by Ariffin Sha
Make no mistake about it, your voice counts, and the Government has heard you loud and clear.
On 9 March 2021, the Minister-in-charge for Muslim Affairs defended the Government’s stance on tudungs in no uncertain terms. There was zero indication of there being any shift in the Government’s position
Between 9 March 2021 and 23 March 2021, there was a lot of public furore about the Government’s defence of, in my humble opinion, an indefensible policy position. There was an organic and widespread outburst of opinions and discussions – things you will never find in a closed-door session with a pre-selected list of invitees who may think twice before speaking up.
I am of the opinion that it was this outcry that tipped the scales and shifted the Government’s opinion. This is something that may be hard to admit to, as no Government wants to be perceived as reactionary.
The cynic in me finds it hard to believe that the Government’s stance had potentially shifted as early as August 2020 during closed-door sessions (more on this obsolete form of discussions below).
If that is true, it would mean that the Government’s unequivocal position in Parliament was not representative of the Government’s actual position.
If we cannot take the position the Government sets out in Parliament at face value, that is worrying in itself. If the Government’s position did change, why not announce it in Parliament?
It is also time for us to realise that closed-door sessions are obsolete, and do not serve the interests of transparency. If you can’t defend your policy in public, I doubt you can do so behind closed doors. We have an educated populace who are more than capable of holding civil and rational discussions about race and religion.
We shouldn’t be citing the Sedition Act every time someone brings up a legitimate, yet potentially sensitive issue.
This long overdue shift yet another example of the potency of the power of the people. Don’t ever forget that it was the voices of ordinary people, not those of Ministers and community leaders, that led to policy shifts.
So, next time you are ever in doubt of whether to speak up or wonder if your voice matters, remember this. Your voice matters, and if enough people speak up, it will be heard loud and clear.
Democracy isn’t something that happens at ballot boxes once every five years, it is something that happens every day. So, make your voice heard.