Freedom is an illusion: we think we are free, but we are bound by countless invisible shackles, which we have taken in stride for they are useful if we want to co-exist in society. As we move forward in a world filled with more and more advanced technology, we concede to giving a little bit more of ourselves each time, sacrificing a modicum of privacy, bit by bit, to remain relevant and in keeping with our time. There is however a difference between voluntary giving up freedom and having that precious commodity being taken from us. More than the subliminal gagging order that the government has just voted in amidst laughter and victory whoops, it is a continuation of the repression tactics that have been put in place by this government since 2014, emboldened by its controversial win in 2019.
First came the biometric card, which was touted as a no-no by the actual Prime Minister, who joined his voice to those of the detractors while he was still in the opposition, together with other people who went on to form part of his government, and who promised that strict measures would be taken to protect biometric data and yet, we all know that this promise is yet to be fulfilled. Then came the Safe City cameras, disguised as a means to maintain law and order in the country, and yet, conveniently, cameras get lost or malfunction in cases where those close to the government are under scrutiny. After that came the notorious ICTA Act to regulate social media users. Let’s not underestimate the huge amount of data that has been collected during the lockdown via the WAP registrations and WAS. The government sits on a gold mine of information about citizens and at the same time, it passes repressive laws and regulations which places people in a vulnerable situation.
We would love to remain optimistic in being confident that there reaches a stage where the demands and interests of the people are the priority but when we take a good look at the way the system is currently, it is foolish, to the point of stupidity to be optimistic. The police, first stop of the citizen to seek protection and help, is headed by a person nominated by the Prime Minister, the current one is on an interim basis, which severely limits his independence, especially in high profile cases. The government controls the National Assembly by numbers and there is not one deputy of the majority who has had, in the recent past and present, the audacity to take the risk to go against the party line and vote against any Bill, no matter how controversial it might be or how vociferous they might have been against the matter at hand in the past, thus making it impossible for controversial bills not to be voted into law. The President, who has the last word on any laws being voted in, appears also indebted to the government in power for his/her position.
These are but a few examples of how we are in fact an autocracy disguised as a democracy and show but some of the fundamental flaws in our political system. As has long been proposed and asked, the nominations for key positions should be carried out by a panel constituted of members of government and opposition alike, following rigorous due diligence and done in a transparent manner. This is not rocket science, but a practice carried out in any democracy worthy of its name, to ensure a maximum of consensus, impartiality and to make sure that power is distributed, as part of a vibrant democracy. But since our crop of politicians lack foresight and are stuck in the past, such practices would be a challenge to their comfort.
Our political system is out of touch and has been for decades. By dumbing down the future generations through an obsolete education system, by harping on about a free health system which is in fact in shambles, by appropriating our economy, which is out of breath, for personal gains, the recourse left is to quell contrarian voices and what better way to do that than taking away liberties, and rule by fear, for more than anything else, these repressive laws try to instill fear of repercussions, hence trying to nip any dissension in the bud. Let’s not be fooled by the promises of those who are not in power today, for we know what their promises are worth. We have, in effect, very few liberties left, among them, that of the mind. So it is imperative that we take it on ourselves to exercise the freedom of the mind and question what we are being shown and told, for otherwise it might be too late.