Now that Anwar Ibrahim has been incarcerated, what will happen to the quest for reforms? Will it be derailed? Obviously, some people are hoping that this will be the case.
Anwar may have been the catalyst for the unleashing of the reformasi movement when he was arrested in 1997. But the quest for reforms began much earlier, decades earlier in fact.
While many may admire Anwar for his ability to unite disparate opposition parties and had placed their hopes of political change on his charismatic presence and his mediating skills, the quest for reforms is much larger than Anwar or even Pakatan.
It involves raising our consciousness to the next level, where we see ourselves as brothers and sisters concerned about justice and fairness not just for Malaysians but for all those who reside in our land, including migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers. It means rising above the boundaries of ethnicity and religion that seem to divide us, so that we can actually celebrate our differences, our diversity.
It involves analysing our economic system to make it more inclusive, sustainable and participatory, rather than a means to further enrich the top one per cent, some of whom indulge in RM1200 hair-dos and jetset around the world on exorbitant shopping sprees.
It also involves exploring how the overused term ‘development’ has been used to enrich well connected and increasingly powerful corporations, which often prioritise profits over people. Is our model of development driven by contracts to favoured large firms and by FDI instead of targeted at the real needs of the ordinary people and their small- and medium-scale enterprises?
Are we able to see how some of the mega development projects affect the biosphere, further aggravating climate change?
This we have largely failed to do – we have not even discussed alternative economic models.
So yes, Anwar has been an important rallying symbol for political change – and he still has a role to play, but we also need to look at the wider picture.
In some ways, some of us may have over-relied on Anwar and failed to empower our own selves. We may have failed to analyse our economic system, which seems to disproportionately reward those who with Big Capital to indulge in speculative activity. We may have sat back in our comfort zones while relying on the Anwars, the Rafizis, the Kit Siangs and the Pak Samads and the Ambigas (enormous respect for what they have accomplished) to effect change.
But the reform process is more than just about one person or group of politicians; it is more than about Pakatan or public interest NGOs; it involves all of us in the quest to transform our land (not a superficial kind of transformation nor an unsustainable Big Capital-led model of development that disempowers us).
Now is the time to step forward and make our views heard and our position on justice, freedom and solidarity known while elevating our consciousness to the next level.
What do you think?