21 January 2010 | Thursday Malaysiandigest.com Personality
Vice President of (PRM) Rohana Arifin use to serve as Associate Professor at University Sains for two decades and has given many lectures in area of industrial relations and gender studies. As a writer, she has written three books entitled Women in Trade Unions in (1997), Shame Secrecy and Silence (1997) and Profiling the Rapist (2008).
Rohana also has contributed her ideas and thoughts in online news portal The Nut Graph.
Now, in her 60s, she is still very actively involved in feminist activism and several NGO movements.
Other positions Rohana holds include Deputy President of the community NGO Insani Malaysia , Vice President of the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Staff Association, Board Member of National Institute of Electoral Integrity and Co-founder of Women Crisis Center.
Malaysian Digest caught up with the seasoned laissez-faire politician and activist recently to find out what she feels about the way things are going in Malaysian politics among other things.
Malaysian Digest: How do feel about ’s administration since he became prime minister?
Rohana Ariffin: Najib’s administration realized that they have to win back the confidence of all races in Malaysia . One main attempt is by sloganizing and bringing about some cosmetic changes. But sloganizing needs to be followed by serious attempt at materializing them. Some of their attempts to win the hearts of the people include the creation of 1Malaysia Clinics and Juara Rakyat . Maybe this may appeal to some basic needs of the poor and the more apolitical groups but generally less appealing for the more urban populations who are weary of more promises. Not only has the urban population become weary, many have become very sceptical and cynical of the government and their agencies. Just look at the comments of the younger bloggers.
MD: What’s your take on the outcome of the last year’s March 8 general election?
RA: The outcome of 2008 election was a surprise to most people. The results mainly showed two things:
a) That people are fed up of the Barisan government because they have become too corrupt and blatant in their ways. There is no accountability for many of their actions and the general public has very little voice in the political decisions of the country.
b) It is a good wake up call for the Youtube etc have opened up knowledge and accessibility to many sources. Thus the old politics of harping on racism and threats does not hold water anymore among the more urban population who were arrogant and complacent all this while as they think that 50 years of their rule is unshakable. They forget that the new media, internet,
MD: How do see the outcome of the next general election?
RA: It’s hard to predict the future, depending on the economic situation and the grounds that the Barisan could gained by then. However, the next general election may foresee the Opposition gaining more grounds but the Barisan may still win by a minority. But there would also be a lot of scrambling for seats among the Opposition as they are becoming more confident of winning. Hopefully, voters have matured into choosing candidates on the basis of their integrity and service for the people and less on the party they stand for.
Maybe the Malaysian public may become matured politically by then, in terms of choosing a good candidate to represent the interest of the common people.
MD: What are the positive and negative changes you have seen since the March 8 general election last year?
RA: Positive, now that the government is more careful and transparent in their policies. They seem to try rectifying some of the weaknesses in the civil service etc like opening up more to the various races in the country. Also, many issues in parliament are debated upon unlike in the past, although in the end, the Barisan always seemed to be at the winning end by getting whatever policies/laws passed. However, the public are able to read the differences in opinion presented in by the opposing parties.
There’s less arrogance in dealing with public opinion.
Negative changes include too much of bickering and partisan politicking because each side refuses to accept any suggestions from the other side. Issues may have to be seen impartially with insight and integrity with the interest of the general public at heart.
MD: What do you think about the crisis faced by Pakatan Rakyat due to conflicting political interests/ideologies?
RA: Conflicting ideologies of Pakatan Rakyat? I suppose in all coalitions there are differences and its no different in the Pakatan although the Barisan, through its main media, tend to play it up. The Pakatan are what we call “strange bed-fellows” but although they have differences, they have managed to sort out a lot of issues among themselves.
MD: What is 1Malaysia to you and how do you feel about this initiative by our prime minister?
RA: Concept of 1Malaysia by the PM? The concept is good but nothing new but maybe only for the . These has been the policies of the more and NGOs in the past. For example, PRM has been endorsing this objective since their formation and that we believe every Malaysian should have a decent life. The divinises among the races in Malaysia were not only the legacy of the former British colonialist but were perpetuated by the political parties here that are racially based. Each party wants to appear to be championing their own race and in that process the social formation became racially divided too.
MD: Do you feel there’s improvement in racial unity despite our diversity of cultures and religions in recent times or were we more cohesive in the past (during our parent’s time)?
RA: Are we more divided racially or cohesive? Yes, more divisive! Since the seventies, the trend towards dividing the races were accentuated (after the 1969 riots) - the New Economic Policies, demand for separate schools and universities, insurgence of religion that identify race with religion, introduction of the University and College Act etc.
