Thursday, October 16, 2008

Abolish ISA Candle Light Vigil TONIGHT at 9pm

Friday, October 17, 2008
Abolish ISA Candle Light Vigil TONIGHT at 9pm
Posted by: edmondr

Every Friday night, for the past few weeks, there have been candle light vigils in front of Dewan Sri Pinang to call for the abolishment of the Internal Security Act (ISA). I was there two weeks ago, and for me, it was a moving experience to see so many people from all walks of life, coming together for a single cause.

The last vigil of this series will be held tonight at 9.00 pm at the same venue and I would like to encourage all readers to join in. To some, gatherings like these might seem to be a trivial and ineffective way to press for the abolishment of this draconian act. They say we need more constructive and direct negotiations with the government for the cause to be effective.

I am not part of the organization team nor any other non-governmental organizations, but I believe that FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS ONLY FREE IF WE USE IT. If we continue to refrain from speaking out for what we believe in, then we are paying a price for freedom.

The acronym ISA stands for Internal Security Act. We are internal – being citizens of our own independent country. But we feel totally insecure with the continuous existence of this act. How then are we suppose to be protected by the ISA if the act itself creates an atmosphere of fear and insecurity in all of us?

How are we suppose to feel safe when our freedom of speech is constantly under the threat of possible incarceration?

Therefore I urge everyone here, including your friends and family, to come and join us tonight for this last vigil to stand up for our basic rights. It doesn’t matter whether you come as a participant or a mere spectator. The most important thing is to make our presence felt to the powers that be. We must remind the government that the people have not given up hope for change.

I shall reproduce below the letter I wrote a few weeks ago after my first candle light vigil and hope that it will inspire you to join this peaceful gathering tonight.

“Dreams are little pockets of hope. And if we share the same dream, then our hope for freedom, justice and equality will come through sooner, rather than later.”

I Lit a Candle for Raja Petra

Posted on 27 September 2008

Dear Raja Petra,

I did something out of the ordinary last night, something which I would never have thought of doing in my entire life. I went to the anti-ISA candle light vigil in front of Dewan Sri Pinang and joined hundreds of others to call for the abolishment of this most draconian act and to secure the freedom of all detainees including your good self.

It is Saturday today and I wish I could wake up late. But there is a lot of work to be done including writing this letter to you. No, you do not know me personally, but like most Malaysians who have been reading your thoughts and ideas for a better Malaysia, I could feel a certain bond that your articles generated in me and millions of others in this country – the bond of humanity.

I did not know what to expect at this gathering because it was the first time I attended such an event. I thought that it would be as dark and gloomy as the current mood in our country, and that there would be hordes of angry people shouting inflammable slogans.

But as I approached the Esplanade, the sight of hundreds of candle lights flickering in between the brightly lit iconic Dewan Sri Pinang and the majestic court house, lifted my spirits. I began to feel a sense of purpose in my trip and a renewed surge of confidence arose in me.

The crowd that had gathered comprised of decent looking people of all ages. There were many elderly people who have lived through turbulent years and the younger generation who are starting to discover their own voices. But last night, all of these people shared a common purpose – to execute their duties as responsible citizens and to speak out for truth, justice, equality and freedom.

Suddenly, I was not alone.

There were a few speakers including a Member of Parliament and an ex-ISA detainee. Some of the speakers claim to know you personally. But I suppose, all of us there know you too, through your eye opening articles and the constant persecution by the authorities.

The question is - why did the government arrest you under an act which was meant to curtail terrorist activities during the Emergency, when all you ever did was to expound your thoughts and ideas by putting them into words?

It is true then, that the pen is mightier than the sword and the Internal Security Act is just a convenient eraser which has been constantly misused by the government to silence its critics. The original intention of this act was for the protection of the public. But now it has been used again and again for the protection of the government.

They say that you have insulted Islam to the extent that it might cause unrest among the people. I am not a Muslim and therefore unable to comment much on this. But I must say that you – Raja Petra Kamarudin – has taught me more about your religion than all the tedious Tamadun Islam (Islamic Civilization) lecturers during my first year in university. Yes, apart from the subjects we majored in, we also had to complete two semesters of Islamic Civilization course work.

It is sad indeed that the government arrested you just when you are starting to make the multiracial people of Malaysia understand more about your beautiful religion. They say that education is a continuous process that occurs throughout our life time. Indeed I learned three important lessons last night.

Firstly I learned to overcome my fear of participating in public expressions of my personal stand on issues. Secondly I discovered that I am not alone in this quest for freedom, justice and equality as I could see so many other people of all ages and ethnicities making their stand for the same ideals.

Of course we can find these comments and opinions in blogs all over the internet. But seeing real people coming together for the same cause with our own eyes generates an overwhelming feeling of contention and brotherhood in our souls.

The third lesson I learned was that it is time for us to speak out now before our voices are muffled further by the powers that be.

Yes Raja Petra. Even when you are behind bars, you are still able to reach out and teach us a thing or two. Doesn’t this make the government’s effort to stifle your voice appear fruitless?

The people at the vigil in Dewan Sri Pinang last night share a common dream. Some cynics might say that vigils and protests are also fruitless efforts which do not bring about any concrete results. They say that dreams shall remain dreams.

I, however, believe that dreams are little pockets of hope and if all of us share the same dream, then our hope of achieving real freedom, justice and equality in Malaysia will come true sooner than later.

I hope that you are not feeling too cold or lonely in your detention cell, sir. There were a lot of dreamers holding candles in their hands last night, and the numbers seem to multiply each week. We hope that the glow from these candles will keep you warm until the day brightness shine upon our country once again.

Until then, I wish you good health and peace.

Sincerely yours,

Edmond R

Betel Nut Chronicles


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