What A Year

“Buka tutup buka tutup mata, dah habis satu tahun.”

That’s the saying I’ve come to be quite accustomed to. It basically means that the year had whizzed by as though we’d just opened and shut our eyes a few times.

And what a year it has been, no? From the epic floods in Thailand (and some parts of Malaysia) and the epic uprisings in the Middle East (with reservations for a similar experience here in Malaysia), to the epic financial and bureaucratic brinkmanship that is the European Union, 2011 has been a year of epic proportions.

If epic-ness scares us, there are enough bite-sized experiences for us to chew on. Here, therefore, is my list of memorable moments or incidents (in no particular order of import) from the year that was:

Revocation of the three Emergency declarations

It was just a matter of time. These three declarations of Emergency – 1966 (Sarawak), 1969, and 1977 (Kelantan) – for some reason or other have long overstayed their welcome.

Nurul Izzah Anwar (MP for Lembah Pantai) had in the March sitting of Parliament attempted to push through a private member’s bill, called the Emergency Revocation Act 2011, yet it was stopped by the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat on technical grounds… only to be later revived and reconstituted by the prime minister in his Sept 15 announcement.

Whatever the case may be, Malaysia is finally – and officially – at peace. And now comes the herculean task of rectifying/replacing the over 60 pieces of law that were built on the states of emergency (one of those laws, for example, deals with the legal existence of Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia’s [Rela] 2.6 million members).

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011

Nov 29 and Dec 20, 2011 will be remembered in civil rights circles as days of infamy, when the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 were passed by the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara respectively.

This piece of law, which is the Federal Government’s attempt at legalising peaceful assemblies, has been excoriated and berated by many, many parties, including the Bar Council, Suhakam, and Pakatan Rakyat political parties. Despite the public uproar, and despite the Bar Council’s attempt at producing an alternate (and what it sees as a better) version of said bill, all protestations fell on deaf ears.

Rise of the undergrads

One of the pledges by Prime Minister Najib Razak on the eve of Hari Malaysia was to amend the controversial Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971, which many – including the academics residing in their towers of ivory – have clamoured to have repealed.

One of the final face-offs came on the day the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, held a roundtable discussion on Dec 18 for feedback on the proposed UUCA amendments. On that same day, some 500 undergraduates marched the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for UUCA’s repeal.

Some might even recall a certain “taking down a banner” incident outside of PWTC.

National Feedlot Corporation

We swiftly moo-ve along. There is no other way to discuss this scandal but to take the proverbial bull by its horns.

As we’ve all come to know, some RM250 million was apportioned to an Umno minister’s family for a cattle-raising project.

Unfortunately, the 2010 Auditor-General’s report lambasted said project. Subsequently, the stench of misappropriation permeated the air, with revelations of the buying of plots of land, luxury condos in KL and Singapore, and who knows what else.

Clamourous calls for the minister linked to this project to resign seem to have fallen on deaf ears (yet again). Said minister had issued various statements, effectively saying: “I shall not be cowed!”

Bersih 2.0 march

July 7, 2011. The “mother”  of all marches in recent memory, when between 5,000 and 50,000 people (depending on which media you read) peacefully marched through the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for eight key electoral reforms.

In the lead-up to that dramatic day – I, too, joined the fray – hundreds were arrested, the colour yellow was banned; calls for Ambiga Sreenevasan, its chairperson, to be stripped off her citizenship were made; molotov cocktails and machetes were “found”; silat practitioners were rallied (and later “disappeared”); and Malaysians of all colours and stripes – from filmmakers to housewives, businesspersons to lawyers – made a decision to march for what they believe is a better Malaysia.

What a day it was.

What a year it has been.

Here’s to a great 2012.

(First appeared in Selangor Times on Friday, 30 Dec 2011)

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