What is The Transformers, anyway?

A Transformers-like statue near Turkey’s new presidential palace in Ankara, erected by the city Mayor Melih Gokcek, seen on April 2, 2015. It did not impress the residents with the Chamber of Architect and Engineers filing a criminal complaint against the Mayor. — AFP Photo

Optimus Prime: “You destroy everything you touch …”

Megatron: “Because everything I touch is food for my hunger. My hunger for power!”

That is an exchange between the heroic Optimus Prime and the villainous Megatron in the popular movie series The Transformers.

The Autobots and the Decepticons are rival clans of alien robots from planet Cybertron battling over the Allspark, their creator, which is a large cube of energy that can create life from mechanical objects, on Earth. They were “brothers”, earlier, while living on Cybertron, until Megatron became corrupted, and greedy for power.

Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, is friendly to humankind. Megatron, with the Decepticons under his charge, will destroy anything that stands in their way towards acquiring the Allspark.

Of course, with the help of Optimus Prime, mankind and the Earth are saved, times and again.

The “Transformers” are often misunderstood. Optimus Prime is iconic in the movie series and idolized, that he and his autobots were mistaken as the transformers. However, Megatron and his army of Decepticons are also transformers, created by the same Allspark.

The “confusion” permeates into Malaysian politics when we have some political party members offered free screening of the Transformer movies in Kuching and wearing T-shirts printing the word “Transformers” with the theme logo of the Transformers alongside “1Malaysia”.

There is confusion because it was unclear whether they were autobots or decepticons, and whether they were promoting Optimus Prime or Megatron. May be they were living in Cybertron then.

So, the leader of their “Transformers” declared the abolishing of the draconian Sedition Act 1948 in a rare nationwide live TV telecast a few years back. Courting the support of Malaysian civil societies in the run-up to the general election, he promised legislative reforms, to repeal the colonial-era laws enacted to fight the communist threats. Pointing out that the country needs reforms to give the rakyat greater civil liberties, “for our survival” certainly touched many Malaysian hearts.

After winning the general election, the “Transformer” made a U-turn on his promise to repeal the Sedition Act. In his policy speech at the Umno general assembly 2014, the “Transformer” announced that the Sedition Act will not only be maintained, but it will be strengthened. There will be a special provision to protect the sanctity of religions and there will be a provision to take action against anyone who calls for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak.

Within 6 months, after more than 160 people mainly politicians, activists, lawyers, journalists, academicians and even cartoonists were arrested, investigated or charged for sedition, the Sedition Act was amended in the darkest hours, with the clock in the Malaysian Parliament frozen.

As a right-hand man of the “Transformer”, another alien from Cybertron screamed in the august House: Any speeches on whether or not to hold a referendum on whether Sabah and Sarawak should secede from Malaysia is seditious!

Any fan of The Transformers movies will not be mistaken that this guy is Starscream, the Decepticon air commander.

To me, he is definitely from Cybertron because he does not understand how our country was formed, and he certainly does not comprehend the rule of law that the citizens on our Earth cherished.

In my attempt to understand the birth of the country, I have read the Cobbold Commission Report, the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, the Malaysia Agreement, the reports on inquiries, numerous recommendations, memorandum, minutes, correspondence and papers several times, it appears to me that it is nowhere recorded in these historical documents that Sarawakians and Sabahans cannot demand for their rights or question their status in the country if there are breaches of the agreement of which the independent entities of Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya and Singapore formed Malaysia together.

If those Sarawakian and Sabahan founding parents knew from the beginning that the Federal government will criminalize their children on demanding their rights and questioning their status in the country, will they have agreed and worked so tiredlessly with those Malayan and Singaporean counterparts to form the nation?

The late Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min, who had played an important role in the process has documented that the late Temenggong Jugah, the paramount chief of the Ibans, had repeated voice in Iban: “Anang Malaysia sebaka tebu, manis dipohon, tawal dihujung” (Malaysia should not be like the sugar cane, sweet at the head and getting less and less sweet towards the end), a sentiment that was then shared by other Sarawakian leaders.

I must quickly clarify that I am not trying to excite Sarawakians and Sabahans to ask for secession. No reader will be so easily excited any way. But this caveat is necessary as “seditious tendency” in section 3 of the draconian Act was not defined.

Many may still find that the sugar cane is still sweet, after 50 years. Others may find it less sweet, but we can certainly try to sweeten it.

Our Chief Minister has certainly on numerous occasions voiced his concerns and recommended ways to keep the sugar cane sweet.

In raising the referendum of Scotland 2014 as the Starscream had, it was a devolution of which the United Kingdom was accorded much international credits, something those “Transformers” of the likes of Megatron, Starscream and their decepticons should seek to be enlightened.

The international disapproval of our amendment to the Sedition Act was shown by the statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, reminding our federal government that Malaysia had committed to repeal the Sedition Act during the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013.

“It is very disappointing that the Malaysian government is now proposing to make a bad law worse,” the UN High Commissioner stated and we are reminded: “Malaysia, as chair of the Asean, should ensure that its leadership role at the regional and international level is backed up by firm commitments to ensure the human rights of all in Malaysia.”

What is sedition, anyway?

Respected former Court of Appeal judge Dato’ Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof has recently stated: “A democratic society can only be viable if there is a great measure of tolerance for freedoms, not the other way round.”

Though recognising that freedoms are not absolute, the learned former judge reminded that: “this truism cannot be used as an excuse or a reason to negate the very basis of these freedoms, if we still believe in and expect to live within the confines of a democratic system.”

“Sedition is an attitude that offends the principle of moderation and the allied principles of rationality, reasonableness and proportionality,” he said: “let the courts decide, guided, we hope by that the learned former judge is cautioning his sitting colleagues of the same constitutional principles and with a keen judicial eye on what interest should be prioritized within a democratic system.”

We stand guided, but I am not too sure about the 109 honourable members who have voted to keep the pre-Merdeka legislature and amended it to make it worse.

Is there a limit to Megatron’s hunger for power?

Will Sarawakians and Sabahans be the Optimus Primes at the next general election, or earlier?

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