Christmas Greetings by Charles Santiago in Klang on
Wednesday, 24th December 2008:
Charles Dickens, the famous English
author wrote the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story's
message is hinged on the importance of charity and good will towards all
mankind, irrespective of race, religion and colour of the skin.
Similarly, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of
Geoffrey Crayon, a series of cute stories about the celebration of
Christmas in an English manor house. The short stories feature a squire
who invited peasants into his home for the holiday.
It is important to note that Irving's sketches were written against the
backdrop of a class struggle which often deteriorated into conflict,
turmoil and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes in 19th century
But in Irving's stories, the squire and his peasant buddies mingled
effortlessly. In the writer's mind Christmas should be a holiday which
bands people together across lines of social status, income, race,
religion or wealth.
We should emulate Irving's principles in Malaysia. All it needs is
concerted political will from UMNO leaders. The start could come from
totally abandoning the appalling idea of privatising the Institute
Jantung Negara to Sime Darby.
The government should instead strive harder to make medical facilities
affordable for the poor and marginalised groups in the country.
Privatisation is all about making profits and therefore the government's
rhetoric about the needs of the poor being taken care of despite the
back-door deal is nonsensical.
It is clear Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government has put
their plans on hold fearing a backlash at the early January by-election
in Kuala Terengganu. This indicates there is no guarantee the government
would not pursue the sale of the heart institute after the by-election.
It is also evident that the government had been wheeling and dealing
with Sime Darby over the proposed sale of IJN, while we were kept in the
dark. We must stand united to vehemently condemn and oppose such
audacious behaviour of the ruling government and its prerogative of
lucrative deals over the welfare of the people.
Christmas has been a secular festival celebrated all over the world,
although it traditionally marks the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born
in absolute poverty and simplicity but embraced everyone including the
poor who went to see him with dirty hands and patched clothes.
Christmas is a celebration of love for mankind and this is crystallized
in the Christian belief where Jesus came to this world and sacrificed
In line with this spirit of Christmas, let us hope that the government
will learn to accept different view points and not be threatened by
voices of dissent. Let us hope that the ruling elite would learn to
respect the need for democratic space in the country. Let us hope that
cycling would not be seen as a crime.
Despite vehement protests, repeated demands and street rallies the
government is yet to release those detained under the Internal Security
Act which allows for detention without trial and goes against the grains
Peaceful protesters are threatened and beaten by police, the media is
controlled, journalists are targeted and hit while carrying out their
duties, preventive laws are invoked to keep a lid on any opposition to
the government, corruption is rampant, wallets of cronies to the ruling
elite are getting fatter by the day, minority rights are not protected
and the country's economy is in the doldrums.
This is the sad reality of Malaysia today.
But as the spirit of Christmas and the New Year dawns on us all, let us
hope to see positive changes from the government. Let us stand together
and demand for a transparent and accountable government, the release of
ISA detainees, an independent judiciary, a free media, the right to
exercise our civil and political rights and equal opportunities for the
poor and marginalised groups in the country.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and fabulous New Year.
* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang