APRIL 30 — Catch-22 was one of the books I read when I was in secondary school. It was tough to make any association to my life or surroundings back then, but the plot seems much more apparent these days.
I was caught off guard by the tear gas canisters being fired, round after round, at Masjid Jamek area. I kept asking my friends, “Did you hear any warning siren?” And all I got was a shake of the head.
Tear gas was first used in 1914 and largely during World War I. Although the substance then was much more hazardous than what we experienced on Saturday, it is still questionable as humane technique to disperse a crowd.
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The substance can remain air-borne for some time and can travel depending on wind direction. The common effects include extreme irritation to the eyes, itching sensation in the mouth and nostrils, burning sensation in lungs and skin, and difficulty in breathing.
Yes, some protesters broke through the barricades and headed towards Dataran Merdeka. No, it still does not warrant the police or the Federal Reserve Unit firing tear gas canisters or water cannons at them.
There should be a less confrontational approach to handling a handful of rowdy protesters. More so amid innocent protesters and media personnel.
After this ordeal, what have we achieved? Did we make our voices heard? The sad truth is that the ruling government will go on their merry way to do exactly the same thing they have all this while.
Like the last rally, as well as any high-profile corruption cases, they will be swept under the carpet in due time. In fact, it has already happened on a daily basis with our mainstream media, censoring out any unwanted news by portraying an excellent government.
To be honest, most of us don’t have a clue about what we can do to change the predicament we are in, other than collect more certificates, rise in our jobs, and invest against inflation.
With a clean and fair election, where will that lead us? Ideally, it will promise that only candidates who garner the most votes are elected (unbiased electoral roll, no gerrymandering or other technical foul play, fair election process).
Presumably these candidates are voted in based on their credibility, merits and ability to serve their constituencies. Crucial policies will be discussed to ensure the fundamental elements for a healthy nation is in place and of competitive standards — education, healthcare, food and borders security, etc.
Take our education, for instance. I agree that the PTPTN loan scheme should be abolished, since, in today’s economy, tertiary education is commonly understood as “a means to an end”.
Thus to eradicate poverty and dependency on state subsidies, education must be free and accessible to all. However, making it free is not sufficient; the entire education system has to be thoroughly examined to ensure it can encourage learning and thinking that will subsequently motivate productivity as well as innovations.
Therefore, regardless of who takes over Putrajaya next, they better have a clear and concise plan to these pertinent public’s concerns.
Meanwhile we, the people, also have to be clear about what exactly we want as a healthy and fair developed nation, and actively participate in shaping our nation beyond the teh tarik talk shop, Facebook postings, tweets and blogs.
I have taken the time and effort to read and understand what was presented, analyse them critically, attend trainings and forums, be part of a rally or assembly, educate those around me and engage in discussion, and volunteer to be a PACA for the next election.
Still, this is not enough. I believe we can do more but are simply uncertain what exactly, at this moment.
The 55-year regime has made us inactive and disempowered, and that is perhaps their intention. It will be tough to outsmart them in a short period, but I believe we have the capability to do that if we first outsmart our own complacency and irresponsiveness.
Take charge of your country by first taking charge of shaping your own life into not what your state, institution or family wants – but what you want!