In some ways, I would think that this is a great country to live in. Other than in Bangkok, Singapore or Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Lumpur is the only place I can walk around free in the middle of the night without getting mugged or anything like that. Of course there has been cases of robbery and murder here and there, but generally you can walk around feeling safe. A good indicator is the number of expats working here in Malaysia, both legally and illegally. Wifey and I have nicknamed the extremely high-density high-end apartment complex next door as Seri Umaya because it looks like Beirut especially at night – minus the occasional bombing by Israeli fighter-bombers or some dumb ass blowing himself up.
52 years of self-rule has brought all that about. If P Ramlee were to wake up from his grave now, he might say he’s in a parallel world where the city resembles a bit of the KL he used to know.
It hasn’t been easy. And I would say that race-relations now is at its lowest since the May 1969 tragedy. It was a lot better immediately after. People were more tolerant of each other in the aftermath of the tragedy, but not now. And as long as we all look at ourselves as Malays, Chinese, Hindus, Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak, BN, PR, Muslims, Christians, Hindus…we will never be one. And for this failure, we only have ourselves to blame. Let’s stop pointing fingers to the politicians who run the government of the day, or the selfish bastards in the opposition who are bent on trying to reap whatever they can in case they don’t make it back onto the throne come the next general elections. If we fail to unite, it is because we fail to see who we are. We fail to identify with the country we live in.
Malaysia has always been a melting pot. For at least 1,000 years. Traders, missionaries from all over the world set foot here time and time again. If we do a DNA test on our blood sample right now, there is that slight chance that we’d have a hint of DNA similarities to the dried sperm scraped from some illegal contract workers’ kongsi, or to a student from Africa somewhere. Yet, we are a xenophobic lot, and we often look down on those whose colour of skin is darker than ours; or on the Bangladeshi PhD holder who perhaps earns more here as a waiter in a mamak restaurant than a researcher back home. We often forget that those who walk the planks on top of a high-rise under construction often without form of harness, some perish and some don’t, are the ones who keep the economy growing.
When this country was 16 years young, I still remember how tolerant people in this country were towards each other. I went to a missionary school where the Principal was dressed in a white robe, and the wall of our classrooms were adorned with the crucifix. It was a time, 4 years after 13th May, where Malays, Indians and Chinese would eat together, and play together.
Having done with my elementary education, I went on to the Malay College, an institution some non-malays now think is the epitome of malay-chauvinism. Let me see how true this is by trying to recall the name of the teachers who taught me there: Ustaz Rahman, Cikgu Abdullah Sani, Cikgu Mustafa Kamal Rabah, Cikgu Mustafa Kamal Ishak, Cikgu Wahab, Cikgu Rahim, Cikgu Zambri, Cikgu Shazali, Ustaz Yusof, Mr Phang Chee Keong, Cikgu Toh Ah Huat, Cikgu Tan Gim Hoe, Cikgu Ooi Guan Kok, Cikgu Loh Teik Sze, Mr Amirthalingam, Mr Nadarajah, Mr Purusothanam Panicker, Cikgu Raman Naidu, Mr Leong Chee Seng, and my Physics teacher as well as my English language teacher whose name I cannot recall at this very moment – both non-malays. So, I was taught by 12 non-malay teachers compared to 9 malay ones. Contrary to popular belief, the Malay College never taught any of us to think that we malays are superior to the other races in this country.
My first taste of racism was when I went to England after SPM, not just from the English students, but also from some of the lecturers. I was subjected to racist attacks both in and out of college. But unlike other malays, or other races from this country that I met there, I did not yield and did not stick to my own kind. Instead I had to think two or three steps ahead of the whites. I got into a fight with a group of white boys who threw snowballs that had rocks hidden inside them. What did I do? I went for the group leader and beat him up and disregarded all the rest while they were punching and kicking me from behind. Once they see their leader all bloodied, they scarper like stupid wild dogs. When a lecturer asked me cynically about my somewhat good command of the English language and where did I learn it from, I just said, “On the plane on the way here.”
I was wrong to be happy about leaving all that behind three years later to return to Malaysia because the Malaysia I returned to was different. I could see its people being suspicious of each other. This attitude caused race relations to simmer, and culminated in the Ops Lalang of 1987. Let me mention something about Ops Lalang. My father did not take orders from the then Prime Minister to execute the operations. In fact, he had had a meeting with all his directors and the top Special Branch people in Fraser’s Hills prior to that to plan the whole thing. And I remember him talking sternly to the Prime Minister over the hotline warning the latter that he would be arrested too if he did not keep the rest of the politicians leashed properly.
Look at where we are now. Multi-polarity is so huge here that we see ourselves according to racial, religious and political background. People are more extreme in their thinking and are keen to blame everyone else but themselves.
There is a saying: “An empire does not crumble because of outside forces; it crumbles from within.”
Stop blaming the politicians. They are idiots who are supposed to represent us. We’re supposed to be the ones with brains to think and assess the situation. If they continue to dwell in their own stupidity, and promote racial tension, are we supposed to just listen to then blindly and let things crumble? If you think either BN or PR is right, or wrong, or that you and your religion are superior over others, then you are as stupid as the politicians are.
Selamat Menyambut Ulangtahun Kemerdekaan ke-52.
Do you think there will be 52 more years of this?