The rainbow of pluralism

  The rainbow of pluralism

I have edited and adapted to the Myanmar context from the original letter to Malaysiakini by Yeo Yang Poh

I hope Malaysiakini and  Yeo Yang Poh could understand and forgive for this. They should even be proud that they could contribute a very good letter for the fellow Myanmar/Burmese citizens.

YEO YANG POH is an advocate and solicitor, and the immediate past president of the Malaysian Bar.

Like birth, race is, for all of us, a matter of fact in which we have no choice.

This simple, neutral fact of nature, however, weaves such a painful web of complexity, once it passes through the maladjusted looms of the human eyes, hearts, and minds.

Far from being a distinction without a difference, race has provided the ugly excuse for_

  • discrimination,
  • prejudice,
  • fear
  • and hatred.
  • In the worst circumstances, the boisterous looms of race churn out bales of cloth soaked with human blood.

Just as_

  • many sins are committed in the false name of God,
  • much evil has been perpetrated under the mischievous pretence of championing a race.

Why has it come to be so?

It is rooted_

  • in the perceived need for human beings to compete for limited resources, initially
  • to meet one’s need
  • and, later, one’s greed
  • (or, more accurately, the greed of those in power).
  • Banding together of persons increases their strength in the tussle for resources.
  • Race became, and remains, one of the most convenient criteria to be used for rival groupings.

It takes little time for the leaders and the upper echelon of the pack, who have the most to gain in the economic and political game, to realise that the easiest way for them to retain support and control is to provide justification for discrimination

  • (‘this is our land’),
  • entrench prejudices (‘they are inferior’),
  • instill fear in the followers (‘they will rob you of what you have’),
  • and sublimely encourage hatred (‘their children will trample all over yours’).

So it snowballs.

  • By painting other races as an ominous threat to the well-being of one’s own race,
  • one can instantly become the champion of a cause,
  • the hero who offers to save his race from humiliation.

This cunning but cowardly man in a superman suit_

  • lights fires
  • so that he can ride in each time for the staged rescue.
  • As time goes by, this pattern is institutionalised, exploiting the weakness and vulnerability in the psyche of a mixed populace.

The fake angels

Such are some of the troubles of our multi-polar and terribly disturbed world, and of the difficulties faced by many pluralistic societies, MYANMAR/BURMA among them.

While we never celebrate our togetherness as Myanmar or Burmese, one of the most patriotic things we may usefully do is to examine our successes and failures, ask ourselves honestly how much of the ills described above have befallen our own society, and urgently seek better ways forward from now on. This must include a candid re-examination of our race-based system of Military Government Policies discriminating on MIXED BLOODED PEOPLE e.g. Burmese Muslims and Burmese Chinese.

How may we do that?

Racial differences_

  • do not need to lead down the path of discord and conflict,
  • notwithstanding the long periods of political propaganda that have duped a lot of us into thinking otherwise.
  • Race may be a fact about which we have no choice,
  • but what we would do with this fact is a matter very much of choice.
  • We have suffered long and hard, because more often than not the wrong choices, urged on by power mongers, had been made.

We may begin by realising that_

  • racial differences are never the real enemy.
  • The culprit is the inequities in the distribution of resources within a society, regardless of race.

Harmonious race relations will be achieved by_

  • building a fair and equitable society
  • in which resources are applied and distributed in accordance with need, ability and effort;
  • rather than for satisfaction of greed, manipulation or corruption.

The politics of race, and the fake angels who sing that lone tune, must be exposed for what they really are:

  • persons too selfish
  • or too incompetent to provide for all,
  • and too weak to govern except by_
  • o dividing
  • o and ruling.

We must wake up to the fact that we belong to one race, the human race.

One much-touted approach to avoid racial prejudice and combat discrimination is_

  • to build a culture of colour-blindness.
  • See not the skin colours of persons,
  • or see beyond their colours.
  • requires one to ignore the obvious differences that one’s senses perceive,
  • and to act as if those differences do not exist.
  • acknowledges and accepts racial differences as a positive enrichment of the diversities of our world.
  • No basis or excuse for discrimination,
  • but for non-discrimination
  • and mutual appreciation.

Unity forged, not forced

  • Instead of being colour-blind,
  • we should be colour-appreciative.

In other words, we learn, understand, accept and appreciate the differences that exist among various races; and know that the world is better and richer for it.

  • A rainbow is beautiful precisely because it is not single-coloured.
  • And none of its colours could, nor should, claim a larger share of its glory.

By the same token,

  • integration, when not entirely voluntary, is not the best solution for a plural society.
  • A better approach is to embrace plurality.
  • Pluralism is the silver lining for the world’s future, as it is for Myanmar’s.
  • Pluralism is_
  • o not to be merely tolerated
  • o or accepted.
  • o It should be embraced.

