10:05am 25/12/2020
​Good riddance to 2020. Hello 2021

By Mariam Mokhtar

Did someone cancel Christmas in Malaysia?

Anyone driving through the center of KL recently will have noticed that this cosmopolitan city appears to have few Christmas lights.

Despite the lockdown, can't we have a brief respite and enjoy the display of Christmas lights illuminating major streets and roads, as in previous years?

In the past, we came together during the festive season with our families and friends to strengthen community ties, count our blessings and reflect on the many difficulties we face.

In 2020, Malaysia suffered a severe blow to its democracy. We were still reeling from the Sheraton Move, when the nation was brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic.

Wawasan 2020 and Malaysia's aim of becoming a developed nation were mere pipe-dreams.

Some states went through power struggles and one politician threatened to divert a river.

2020 is a horrid year!

As we herald in the new year and contemplate the future and its new challenges, what keyword would you suggest to represent 2021?

In a survey on my Facebook page, for this '2021 keyword', I was struck that the suggestions of many Malaysians were reminiscent of the period before GE14. The word "Hope" was returned by around 40 per cent of the respondents, followed by 'unity', 'change' and 'tolerance'.

One person said he hoped 2021 would rid the nation of all the 'trash' and he hoped for a chance to reset the government, politics, economy and race relations. He hoped that a new leader would emerge.

My keyword for 2021 is "courage".

In 2021, all of us should draw on our reserves of energy and have the courage to question the authorities. It's about moral strength, not physical attributes.

When we lack the courage to make our feelings known to our politicians, our silence emboldens the authorities to pass more draconian laws.

For decades, our parents warned us to keep our heads down; not speak out, study hard, find a good job, make enough money and not question the authorities.

Our parents failed to consider the consequences of this inaction.

The decades of our apathy have taken a toll on our environment, diminished the common bonds that bind our society and totally wrecked our independent institutions. Will we now have the courage to save the nation?

Our wrath should be directed at both the ruling party and the opposition coalition. Politicians want our votes, so let's have the courage to force them to work hard to earn our respect.

With the deteriorating socio-political situation in Malaysia, 2021 should prompt us to have the courage of our convictions and demand accountability from our politicians.

Why did the Budget overlook the minority communities? Why did the leader of the Opposition lead his followers to reject the Budget, then make a U-turn himself? Why should religious bodies focus on the wedding of one bride, whose marriage to an Indian hockey player prompted an investigation into her private life?

There are more pressing religious issues like corruption, child marriages and abuse of power.

Why do we lack the courage to question our leaders?

The economic condition is worsening. Jobs are scarce and companies are closing. Politicians tell us to tighten our belts, but then go on spending sprees for a new fleet of cars for their executive council members. Could the politicians support a family of four on the minimum wage? We should tell politicians to put their money where their mouth is, especially as we fund their luxurious lifestyle.

Malaysians are suffering from political fatigue, but it is crucial that in 2021, we summon the courage to confront the many challenges during the year in which GE15 will probably be held.

The coronavirus lockdown is to contain the spread of the virus among the population, but more importantly it has been abused to silence critics and consolidate the power of the ruling party.

Many alternative newspapers have been prevented from reporting the proceedings in parliament. The rules on quarantine have been bent to allow MPs from the ruling party to vote on the Budget. Ministers from the ruling party are allowed to break the strict quarantine laws without facing the punishments meted out on members of the public.

Therefore, we need the courage to question why the government has put political goals above public health.

In 2021, let us stop living in denial and have the courage to elect politicians who speak for us, but reject those who only address a small conservative section of the community.

Have the courage to elect someone who is not from your own race or religion. Have the moral strength to persevere and keep asking the difficult questions.

In 2021, will any politician have the courage to do what is right?

In the new year, Malaysia needs a new sense of purpose and direction, and this can only happen if the rakyat have the 'courage' to act.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


1. Amnesty International: Attack on students' freedom of expression must end

2. Free Malaysia Today: Penang 'encouraged' to compensate Kedah for 'big sacrifice', says minister

3. MalaysiaKini: Budget 2021 may end up being a confidence vote on Anwar

4. MalaysiaKini: Ministry to probe status of M'sian who wedded Indian hockey player

5. The Straits Times: Malaysia's opposition walk out of Parliament after quarantined MPs turn up in full PPE

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)



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