I didn’t wear yellow on the march because even though I’m a sympathiser with the struggle for electoral reform, I’m also a witness to both sides of the story. But I wore my yellow ribbon of “press freedom”, proudly, even though I’m not a journalist. I’m still wearing it now, with the poignant realisation that I can only write this letter, without fear or favour, precisely because I’m not a mainstream Malaysian journalist. Of course, whether any of your editors will publish it or not is entirely a different matter.Much needed words, but will they be listened to?
That little scrap of ribbon, like the seemingly frail ribbon of marchers patiently weaving their way from all over the city to the Yang Di Pertuan Agong’s palace last Saturday, is symbolic of something far larger and far more important than our aching legs or bruises or our shivers caused by sitting uncomplainingly in the rain while the leaders delivered our memorandum to the King.
It symbolizes what you have encouraged us repeatedly to celebrate and embrace: our “Merdeka Spirit” of independence that causes the rakyat to come out, in spite of fear and intimidation, to show their grave concern when the state of things seems very wrong indeed. This is, despite attempts at historical revisionism, a part of our Malaysian culture.
In response to the comments (below) that the letter needs to be in BM as well, Beth says (by e-mail):
thanks for your comments. points taken, and yes i do agree the letter should be available in BM, and even perhaps written in the national language to start with. however, my Malay is lamentable and it would have ended up quite a different letter entirely - probably unintelligible! i'm sorry, but i can only write in english. i greatly admire writers who can cross language borders by themselves, but as for me i need a guide...
while i do think it's essential to focus on the issues raised, it's true many people are excluded from the debate by language... that's why translators are so important, and invaluable in a multi-lingual country like ours. i feel we should be sharing our skills in tackling issues like this, where it's important to get alternative information and viewpoints out to as many people as possible. everyone contributes what they can - writers write, as they have been doing, bearing witness in an exciting and heartening plethora of voices. others pass the messages on. yet others, translate them, in order to reach a wider audience.
i've put out a call for the letter to be translated - since it's something i can't do myself - and not only into malay, but chinese and tamil as well. hope someone/s can help out with this!
thanks & cheers,