THE new year celebrations have come and gone. Good resolutions have been made and probably broken by now, too. It seems like this is as good a time as any to look back on the year that just ended.
Some of us will choose to be the “glass half full” kind of people and remember mostly the good. Others will recall their proverbial glass mostly empty, and will let out a sigh of relief and hope for better times ahead. Whichever group we decide to join, one thing is for sure: 2018 has been an interesting year to say the least.
Looking back at the last twelve months, I remember both uplifting instances and a couple I would rather wish had never happened. Some of the saddest headlines this past year involved the most vulnerable members of our society, young girls.
We have also witnessed riots and demonstrations, some with considerable harm to property and lives.
Happy news were mostly delivered from the sports front, with several gold medals for Malaysian athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, the Asian Games in Indonesia as well as the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
The relatively new Pakatan Harapan-led government has announced its plans to abolish the death penalty and to support efforts to significantly reduce the use of single use plastics.
Let’s not forget to mention the elephant in the room the GE14, or 14th General Election, in early May. Whether one wants to file this extraordinary turn of events under the category “glass half full” or “half empty” is not the point. It was clearly the current affair of the year to put Malaysia firmly in the limelight of international news coverage.
All of these events have had people talk, lament or rejoice. Maybe, however, the real blessing for Malaysia this past year, has not been the events I recall. Maybe, the real asset has not been certain occurrences that happened, but rather the ones that did not happen.
All around us tragedy and disaster have been striking. Some were man made, and could therefore have been avoided. Like the tourist boat Phoenix that capsized off the island of Phuket in July, killing 47 Chinese nationals and severely impairing the Thai hospitality industry as a result. Something similar could have happened in Malaysia, but it didn’t.
We all remember the Tham Luang drama, where twelve boys and their coach were trapped inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand for more than two weeks. What could have ended in a terrible tragedy luckily concluded in a successful rescue operation. It was a very close call, and it could have happened in one of the many popular cave complexes of the Malaysian peninsula, but it didn’t.
Malaysia is no stranger to floods, admittedly. This year however, it was the Indian state of Kerala that saw floods with subsequent landslides displacing more than 800,000 people, killing hundreds and engulfing entire villages. We know all too well that the torrential rains could have hit Malaysia, but they didn’t.
So many typhoons hit the Philippines, that we hardly pay attention any more. This year again, typhoon Mangkhut left a trail of devastation as it swept across the islands we regularly vacation on. If it weren’t for the Philippines laying in the path of these deadly winds, they could have hit our own shores.
And then there’s our closest neighbour, Indonesia. Firmly sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is a regular target for earthquakes and tsunamis. Just these past few months, two deadly natural disasters have ravaged its shores, leaving thousands dead or missing.
For Malaysia, this is more than just a close call. We are left untouched, almost miraculously, by nature’s most deadly show of force.
We should count our blessings, for we live so close to many calamities, that could have, but didn’t happen in Malaysia. Maybe our glass is more than just half full after all.
The writer is a long-term expatriate, a restless traveller, an observer of the human condition and