I am saying at all. I believe that deep down inside, people
know this. They know the freak show when they see it.
It never ceases to amaze me that certain types of governments always
need to foster, instil, encourage or in some cases, enforce a sense of
patriotism on its citizens. That is really what’s bugs me about the
re-branding of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) courses, for example. Why do
people need to be reminded or taught about being patriotic to the
country? I mean we know, or should know, that any kind of state
propaganda is there to enforce allegiance to political parties and not
democratic, independent institutions, right? The irony, of course, is that people generally have more loyalty to
political parties than any other institution in the country. They have
more faith in political parties than democratic principles or ideals. In
other words, partisanship is tangible, while any other kind of
patriotic feelings to the country is not.
And what the hell does patriotism mean anyway? I can tell you who
should not define it. I can tell you when the state attempts to define
patriotism, it is always extremely dangerous. The last people who should
define patriotism are people in power. The last people who should
define patriotism is the religious elite. In other words, if you have
some power over your countrymen, you are in no position to define what
patriotism is but it normally means that these tyrants do.
What really ticks me off is when bureaucrats and politicians weigh in
on patriotism. Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) administration reminded
business owners that they faced a RM250 compound if they failed to fly
the Jalur Gemilang. This clause is apparently in the business licence
MPK public relations officer Izad Zainal Muhammad Safian babbled on
about how this would “foster patriotism among Malaysians, especially
traders in the council area, by flying Jalur Gemilang and the Pahang
flag. You can bet your last ringgit that fines collected for not being
patriotic is going to line the pockets of you knows who. It sure as hell
not going to benefit the people in any way. Really, a municipal council
telling traders to be patriotic. I get that they are the middlemen but
seriously, you really think that this type of "extortion" encourages
Being forced to hoist the flag with a RM250 penalty for failure to
comply, does not foster patriotism amongst traders who just wish to make
a decent living. Who makes these flags and who profits from the
enforced patriotism of these traders? Always follow the money trail. But
really, when you have to force people to wave the flag, do you really
think that people would feel any sense of kinship to their countrymen or
You see these big companies going all out during the patriotic
season, and you just know the bottom line is part of their
consideration. I do not blame them. It’s all part of the capitalist
system, but here in Malaysia where we have plutocrat-politicians, you
just know that the big companies will have incestuous links with the
ruling government. Corruption and patriotism go hand in hand, and
believe me, they pay more than just RM250.
Small traders who have to deal with low-level bureaucrats and
mid-level politicians, of course, have to play a different game. RM250
may not mean much, but to some people that is a sum they could do with. Former minister Rais Yatim back in 2013 - the quote that begins this
piece – went on about how students, young people and the denizens of
urban areas were not patriotic enough. Of course, instilling patriotism
meant loyalty to the state which at that time was Umno, but really this
is Malaysia, so when people tell me that they have loyalty to the
country what they really mean is that they are glad that Harapan is now
in the driver’s seat.
So it’s funny, right? Young people and urban folk were the catalysts
for kicking out BN and for Rais Yatim getting his new job, whatever it
is. A political conversion brought upon by young people and urban folk,
who had very little patriotism to this country. I can understand why the
former Umno regime was worried about why people were not patriotic
enough. Their jobs depended on it.
The same applies to the Harapan bunch. You really think they have any
allegiance to the democratic institutions/principles of this country?
If they did, they would not be reneging on their promises which would
cost them nothing to keep (if it did cost them something, why make it in
the first place?) or poking their noses into the lives of people on
Also, when a judge denies a gag order on Najib's corruption trial
because it goes against free speech but the MCMC issues a guideline
against the use of specific words by broadcasters, does anyone else see
the hypocrisy in this? Let me guess, those lists of banned words and
books, is something Harapan either on a state or federal level will not
People have to discover why they are patriotic to this country or if
patriotism is even something worth thinking about. But if its value is
RM250, I can assure you, you are doing something wrong.