THE short film “Citizens: A Merdeka Day PSA”, which has gone viral, drew a mixed response as Chinese Malaysians expressed loss of confidence in the national leadership, while also admitting to  being inspired to play their part in making Malaysia a better place.

The six-minute production made them feel angry, frustrated and cynical all at the same time as they watched Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai’s convincing performance in the dual role of minister and citizen. Liow is also president of MCA, the main Chinese component party in the ruling Barisan Nasional whose popularity among the electorate has dipped over alleged corruption, higher living costs and racial policies.

Liow’s two characters, that of citizen and the minister, dwell on the state of the government and the hopelessness of the citizen wishing for change. The independent film, written and directed by local filmmakers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat, was released in conjunction with Merdeka Day.

Its overriding message is for all citizens to set aside differences and focus on building the country.

As The Malaysian Insight talked about the film with Chinese Malaysian viewers, the conversation that started out angry became hopeful as they aspire to do what little they can for Malaysia.

Helpless anger

Teacher Lim Chi May said she cared about Malaysia but couldn’t help feeling helpless at the lack of a suitable candidate to lead the country.

“I care about the country but I don’t have confidence in anyone to lead it at the moment.

“I also don’t feel like there is anything we can do to change it, except to vote in this tainted system and educate our children to hopefully find some integrity left in this country,” the 39 year-old Klang Valley resident said.

Her feelings were echoed by SF Pang who said he was tired of racial discrimination, corruption, economic problems and the standard of education.

“I do feel hopeless when I see scandals like 1Malaysia Development Bhd, the bad economy and the racial and religious tone that politicians often take.

“But I cannot lose hope because I am very sure all Malaysians want the same thing like I do, such as a better economy and more unity. It is not just for me but for the younger generation,” said the 55-year-old technician from Malacca.

A homemaker, who wanted to be known as Madam Chan, said Malaysia had been on the slide since 2009.

“When is it going to stop?  Corruption, unnecessary spending and politicians trying to divide the races,” she said.

Chan said she frequently asked herself why there was no real unity after 60 years of Malaya’s independence.

“I also don’t know why we cannot be known as Malaysians and must still tick the race boxes,” said the Segambut resident.

‘No longer relevant’

Lim the teacher thought it was courageous of Liow as an MCA leader to play a contrarian role.

“Maybe he thinks can attract more votes but I think he did it more for political reasons.

“I saw the video but I cannot connect with him, unlike (the time I watched) a video of opposition leaders Mat Sabu and Lim Guan Eng. I still remember that one because they talked about their struggles and their stay in Kamunting,” said Lim, referring to a video released in April 2013 of the two opposition figures.

Mohamad Sabu, who is now Amanah president, and DAP secretary-general Lim, were detained under the Internal Security Act from 1987 to 1989, and spoke about their experiences in prison in the three-and-a-half-minute clip, “Pengalaman Mat Sabu dan Lim Guan Eng dalam Penjara 18 bulan” (video below).

While Pang thought Liow’s was a good production, he felt MCA was no longer relevant to the Chinese.

“I am sure Liow, in his position, has his struggles. But I don’t feel the party has represented me or the community. I really don’t think it has done enough.

“Sad to say, I feel the party has sold out the community,” he said.

Chan the homemaker did not mince words either, saying it was “hypocritical” of Liow as MCA president to make a film like this when the party had not done much to improve race relations.

“He played the roles well but really, what can Liow and MCA do?

Why are there even people in BN asking us to “balik tongsan”, said Chan, adding the party needed to take a good look at how it represented the Chinese.

To give up or not to give up

“Of course not. I will continue to play my part by contributing to society and causes wherever and whenever I can,” said Pang.

“I think it is very important to speak up. That is why it is very important to vote as it is one way we can make our voice heard every few years,” he said.

Chan said the non-Muslim and non-Bumiputera must not give up and leave the country.

“We should not give up hope. We are told to go back to the country of our origin but that is not us. Our forefathers had countries of origin but this is our country. We must stay,” she said.

Another homemaker, Chua Siew Bee, said despite her disappointment in the government, the film reminded her that she could make a difference in the lives of those around her.

“It does not matter how small the deed. We can do our part to make our community better.

“Actually, I don’t see what choice we have, except to do what we can,” said the Penangite.