Need for culture of speaking up in Malaysia — Ariff Khalid

JULY 23 — I recently attended a public lecture at UKM Bangi given by Zuraida Kamaruddin, the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The lecture was about nation building and one point that she raised caught my attention.

The minister said that we Malaysians tend to avoid speaking up whenever we see someone doing something wrong or breaking a rule due to our polite Asian culture. I myself have encountered similar situations.

For example, I was on the LRT and saw a person putting their foot up and taking three seats. Yet, I did not say anything even as the train had many people standing. I was afraid of making a scene and embarrassing myself.

In another instance, a person was smoking from a neighbouring table in a restaurant I was in but I did not raise a complaint even though it is now illegal to smoke there and he is literally poisoning me with carcinogens. In both situations, no one else spoke up too.

Surely these are all trivial matters and should be overlooked? The Housing Minister disagrees and said Malaysia cannot become a truly civil society if people are not brave enough to speak up to right the wrongs that we encounter.

In my opinion, for such actions to work, Malaysians need to openly support those who point out wrongdoings. People would be more likely to chastise wrongdoers if others around them will back them up. Moreover, potential wrongdoers will reconsider their actions if they know those around them will not put up with it silently.

We need to make this part of our Malaysian culture. In Islam it is already a duty of Muslims to do good deeds and stop evil acts and I am sure it is the same for most other religions. If people see someone with the courage to speak up for the right reasons, have the decency to openly back them — be it in the LRT, restaurant or in any public situation.

* Ariff Khalid is a postgraduate student with UKM

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.