There needs to be a conversation on just how badly Malaysia is in treating modern issues, because as a people we are lagging in dealing with issues faced by the rest of the world.
Firstly, this is not a “support Western standards” post when it comes to highlighting wrongs in Malaysian policies. This will be a piece on how the same issues faced in Malaysia, are similarly found across the world.
However, there are areas where we do need to talk about just how far we have slunk on the morality ladder. While the state of Kelantan is now enforcing modesty laws during Ramadan and are currently looking at a federal amendment to allow sharia law, there are issues which are somehow accepted at a federal level as a normality – basically supporting directly or through silence.
For instance, one survey pointed out that Malaysia as a nation had a huge population of modern day slaves. In the recently released Global Slavery Index 2016, Malaysia ranked fifth in Southeast Asia, with an estimate of over 100,000 modern day slaves.
This is not new, because the definition of slavery in the report (downloadable in PDF version) includes the Malaysian electronics industry and also the oil palm sector here. Yet I would contend that the figure in the survey is misleading because if you look at Malaysia as a whole, wages are far too low for the average citizen regardless of race or nationality.
But on an international level, the United Kingdom paper The Guardian itself had highlighted how Sports Direct was running its warehouse like a Nazi concentration camp at the end of last year. How did that affect the Malaysian population?
And then, let us talk a bit about sex crimes – a very acceptable Malaysian topic which somehow has become acceptable to the majority Malaysian population.
Another instance that needs to be highlighted is the topic of paedophilia. The story of how Richard Huckle could remain anonymous in Malaysia even though he had more than 200 families as victims was an eye opener.
However, we as a society are doing no favours on this issue when we actually encourage such actions through child marriages. On top of this, who can forget how our government went all out to “rescue” our math hero paedophile from an extended UK prison sentence?
Has the Malaysian brain drain become so bad that we had to save a MARA sponsored paedophile from a foreign prison?
Similarly, activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi should be given credit for exposing the fact that there was actually a paedophile Malaysian group on text messaging app Telegram with over 700 members.
Of course, had you watched the recent Oscar winning movie Spotlight which highlighted the paedophilia issue in the Roman Catholic Church, it will in fact open your eyes to the fact that this was an international issue.
And then there is the unbearable lightness of how we treat the issue of rape.
From being made a threat against outspoken women, to being made somehow into romantic movies, we’re not exactly doing any favours for the so-called moral high ground.
But this is not exactly a Malaysian problem. Worldwide, rape seems to be taken extremely lightly even when one is found guilty, and even more ridiculous when lame excuses allow others to return a “not guilty” verdict.
Even in the United States, outrage has surfaced over Brock Allen Turner, a rapist who got a light sentence of a mere three months because the judge believed prolonged incarceration would be bad for his performance as a swimmer.
And who can forget the Saudi millionaire Ehsan Abdulaziz who can somehow trip and accidentally penetrated an 18-year-old who was sleeping off her drunkenness on a sofa in the United Kingdom.
All of the above issues shows that what Malaysia faces is in fact the same issues faced worldwide in real time and not historical, decade old comparisons. Yet, the major difference is how we handle such issues.
In foreign nations and even worldwide, the masses and the media are the ones putting pressure on government and judiciary – playing the role of overseer. And yet in Malaysia, these roles are severely fractured to the point that we do not create enough pressure for change.
In this sense, Malaysia’s own people should itself buck up and gain some enlightenment and education on the issue. Unfortunately, that will be a long time coming if both the masses and the media remain repressed.
With that in mind, perhaps it is true that the Malaysian people are too “comfortable” to care about such issues to the point that a Facebook post or comment to register their indignation is enough. If this is truly the Malaysian mindset, then we have no hope of progress till kingdom come.