by Charlotte Chin, Marburg, Germany
You might be wondering why a German woman is interested in the political situation in Malaysia. The answer is simple: My dad is Malaysian Chinese and my mum is German. I went to Malaysia to volunteer in an orphanage, and I got to know strangers who became good friends and are still an important part of my life. They introduced me to their cultures and religions, gave me home and shelter, and showed me the infinite beauty of life. Malaysia became home to me, with its wonderful landscape, awesome food, multicultural and religious diversity, and all its amazing people. I feel blessed that I can call two countries my home. Every time I return to Malaysia, I have been welcomed so warmly that I’m impressed all over again, because this mentality is rare. Besides that, I regard Malaysia as a role model for other nations because of the way people with different cultural backgrounds and religions co-exist peacefully. Many Malaysians are aware of cultural differences, respect each other and have a wide knowledge of cultures which are not their own. I’ve learned a lot during my time in Malaysia and I’m really grateful for that.
However, Malaysia is also marred by its politics and its judicial system, which definitely limit the freedom of Malaysians. I visited Malaysia in 2013, and witnessed the preparations for the election. The results of the election were ambiguous and stirred controversies among the population. This marked the beginning of several other momentous events. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the countless crucial laws which were passed throughout the past few years, about the detention of the former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, or the 1MDB scandal. How is it even possible that one single man has the power to reshuffle a whole cabinet, fire a deputy prime minister, and declare a national state of emergency, or that political dissenters are being arrested regularly? Many of the new laws don’t conform to the Malaysian constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. Laws are interpreted in a completely arbitrary way. The government claims that Malaysia is a democratic state but several laws, for instance the Sedition Act, violate international standards of democracy. The situation under the current government is alarming; I’m sure everyone who knows Malaysia is aware of this fact.
From a Western point of view, human rights infringements in Malaysia have always been an issue and have limited the fulfilment of Malaysia’s incredible potential. Freedom of expression, religion and the press should be granted to all individuals all over the world. This was my motivation for taking up an internship at a Malaysian human rights organization in 2014. My field of work was broad, interesting and inspiring. I got to know awesome people who fight everyday for a more liberal Malaysia. These people risk being arrested or convicted just for raising their voices, something that was very hard for me to understand at the beginning.
Maybe it’s my belief in the fundamental importance of human rights which makes it so hard to accept the situation in Malaysia. I believe that human rights are universal and have to be respected by every government, which is obviously not the case when it comes to Barisan Nasional. I also believe that a real democracy can only be created when politicians respect the people’s rights. Politicians are elected by the people and should therefore prove that they deserve the people’s trust by acting in the people’s interest.
Life isn’t easy, it has never been easy, but I regard human rights and democracy as a goal worth fighting for and one which should be cherished and protected. Malaysia will always be home to me, I will always be connected to this country and I will never forget what this country has given to me. And this is exactly why I hope for a more liberal Malaysia.
The next General Elections are coming up and I hope that Malaysians will use their right to vote, whether they live in Malaysia or overseas. Voting doesn’t take much time and it doesn’t cost any money. Don’t think that an individual isn’t able to change a system; instead try to imagine what a huge group of Malaysians is capable of doing.
Let us hope for a Malaysia in which human rights are valued; a Malaysia in which people have the right to state their opinions without the fear of being arrested. Let us work towards a Malaysia in which people can act freely to create a society according to their desires and values. Let us call, even demand, for a Malaysia in which fair elections take place.
Be part of the change and don’t let Malaysia become a failed state
Charlotte Chin is a passionate blogger (raiseyourvoice1957.wordpress.com) with a Malaysian father and a German mother who lives in Germany and advocates for Change and Human Rights in Malaysia.