By CHONG LIP TECK
Sin Chew Daily
Life is short, and it is a lesson we all learn in life to seek happiness, not create trouble. These words of wisdom came out from the mouth of the nation's founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman. Unfortunately today, many tend to waste their lives creating one after another problem but not happiness.
In the country's Independence Declaration, Tunku outlined the role of the government: to continuously create happiness and well-being for the people, showing that the Malaysian government indeed wanted to continuously create a platform that would assist and allow the people to pursue happiness.
Such a platform should be established upon the power operating framework, whereby politics is the maneuver of this power structure. This means that politicians and various levels of government officials holding actual power must strive to establish such a platform that will allow Malaysians to live happily, while the principal objective of political operations is to satisfy the needs of the public.
Simple as it is, many Malaysians nevertheless have little idea what principles will bind the connection between the government and the people, and this is true not only to ordinary citizens but also the power that is.
This probably explains why government institutions have an affinity to control everything big or small, while civic organizations regularly urge the government to step into the private lives of ordinary citizens by drawing up various insensible restrictions. This gives politicians excuses to create more confrontations and fan up public emotions.
Many people, in particular netizens, often dance to the tune of irresponsible politicians owing to a lack of understanding of the nature of an issue without tackling the core problems themselves.
Some people attempt to make decisions on behalf of other people given their perceived superiority in the society. They offer all sorts of excuses and arguments to prove that they are right and are better suited to manage this country, with their religious or secular theories and even statistics. And this is already authoritarian mindset.
The most liberal approach is to allow things to go on in conformity to the principle of freedom, that everyone can lead the life he or she desires provided that no other individuals will be harmed by his or her doings.
With freedom comes a sense of responsibility. What we do and say must not harm any other people, and if it does, we must then shoulder the responsibility.
The government's role is to defend the people's need and space to live freely, and draw up laws to make sure anyone hurting other individuals will be made accountable for their lapses.
When contemplating what Tunku said, many Malaysians would share the same feeling that the space for people to live liberally used to be much larger then than now. If we were to take a glimpse into the experiences of other countries, those whose governments do not intervene their citizens' private lives would normally enjoy higher levels of prosperity as well as enhanced civic consciousness.
Indeed we as citizens have an obligation to oversee politics and perform our duties as voters in voicing up on policies related to our own interests. These should be carried out as per our abilities with a sense of responsibility while respecting the views of people not thinking likewise.
Politics is only a part of life, and the progress of our society depends very much on the concerted effort of individuals in different fields working together.
This is particularly relevant in view of the fact that in many different areas in this country, including religious, cultural and artistic development, we have seen signs of oppression. The freedom of individuals is being curbed, and often this is done merely to satisfy the needs of a handful of people to strengthen their grip on power.
We are more than ever obliged to ensure freedom of expression in all areas. Reformation is not all about political reform campaigns alone. As a matter of fact, members of the public can contribute their effort in various areas to bring about such a change that will eventually transform our political landscape.
In the process of pursuing greater happiness and well-being for all, we require a whole lot more wisdom and the ability to make sound judgments.
The country's founding fathers have in the nation-building documents including the Federal Constitution and Rukunegara set out the principles and directions of managing this country. It is our duty now to make sure the country becomes more prosperous upon such a foundation.
As for why the country is heading towards the dangerous end of authoritarianism, it is because we have too many self-conceited people who keep creating trouble for this nation.