'The Dissident' film: How many concessions must we make for evil?

Erna Mahyuni
·3-min read
Erna Mahyuni
Erna Mahyuni

JANUARY 13 — I spent the weekend watching Bryan Fogel's documentary on Jamal Khashoggi's murder, The Dissident.

It is difficult to watch as it unflinchingly recounts the details of the events that led to Khashoggi's death at the hands of his own people in his own country's embassy.

There are transcripts of the audio recordings of the murder, with those who listened to it saying among the hardest things to listen to were the sounds — such as the grating noises of a bone saw, presumably being used to dismember the body.

Years later it remains unfathomable to me that such a crime could have been done so publicly, with such impunity.

There has been no justice for Khashoggi apart from a few people supposedly involved being sentenced to death, though those death sentences were eventually commuted to imprisonment.

The Dissident has also struggled to find a platform, with it being released by an independent company as larger streaming services such as Netflix have passed on the film.

At present time it is currently being screened in select US cinemas with some streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime only making it available in the US.

It is unlikely it will screen here largely due to Malaysia's keenness on maintaining good ties with Saudi. Wouldn't want our haj quotas affected, would we?

The simple truth is that Malaysia, like Netflix, easily turns a blind eye to things such as Uighyur forced labour and the mistreatment of foreign labour in local factories.

We make concessions to evil because it is expedient, and the price to do otherwise is not one we are willing to pay.

In some ways, I get it. We are not a large country nor do we have that much political clout or economic power.

Malaysia is at the mercy of larger, richer countries and the most we can do is the performative noise we make about Israel while still trading with the country.

If we cannot stand up to bigger powers, at the very least we should not bow so easily to negative influences at home.

There is no excusing how much corruption has seeped into all parts of our daily life, from politics, to civil service, to religious authorities and even in the simple act of buying meat.

As the saying goes, pagar makan padi ― the watchers have deserted their posts, those in trusted positions are too easily bought.

We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us. Malaysians are complicit in this acceptance that corruption is the norm and that it is but naivete to attempt to uphold high ethical standards.

We are not sheep at the mercy of wolves; sheep don't get to vote nor are they able to voice their concerns and objections in the public square.

If there is something Malaysians must embrace in 2021 it is the realisation that we do get to choose our leaders and we can make better choices.

Let's hope that sooner rather than later we can get a government that will do better, that will not only announce a lockdown after hundreds of deaths and a virulent Covid-19 mutation reaches our shores.

Our lives, quite literally, depend on it.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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