Fresh from a family outing in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, I was still in a holiday mood when I boarded a Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui last Sunday.
This was my first trip to the beautiful holiday island in the South China Sea. Koh Samui is very much in the shadow of the more well-known tourist spots Phuket and Pattaya, but it’s great for me. It has fewer high-rise buildings and fewer tourists as well.
The “sawadee ka” greetings from the Bangkok Airways stewardesses put me at ease immediately, even though my mood was somewhat jarred when they offered me the New Sunday Times and The Sunday Star to read. I politely declined. That’s not the way to start your holiday away from home.
The story making the rounds in the Surat Thani Provincev concerns a terrorist bomb that killed and injured 15 people in Yala. The spate of killings in Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla has made many Thai people nervous. Is the military Government up to the demands of providing security to the people or will we hear of bombs exploding in public places every month?
The words spoken by a woman, Sawtiri Khachkorn, who lost her husband, said it all: “I have lost my husband and the father of my children. I must leave Yala, my home, although I do not know where to go”. She echoed the fears of many civilians in the south. She told The Bangkok Post that she no longer felt safe and had to bring up her children elsewhere.
I hope none of us ever have to leave our birthplace or our country because of fears for our safety. I hope we never have to abandon Malaysia because it has become a country that is no longer safe. It’s not just about safety from violence and death but about being safe in an environment that is conducive to living the lives we choose.
We want to be safe enough to send our children to the schools of our choice and to be allowed to practice our religions undisturbed. We want to live without having our views and beliefs mocked by those in authority.
This is my bone of contention for the forthcoming election: can we have a leader of the Opposition who is willing to articulate what is right for this country? Can we have a leader who is willing to risk it all by saying to the Malays and the Muslims that their long-term interests require them to moderate their views on many things and that such an attitude will save them and this country
Can we have a leader who is willing to revisit the idea of “fairness” to the various groups in this country? Can he or she capture the right message and the right spirit that can motivate the people to unseat the Barisan Nasional?
I don’t mean just calling Datuk Seri Najib Razak to account or removing the kleptocrats and the corrupt from our government. We need to think about what to do with the whole system of administration that has long been in UMNO’s grip. How will we persuade those who want to leave this country to remain here, and how do we persuade those who have left to return?
These are the new the messages that are needed in the coming election.