Many children are separated by attending different vernacular schools (thus no mixing with other races), too much religious interference in government schools, attending private and public tertiary education separated by races, and so on. The xenophobic view of their own race and the “the others” tend to have separated the younger generation only to encourage them to mix mainly with their own race. Sadly, this is added on by racial politicking by the various political parties.
MD: Do you feel should step down as MIC president?
RA: Yes, Samy has to step down and make way for younger leaders who may have better ideas and seriousness in improving the conditions of the Indians in general.
MD: What’s your opinion with regards to race politics?
RA: As we can see, not only in Malaysia but everywhere in the world, the general population tend to suffer. We know that it is a form of effective control over the population by creating fear and suspicion towards the other races. Also a form of justification when repressions are used on a particular race. Examples are Nazi Germany or in Bosnia . When a person is viewed as belonging to a race and less as a person and a human with similar basic needs and feelings, it creates people who tend to dehumanise others merely on the grounds that they belong to another race.
MD: How do feel about the notion of a unity government between PAS and UMNO?
RA: There are some differences among the leaders as they seem to claim who are more religiously correct and serving Islam. Hard to say but quite possible if they feel that by uniting the interest of the Malays and Islam is preserved better that way.
MD: What’s your take on the New Economic Policy (NEP)?
RA: New Economic Policy? Well, many of the objectives have been served and it had to be phased out.
MD: How do feel about our education system and the youths of today?
RA: Too much political interference in the education system as each education minister attempts to make an impact. Well, where in the world is there so many universities sprouting out so fast within a span of last 20 years?
In many developed countries, it takes many decades to create institutions of learning so that their credibility and standards are maintained! Also, we pay too much attention on books, mesmerising with lots of tuition centres, revision of past exam questions and so on. Students can pour out lots of facts but do less critical and independent thinking of their own. Do leave the education from primary to tertiary mainly to the educationists and have public opinions on them.
For the youths of today, there are two main basic trends:
a) Influenced strongly by the global imperialist culture or
b) By conservatism of religious teaching. Thus less independent thinking, although the minority of youths are creating their own culture of films, theatres etc. The internet has managed to expose our youths to many global issues; positive and negative. They mature faster than the older generation and in many ways tend to be restless in wanting things quickly (in this instant age) with even higher expectations.
They (the youths) also tend to believe what they read in the internet and opinion of bloggers without verifying first the facts of such opinion and contentions.
MD: Do you think sex education should be implemented extensively in our schools?
RA: Yes. It should be taught in schools mainly because of the confusing facts surrounding them from friends and internet. is not about encouraging sexual acts but more for understanding their own physical and mental growth as they grow up. This would include teaching them to be responsible in any future sexual relations and what are the repercussions of these actions. Also to understand the widespread of aids and venereal diseases.
MD: How do you feel about political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death and the way the authorities have been handling the inquest?
RA: This is the extreme form of interrogation by any agency in trying to serve their masters. Also, some politicians are making political mileage from this. As for me, the Forensic Department and doctors should be totally independent and autonomous. They should be free from fear and favour with no political interferences.
Let all findings from their forensic work be based on scientific evidence. It does not matter who the victims are, be it a car thief, a sex worker or a prominent person. All victims should have fair forensic examination. After all, who can speak for the dead except the forensic examiner?
MD: What are some changes you’d like to see in this country and its administration?
RA: Changes in the country? The government could attempt to provide the Malaysian population with a decent and comfortable life, which means that all basic needs are fulfilled. Future housing and flats etc should be of decent standards, not pigeon holes where people are crammed into smaller spaces. As the housing and building structures has propounding affect on social formation and breeding grounds for criminal activities, more thoughts should go into urban development. The income disparity and earnings could be narrowed down and that the level of disparity be minimised. There have to be more religious and political freedom for everyone and religious intolerance should be frowned upon.
The prevalence of sceptical and cynicism among many Malaysians could perhaps be reduced with better accessibility to correct information and truths.
People in the all form of administration have civil service, hospital etc could have a paradigm shift in attitude that they are there to serve the people, not viewing people as begging them for favours. After all, they are paid to do the job and all salaries are from the rakyat.
All public transport could serve the interest of the common people. For example, there should be LRT stations near all hospitals and not serving mainly the commercial interest of the supermarkets. The cultivation of our value system and culture based on cooperation, sharing and caring could be encouraged through the institution of family, schools, media and religion, therefore eradicating racist tendencies and stereotypes of each other. The eradication of such myopic view among races could be achievable in the near future.