Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The New Realities

There's no doubt that so many things have changed in Malaysia. For better or worse? That depends on what change we're talking about and which side of the fence you're sitting on. The most heated issue now seems to be the rising cost of everything that you require to live a decent life, and the use of the word "Allah" in reference to God Almighty in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the bible.

It's obvious to me that the second issue is slowly becoming more malignant as presented by the media. Heated arguments are heard everywhere especially after JAIS ( Selangor State Department of Religion) raided a church and confiscated several volumes of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia where the word "Allah" is used. Such usage had been prohibited by the State Religious Department.

Is this a way of 'cooling down' the first issue? I was ready to accept the rising cost as a result of rapid development and the salary hikes which government servants have been receiving and the promulgation of a minimum pay for all workers. Until I was asked to pay 50 sen for every piece of "kueh" (tea-time edibles such as char kuey, kueh gulung, fried banana - not cakes
which can cost up to RM8 a piece or more) which I could get three for a ringgit before.Other popular food such as roti canai and nasi lemak have gone up in price so many times that nobody cares anymore. What's interesting is that there has never been a survey on all these prices and an assessment of whether the prices are reasonable or not.

If the advice of some ministers were to be followed, we shouldn't buy anything when the price goes up. Don't buy clothes if the price goes up! Don't eat chicken if the price is too high!So,don't buy the cakes. Let only the rich Malaysians enjoy life in Malaysia while the not-so-rich and, of course, the poorer lot can just watch. We talk of 1 Malaysia where Malaysians of all races enjoy equal status and privileges. But what about the widening gap between the high-income or high-salaried lot and the still-struggling low income or 'new poor'? That can certainly create a new division or socio-economic dichotomy.It's a well-known fact that the income distribution in Malaysia has become more distorted in recent times, not to mention the Bumi and non-Bumi gap. Are all these issues being also overshadowed by the usage of "Allah" in the Bible squabble?

I feel that Malaysians today are loosing their sense of priorities and significance. More critically important things are being hushed up or soft-paddled while the highlight is given to emotional and highly equivocal issues which can never be resolved without a simple compromise. Attentions are easily swayed by the media; the age-old issue of overcoming poverty and dealing with rising prices resolved by doling out some financial gifts periodically without any assurance of getting them on a regular basis. Even the police seems to be concentrating on issuing summons for traffic offences and collecting fines rather than deal with thefts and housebreaking which are rampant.

Malaysians must certainly review their priorities in the light of the new realities facing them now. They should not allow the media to draw away their attention from the things that are affecting their lives more critically than some of the issues now focused on by the prime media.

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