Beyond the Colour

I was supposed to write about something else but I guess this time I shall write about something that has become a plethora of jeremiad, tirade if you must, against the norm of these days. I have written about this several times before but I guess there is a need to write about it again.

The recent Sarawak state elections have proven yet again how diverse the Malaysians are, both in terms of the colour of skin and religious-belief. It is what that makes Malaysia unique; much akin to the USA which is a melting pot by definition itself. And the USA is 200 years ahead as a nation than Malaysia is; but using that as an excuse to not try and tone down the racial and religious sentiments just because the USA has yet to achieve that, is so wrong.

And here I go again lamenting over what it used to be like back then, four decades ago. This blog readers would remember how my father put me in a Chinese kindergarten, not two years after the race riots of May 1969. My aunt is married to a Chinese while my sister married an Indian. My wife is half-Iban. We’re a pretty mixed family. My parents speak in English to me, but it doesn’t make me any lesser a Malay. I know more Malay words, original Malay words, than the newsreaders of RTM, BERNAMA, RTM put together can come up with. I don’t use bastardised words like “OBJEKTIF” in any of my Malay writings because I would rather use the word “Matalamat” that is derived from two root words: MATA (eye) and ALAMAT (address) – the object that the eye sees.

I have a friend whose late father adopted an Indian girl and brought her up as if she was his own. I was there when this girl arrived with her biological father. She had just lost her mother to some illness, and her father had to travel in search of work. This friend is now a special officer to the current Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Seriously, playing with religious and racial sentiments is, to say the least, archaic. I cannot understand people who go around and find it fun to promote racial and religious schism among the people through their incessant nonsense-filled philippic. In the end, a political chasm is created between two groups. In the end, it is the nation that suffers ignominy in the eyes of the international audience.

I would commend the Prime Minister’s 1Malaysia initiative, but if we look at the reality, racial polarisation is more apparent in urban areas such as in KL, Penang and Ipoh, while in Johor Bahru, most smaller towns and in the rural areas, the only identifier of one’s race is his/her name. They eat together, go out together – we hardly see that happening, except amongst more educated people of my generation. If you see the cartoons by the cartoonist, Datuk Lat, we often see multi-racial characters mingle together. If you ask Datuk Lat if this is muhibbah he would tell you that there is no point in calling it muhibbah because people will just gel with one another. True, but this may be a bit difficult to see nowadays.

Among the non-malay names I can remember who were in the same class I was when we were in Standard 6 are Chow Kah Sung, Jeffrey Cheah, Michael Leong, Yong Choon Wah, Amrit Singh. There were more in our class of 30 but I have forgotten most. Definitely more than one-third non-malays in a class of 30 in a national-type school. The school my daughter has less than 20 non-malays in a total student population of 1,900. The various Ministers of Education have failed to identify the root cause for this glaring problem. Why do non-Malay students prefer vernacular schools? My take on that would be the obvious Islamisation of schools by the schools’ authorities. Second, the right to protect your mother-tongue, which to me, has gone overboard.

I would rather have every single student in a single school where everyone learns each other’s language and culture, with Bahasa Malaysia as the common identifier. They would also have good command of the English language and good comprehension of Mathematics and Science. The more children are separated, the more trouble this nation will be in when these kids grow up. What about religious classes? What about them? My only formal class on Islam was for 40 minutes per day, 3 days a week, taught by an ustaz in a Christian missionary school. I did not have to know Arabic, so on and so forth, yet I have been to Mecca four times. I know of some people who can recite the Quran yet have never set foot in Jeddah, let alone Mecca; and their view of Islam is so myopic you have no idea why are they so hostile for most of the time.

It is with the children that we must concentrate the most effort in ensuring unity as one people is achieved, but parents should also be supportive of this effort. Politicians advocating racial segregation should be shunned. There is no point having the people fight each other when politicians actually sit, eat, drink and joke together at the Parliament when they’re not at each other’s throat.

It is time we see beyond colour.