14733980_sThe Malaysian civil service wage bill was 20.9 billion ringgit in 2001. It was RM30.2 billion in 2006. It is expected to be RM64.1 billion by next year. Any rational and responsible government will have to look at how it can legitimately trim the civil service. Tony Pua, opposition MP proposed just that, suggesting things like “optional early retirement and the removal of staff who breached discipline and regulations, such as buying overpriced items.” (Hazlan Hassan, “KL to raise pay of civil servants,” The Straits Times, Friday, December 9, 2011, page C7.) At the recent UMNO assembly this suggestion was condemned as being anti-civil service and anti-Malay (85% of the civil service is Malay.) What was shocking was that a few days later, the government announced a pay increase for civil servants but also said that non-performers will be asked to leave. Tony Pua slammed the government for:

“portraying Pakatan Rakyat as anti-civil service by inflaming racial sentiments. It is UMNO which is culling the civil service today,” he said. (Hazlan Hassan, “KL to raise pay of civil servants,” page C7.)

This is just but one of many disturbing things coming out of the recent UMNO assembly. Other spins include portraying the DAP, one of the opposition parties, as being a threat to royalty when in truth it was UMNO under Mahathir who decisively curtailed the power of the sultans. What are we to think of such outright lies and an overtly racist agenda? I am no expert on Malaysian politics but I think Lim Mun Fah is right when he writes: “Umno”s objective is . . . very clear, that is, to win and not to lose power.” And this is what my friend Rama has to say:

What is the primary engine of UMNO”s racism? Is it fear of meritocracy? Is it egotism? Or is it something else? Terror. I think it”s terror. Terror of being found out. Consider this: In Perak and Selangor, when BN lost the majority, they destroyed evidence before departing: files went missing. Soon after ”the opposition” took office, many misdeeds became public.

UMNO even protects those who put their hands in the kitties of charities. Do you remember the misappropriation allegations against the UMNO-BN wives who were the charity organization, Balkis? Do you wonder why Khir Toyo remains free to stir up distress? It’s because many more Toyo’s will be flushed out if the ship sinks!

I think the root of my restlessness is this knowledge: Desperados will do desperate things.

At least they were not killing babies.

In a fallen world, there are leaders who will do anything to stay in power. This is the Christmas season but remember that the coming of Christ led eventually to Herod ordering the massacre of all male children two years old and younger, from Bethlehem and the surrounding areas (Matthew 2:16-18). And long before that a paranoid Pharaoh was throwing male Hebrew babies into the Nile (Exodus 1:1-22). What do I do when faced with such evil?

First, I pray that the Lord will protect my heart from hatred. We follow a God of holiness and love who has commanded us to love our neighbours and our enemies. I fear that righteous indignation is but a short step away from my assuming an office that is God”s alone — judge, jury and executioner. I am a sinner saved by grace and as I grow older I am more and more aware of how sinful I really am and how generous was the grace I received. I keep before me this scene from Star Wars 6, The Return of the Jedi:

The Emperor: [to Luke] The alliance… will die. As will your friends. Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!

Or these words from Paul:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17–19 NIV)

Then I pray for clarity and courage to do what is right. I am afraid of two extremes: to be paralysed and passive because I think the situation is hopeless and/or because the situation is complex, or, a knee-jerk heroic activism where I act without thinking. Hence I need to seek the Lord, in solitude, in Scripture, and in the company of trusted followers of Jesus. I know that discerning the heart and mind of God is more art than science but I follow a God who speaks and so I listen. After coming to some clarity as to what must be done, I pray for courage to do it. I am no hero; I am a middle-class diaspora Chinese quite used to the comforts of life. Thank God that He doesn’t call me to heroism but to obedience. But I must obey.

I am inspired by the two Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1:15-21. They were just regular folks. But when they had a choice to make they feared God and did what was right even if it meant risking their lives. I suspect that that is what is needed — not a few famous high-profile people doing dramatic things, but a lot of ordinary folks doing the right thing.

And what is the right thing to do? I am not sure I can discuss that in detail in the confines of this column but it will probably involve prayer, speaking up, voting, loving neighbours and enemies, and pointing people to the true King.

These are disturbing times but the Lord’s word to us remains:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21 NIV)

And Christmas is a reminder that, although sometimes it seems like He takes forever, God keeps His word. Evil will be defeated.