IT IS is timely advice coming from our former prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that the mainstream media should be critical of the government every once in a while.

Like many others, I have been sending letters to the English dailies for many years, sometimes under my name and at others under pseudonyms, depending what I am writing about. However, not all the letters get published. I am never disappointed when my letters do not see print, and at the same time, neither do I get elated when they appear in the papers.

I write simply because I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to highlight or point out anything that affects the rakyat. Flaws or shortcomings in the administrative, legislative or judiciary systems and other matters that are of concern to people have to be highlighted in order to rectified, where necessary. My conscience does not permit me to keep quiet and look the other way when I find that things are not how they are supposed to be.

Although my letters may appear critical, it is not my intention to criticise but rather to point out things that do not seem to be right from my point of view. That does not mean that I am anti-this or that establishment.

I believe that to criticise is to point out someone’s faults in the hope that that person will correct whatever wrong he is doing or improve on any shortcomings he may have. A good person will always welcome criticism so that he can correct his fault and improve himself and the establishment he represents. Any establishment, be it public or private, should not view someone who criticises as an enemy. Of course, criticism must be constructive too. Criticism must be welcome as a tool to better one’s performance. Then only can one improve his performance in anything.

Whether it is the environment, consumerism, government policies, unity, human rights, etc, we should not be afraid to exercise our right of expression. As the saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Writing to the newspapers to express oneself is better than taking to the streets, thereby risking injury and arrest. Anything that is fair comment and relevant can be expected to be published. We should not hesitate to “speak out” through the press and should do it without fear or favour. I prefer the mainstream print media to blogging simply because I can reach out to more people. In blogging, you only get to a certain section of the people. Besides, if I am out of line, the editor takes care of it. Yet I have to be mindful or responsible to make sure what I write about is for the betterment of the country and its people.

Rarely do I write in praise of anyone or any establishment. I do not believe in dishing out praises, for when you praise someone, their ego is likely to get inflated and then his or her commitment to carry out responsibilities entrusted to him will slacken, resulting in poor performance. Why should someone expect praises for doing something for which he is paid. If it is his job to carry out a certain task, he should complete that task to the expectations and satisfaction of the employer. Everyone works for the society, for if not for the society’s needs, one’s services will not be in demand. In the case of a government servant, his employer is the public who pay taxes that go towards paying his wages. Even the government itself is made of the people elected by the rakyat.

My philosophy is simply this, “If I know something is not right, I should not sit by and look in the other direction and suffer from within. To clear my conscience, I have to bring it to the attention of those concerned and leave the ball to rest at their feet in order to give them a chance to set right the wrong.”

I will go on writing to the press about whatever I feel will not only improve the lives of the people of this beloved country of ours but can also correct the misdeeds that take place. Let me take this opportunity to praise all those who have been and are still writing to the press to express their views. Unlike bloggers, we are a different breed of people.

I wish to conclude by quoting one of the sayings of my spiritual guru: “My job is not to praise you but to make you praiseworthy.”

P. Paranthaman
Shah Alam

Source: The Sun – April 27, 2011