Dec 22, 2011

Politics and Malaysia

Majority of the Malaysians don't feel comfortable discussing politics. Neither with each other nor with foreigners. This was a set back for me. For me, getting hold of the history and politics of a country is important for understanding it. History can be learned from reading, but for politics I prefer to know from the people.

Of course I knew about the upcoming election in Malaysia, issues with Anwar Ibrahim, Dr. Mahathir's retirement and other general stuff. But all that I knew about Malaysian politics was from reading newspapers and other similar sources. I wanted to know how the real people of Malaysia feel. All of the attempts made to coax something out of Malaysian friends were unsuccessful. Some were scared while some laughed it off to change the subject. Felt like freedom of speech was suppressed and discussing politics in public was a taboo as well. So I had to wait until visit to the national museum in KL to get some idea of their politics.

The idea I got from museum was neither complete nor detailed, still it provided something to put on the otherwise blank page. I came to know that communism has a bad reputation in Malaysia. Relics like communist booklets from second world war era were labelled as "Propaganda books". Two mannequins representing party workers of the Malay Communist Party(MCP), a male and a female, were dressed in bottle green uniform and adorned with guns, grenades and rifle rounds. The curator's sense of humor could also be noticed from a flowery leather pouch attached to the party worker guy's belt.

Later, studying the history reveals that the MCP fought against the British colonial rulers, then the Japanese invaders during second world war with very little support from the allied forces. Then years later, turned to violence and oppression during the Malay Emergency era which lasted till 1960. People remembered the most recent image, so their contribution in the war against Japanese invaders and colonial rule was forgotten.

Weeks later I found out that, like everything else in the world, it is not impossible to get a Malaysian to talk about politics. Once they start to feel that you can be trusted, they will open up to you. That's how came to know that people think putting Anwar Ibrahim in jail right before elections or changing the date of election so that he cannot take part is unfair.