Sixty years ago, Burmese of all races united to free themselves from colonialism.

  • Sixty years hence, we face new challenges in a globalising world.
  • Failure to adequately meet these challenges will enslave all of us, regardless of race, as much as colonialism would have.
  • To meet these challenges, unity is essential.
  • 1. But unity requires equality.
  • 2. Unity cannot be coerced.
  • It has to be forged, not forced.
  • If people feel less than united, it does not help calling them unpatriotic or disruptive.
  • It is usually due to the presence of inequity.
  • Examine the causes, and effect change.

There is such a lot to do, and so much to change within ourselves.

Let us reject race-based politics in Military Government, Ethnic Minorities and all the opposition Groups including NLD.

Let us_

  • embrace equality amidst pluralism,
  • and be colour-appreciative,

so that the next 60 years will be far better than the last.

71 People Rescued Off Sri Lanka

71 People Rescued Off Sri Lanka  

By SAW YAN NAING 

Seventy-one people-50 Burmese and 21 Bangladeshi nationals-were rescued on Monday morning in the Indian Ocean by the Sri Lankan navy.

The people were rescued after being adrift for 13 days some 150 nautical miles off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka due to boat engine failure, according to a report on the Sri Lankan naval Web site.

Seventeen Burmese migrants and three Bangladeshis died onboard following the lack of food and water. The illegal immigrants were planning to travel to Malaysia and Thailand to seek jobs.

The 91 people boarded the vessel from Burma and Bangladesh on February 9. The doomed craft is now being dragged to Trincomalee Harbour in Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan navy while the survivors have been fed and treated medically.

Two deep sea surveillance ships were also asked to investigate the failed vessel by Sri Lanka navy’s Eastern Naval Command.

Fishermen had spotted the drifting boat off the shores of Mulaithuvu and reported the incident to Sri Lankan naval officials. 

In April 2007, two boats carrying more than 150 Rohingya men and boys from Burma, who said they left their homes because of political persecution by Burmese authorities, were detained off Phang Nga Province in southern Thailand by the country’s marine police.

According to a United States State Department report, “Trafficking in Persons,” released o¬n June 13, 2007, the Burmese military government has not done enough to stop the flow of human trafficking, particularly of women and children.

The report said an increasing number of ethnic Burmese girls and women have been leaving Burma in hope of finding work. Children have been trafficked to neighboring countries for sexual exploitation, forced labor and street begging, according to the report.

In December 2007, border patrol police in Tak found 41 Burmese men and women in the tank of an oil transport trailer without fresh air as they were being transported from Mae Sot to Bangkok.

Last year, about 740,000 migrant workers from Burma registered with the Department of Employment in Thailand. Many more Burmese migrants are working illegally. An estimated 1 million Burmese migrants are working in Thailand. 

What an utter disgrace!

What an utter disgrace!

KAREN,   Selangor. Letter to the Star

WE saw three Bangladeshis, in their early 20s, standing at our front gate. One was holding a rubbish bin trying to protect himself while the other two asked us for help because some boys were chasing and throwing stones at them and blocking their path. 

My parents asked if they had done anything to the boys to receive such treatment but the three, almost in tears, said all they did was to go to the night market near my home to buy some food. The boys had followed and harassed them.  

The poor foreigners also grabbed the rubbish bins in front of my house to shield themselves. 

My parents and my brother followed them to the corner of the street and saw a group of boys, who upon seeing them just laughed and ran away when my parents called them.  

My parents then watched the three men walk home to their quarters.  

It was a pitiful sight. We were upset with the actions of the boys.  

Is these how human beings deserve to be treated? 

Don’t they too have feelings and dignity?  

These are basic human rights. Just because they are foreigners does not mean that they can be bullied and no one would come to their aid.  

We are easily influenced by all the stereotypes of the world and become prejudiced and judgmental when encountering foreigners like Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Indians or Africans.  

One of my friends told me her Nigerian college mate said that when he travelled to college by bus, no one would sit beside him, even if the bus was full. 

He said some Malaysians gave him suspicious looks as though he was up to no good. Sometimes, they would close their noses and mouths when he stood near.  

We are known as a friendly and warm people but is this perception really true?  

The time has come for everyone to learn to respect and treat one another with love regardless of race, religion or nationality.  

“Treat others as you would like to be treated”  

That is the golden rule of life that is to be found in the holy books of the major faiths – phrased differently but all with the same message. 

KAREN,  

Selangor.  

Vote for change before it is too late

  Vote for change

before it is too late 

I have adapted the original letter to Malaysiakini by Adcin 

woc1.jpgBurmese Muslim’s battle cry to stamp out race-based politics hits the nail on its head if we are to progress and prosper as a nation. Unfortunately, we do not hear it from any of the ruling military leaders nor the various opposition leaders for obviously it does not sit well with their grand plans for domination of our Myanmar’s future agenda.

