My top five 'submerged' news of 2020 - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, January 07, 2021
Malaysiakini : “The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.” - Hannah Arendt
| 2020 is a prelude to the shape of things to come. If you thought that
this year was crummy, what we have to look forward to is the
consequences of the pandemic and of course the coup, in 2021.
top five news has always been an annual roundup of what I thought were
the most important news items that were covered by the press and more
often than not, what I consider “important” are news stories that are
submerged in the news cycle but points to the dysfunctionality of the
do think that 2020 is the culmination of the old maverick’s vision. The
seeds he planted a long time ago are now the fruits of his labour, of
his wayward political offspring, the vast bureaucracy, and the deep
Aided by the ineptitude of the opposition,
what we have witnessed are the convulsions of the mainstream Malay
political apparatus heightened by the vagaries a worldwide pandemic
As Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian
Balakrishnan, said, “In fact, this is an acid test of every single
country's quality of healthcare, standard of governance, and social
capital. If any one of this tripod is weak, it will be exposed, and
exposed quite unmercifully by this epidemic.”
While I depart from
some of my fellow op-ed writers who claim that Malaysia failed miserably
in handling the pandemic, the reality, is that this pandemic did reveal
how we function as a society and the old demons which never left us.
The following news stories, in no particular order, reflect the fault
lines in our system that in my opinion were unmercifully exposed by this
Ku Nan’s pocket change
Former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s rather cavalier statement
of a couple of million ringgit being pocket change to him was even more
insidious now that thousands have lost their jobs and many more are
living rough because of this pandemic.
corruption has become the desiderata for the political class and with
that comes the hubris of believing that you are untouchable. Even Ku
Nan’s conviction is not a sure thing and the attitude of the bankrupt
political elites will continue to define policies meant to “uplift”
communities. Tragically, the majority Malay community will feel the
brunt of this hubris.
Since I live amongst the marginalised and
“working class” communities, I have witnessed first-hand the
consequences of political indifference and institutional corruption on
The fact that the state took the pandemic as another opportunity to restrict
the movement of NGOs handing out aid to disenfranchised communities
demonstrates how out of touch these corrupt potentates are with the
situation that is happening on the ground.
vantage point: Why is the Perikatan Nasional (PN) regime hijacking and
hampering relief efforts by NGOs distributing food when it has
acknowledged that there have been disruptions in the food supply chain?
The PN government keeps asking the rakyat for money, but where are all the kleptocrats who have dipped into the cookie jar when the country is in need?
The war on alcohol
have been warning of the deep Islamic state for years. What this
pandemic has done is given an opportunity for the vast religious
bureaucracy and power-hungry politicians to further intrude into our
private and public spheres.
Under the guise of a social “good”, the state has been clamping down on alcohol licenses and joking about closing down
pubs and entertainment outlets for good. The pandemic has given
extremists the opportunity to carry out their agendas overtly instead of
the sub rosa manner they are used to.
This means that the
religious terrain has changed and that unless we have a credible
opposition presenting a secular alternative, the situation will get even
What this pandemic has done is enable the religious
imperatives of extremists because folks are too busy attempting to make
ends meet while struggling with the reality that the pandemic is
worsening and everyone seems to be waiting for the magic vaccine. There
is no vaccine for religious extremism, which is what could ultimately
destroy this country.
From my vantage point: What better
time to weaken our public and private spheres than during a pandemic?
The movement control order was the perfect opportunity to curtail
commercial activities that the deep Islamic state deems to be
antithetical to the concept of an authentic Islamic state.
A half-past-six emergency
We should never forget that the PN government attempted to plunge this country into an emergency which would have suspended the democratic process, most probably indefinitely.
was a brazen attempt to subvert the democratic process and was
something that even the old maverick never attempted to do, although he
did subvert the democratic process in his own way. While this
“emergency” was averted, what we have to realise is how desperate the PN
government was and is.
Too bad we do not have an
opposition which can leverage this fear in a way that helps the majority
of Malaysians instead of attempting counter coups and blaming each
other when the manure hits the fan.
From my vantage
point: If anything, this emergency, if it was granted, would demonstrate
how life in this country goes on normally because the PN state is
deathly afraid that if it locks down the economy any further, the
majority – and I mean the racial majority – will suffer more in this
pandemic and this would lead to social, and yes, racial agitations, that
the state cannot handle and which ironically would mean that we need a
The Rohingya issue
some who claimed that I was on the wrong “side” of this issue. My belief
has always been that whichever side you choose, you are most probably
wrong. The pandemic has brought out the xenophobic attitudes of some
Malaysians and the state has been using the opportunity to crack down on
another convenient target. Someone has to be the scapegoat, right?
While ministers are shocked
by the way employers treat their workers, all this of course, is merely
pantomime, because foreign workers, or however you refer to them, are
part of the tragedy that is a developing Malaysia. All the pandemic did
was make this much more evident.
From my vantage point:
Now, I get that this may be uncomfortable for many people to read. This
piece is not meant to downplay the abuses that the Rohingya, and indeed
many disenfranchised groups, receive from authoritarian states and even
supposedly liberal Western democracies. The reality is that the Rohingya
issue exposes our criminality as much as it dispels the victimhood card
that many folks like to play on behalf of the community.
What's up with Harapan?
only reason why I consider Pakatan Harapan an important news story is
because they have turned ineptitude into an art form, and I believe this
should be recognised. Do not get me wrong, I want Harapan to succeed
but Harapan must want to succeed and must present meaningful choices to
its base, otherwise apathy will set in and there will be no more
From my vantage point: Harapan’s greatest strength is
that it was supposedly a coalition that had no race-based parties. Now,
the argument could be made that racial politics dominated the Harapan
discourse in substance but in form, they were a multiracial coalition
and this was a good start.
Good enough to wrest power in certain
states from the Umno hegemon and good enough to make the Malay
establishment fear the rise of a multiracial block because the “Malays”