Businesses have to be more profitable, and this means lowering the cost of doing business and also by being competitive especially for overseas markets. As it stands now the future looks bleak when we fail to tap and encourage the best technocrats and managers regardless of race and provide a level playing field for all talent to flourish.

If the present trend continues, it will be sooner rather than later 50 percent of the graduates, skilled and unskilled labour of the population would leave the country. But will it be too late for the country?

A vote for Myanmar Tatmadaw will only perpetuate the present policies which are dividing us as a nation, when what the country needs is a major change in approach to politics. A change in mindset embracing ‘prosper thy neighbour’ and helping the unfortunate regardless of race, must be inculcated.

We need to recognise and tap each other’s strengths rather than emphasise our differences in order to survive global challenges. It will not be easy with over 60 years of prejudice and discrimination to overcome but our future depends on it.

In our hands, come referendum day, is the chance to start this process of change. Vote for change before it is too late to matter.

Adapted from the Madhatter’s letter

You’d have to be mad to vote a YES for the SPDC government. I mean after all the scandals, abuses and corruption how can you vote for thieves and liars?

Even if you may wish to vote for some decent military officers but even they have to toe the military line and obey the orders always, loke robots. So even if the opposition politician is not much better, you still need to vote for them to teach the military government a lesson. They have taken the people for granted for too long and the only way to safeguard the public interest is to show the military leaders who is boss and sack them.

Senior General Than Shwe is out of his depth. His image of a indecent and dishonest guy has been exposed by the lies he has told the people of Myanmar. It is a myth and he is as ‘rotten’ as the others. How arrogant can you get?

But all talk is cheap and threats are useless unless the people know how to vote out the military government. We don’t want to be like Myanmar Military leaders who says one thing and does the opposite. Vote opposition or vote slavery.

Give the opposition’s new faces a chance if they have proven themselves in other ways perhaps in their profession or vocation or as community activists. Their service to the community is proof of their diligence and sincerity. Vote in the new faces because they can’t do worse. They will be a voice for the people.

Spread the word. Use word of mouth. Explain to the people why the military government does not deserve to win with this referendum. If in doubt what to vote for, vote for the NO because it is the only way you may get a voice. 

Then only we could prove the world that we are against the military rule and strengthen the opposition and will ensure the military government does not get away with the murder of the monks and unarmed civilians and continue to act like a big bully.

This referendum is the start of the revolution to oust all the military junta generals who abuse their positions and make a mockery of the rule of law and destroy the racial fabric of the country, who rape and rob the country. Myanmar can’t be a nation of thieves and liars.

Remember that no one can make you a slave unless you give them the power. Every sensible Myanmar should do what is right and kick out those who have used Myanmar Tatmadaw to rob and rape the country and destroy religion. The successive Military governments have given Buddhism a bad name and turned the Myanmar into the handicapped people. It is time to show the world what the Myanmar people does not accept the military rullers anymore.

It makes me ashamed to be a Burmese. But clipping the wings of the Military government is one way to redeem our lost honour. We hereby ask all my friends and relatives to vote against the military government and we will continue to do this whatever the outcome of this elections because we want the world to know that not all the people of Burma support this military government’s bad policies and corrupt ways.

Everyone should do the same. If you vote YES for the military government, don’t ever let me hear you utter a single word of complaint about unfairness or crime or high prices of goods etc because you asked for it. You dug the hole for yourself and your children so you only have yourself to blame.

Adapted from the Michael’s  letter

With polling day fast looming, it is imperative that the gullible, the uninitiated and the hardcore myopics are reminded that the only way that SPDC Military Generals can be kept honest and true is to ensure that they face a knife-edge result after the referendum. It is only when we vote NO during the referendum that the evils of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and money-politics can be curtailed or brought to an end and good governance can prevail in Burma.Even if the military insists on the election you have to have as many opposition politicians in parliament as you can muster. Hence, in the near term, don’t worry if the non-military politician standing for the elections is black, brown or brindle or has only one eye or three legs or has a mermaid for a partner. Just vote him or her in. If you don’t, you will only end up with more of the same rubbish that passes for the military leaders in the government.A diverse opposition group with varying philosophies, platforms and interests may not be the best outcome at the outset but at the end of the day, what matters most is that no political party will have the numbers to cow the LUDU into submission as what military is currently doing.

As you are not beholden to any opposition politician, you can always get rid of the unsatisfactory ones at the next elections anyway.

 But if you still harbour doubts on the wisdom of voting for an inexperienced opposition politician, just look at what is unfolding before us in the US today where a young, relatively inexperienced black man could very well end up in the White House within the next twelve months even though blacks make up only 25 percent of the population.It is an exciting time to adjust our sights and fine-tune our political mindsets so that only honest and decent politicians are elected to serve the interests of the people instead of ruling military leaders and their cronies.