A True Malaysian

It saddens me to know that our beloved Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed (henceforth Dr M) is of the opinion that there will never be a true Malaysian. After 51 years of being an independent nation, is it cockamamie to think that true Malaysians exist? Is it really something unachievable?

Dr M’s opines as such because the people (you and i) continue to hang on to our own identity, culture and language. Our former premier further elaborates that such obstacles would not only hinder unity but also block the government’s efforts to create a new Malaysian race

He added that unless Malaysians of different race, language, and culture embrace ONE identity for the sake of our future and nation (like in the Philippines and Thailand), there will never be a true Malaysian.

Dr M clearly regards our different races, cultures and languages as a stumbling block rather than a stepping stone. That is disappointing because ever since my schooling days, I have been thought to take pride in the fact that i live in a multi-racial and multi-religious country (negara berbilang kaum dan agama)

Malaysia has always played that fact to our advantage (e.g. on websites, brochures, etc). We often promote ourselves to the world as a unique country whereby citizens of different races & religions live in harmony with one another (evidenced in the Malaysia Tourism Guide)

Furthermore, tourism.gov.my states that the “Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture.”

By virtue of “hanging on to our own culture,” we have developed a Malaysian culture. Should we all now abandon our own culture and embrace a common identity? No! If we do so, what would make us any different compared to our neighboring countries?

The truth of the matter is that we dont all need to have one identity in order to be a true Malaysian. A true Malaysian is one who:

1. Knows the cultures of different races
– During Chinese New Year, red packets (angpows) are given out by those married to their younger relatives,
– Malay children are brought up to shake and kiss the hands of their parents/elders,
– Henna body art is an essential part of the Indian culture,
– Kadazandusuns in Sabah celebrate the Kaamatan (harvest) festival while the Dayaks in Sarawak celebrate Gawai Dayak

2. Speaks a little of every language
– Tamil: Dei/Deyh, Thambi, Anne, Tani/Thani
– Cantonese: Tabao, Leng Lui, Leng Zai
– Mandarin: Wo Ai Ni, Lao Shi, Ni Hao Ma
– Hokkien: Wa, Lu, Toh Long,
– BM saints: Kantoi, Lepak, Awek, Cun

3. Supports national athletes & national teams
– Datuk Lee Chong Wei (badminton),
– Harimau Malaya (football),
– Pandalela Rinong (diving),
– Azizulhasni Awang (cycling),
– Datuk Nicol Ann David (squash)
– Sazali Samad (bodybuilding)

4. Refuses to racially abuse his/her fellow brothers and sisters
– The quote “We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race” by Kofi Atta Annan has become somewhat of a platitude
– However, there is so much truth in it!

5. Knows key historical events
– 31st August 1957 marks the independence of Malaya
– Sarawak achieved independence on the 22nd of July in 1963 while 31st August 1963 was when Sabah became a sovereign state
– Malaysia was formed in 1963, on the 16th of September, comprising of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak

6. Knows the national anthem (Negaraku) by heart
– Though those of us out of public school no longer sing it every Monday, we live out the words everyday!
– On top of that, we temporarily have the honor and privilege (no, I’m not being sarcastic) of singing it collectively in the cinema prior to any movie

The list is not exhaustive. Take some time to think what else should be a touchstone to being a true Malaysian. Embracing a common identity is definitely not one of it!

The 40th President of the United States (i.e. Ronald Reagan) once said, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.” It clearly makes no sense to say that you love your country but don’t love your countrymen!

Simply put, a true Malaysian is one who places his fellow brothers and sisters first. By loving our fellow Malaysians, we can forge an indestructible unity! It all begins with love!

*This awesome article appeared in The Malaysian Insider

Abolishing “Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan”

This has been a topic of much scrutiny among Malaysians. Some blame sekolah jenis kebangsaan’s (SJK) as the cause of racism in Malaysia. They say something along the lines of, “if everyone (referring to the students) went to national schools, there would be no racism”

That could not be further from the truth. Firstly, Malaysians of all races can attend SJKs. It is not limited to just the Chinese. An article by The Star on the 18th of May 2014 highlighted SJK Chung Shan in Bayan Lepas which has many non-Chinese pupils.

“Of the school’s 209 pupils, 77 are Malay and 20 others are of Indian and other origins.” 46.4% of the school is made up of non-chinese students, thus dispelling any lies about SJKs only being for students of a specific racial origin

One may argue that SJK(C) Chung Shan is merely a one-off case. However, year after year we read about more parents being open to Chinese schools.

Earlier this year it was also reported that Malays made up half of the pupils in a Chinese school. So far I haven’t come across any news which alleges a Chinese school refused to accept non-chinese students

Moving on, SJKs do not spread hate. Pupils are not indoctrinated with “anti-Malay” or “anti-Islam” sentiments. If the SJKs did, would non-chinese parents still send their kids to the school?

In 2013, an article by The Malaysian Insider mentioned that Form Five student Wan Ashikin Ismail, who attends a Chinese vernacular school, said her best friends were Chinese and they conversed in Mandarin. The student also said, “I am not treated differently by students or teachers.” There’s no hint of favouritism or discrimination

Back SJK(C) Chung Shan, “School principal Eng Phaik Kim said they (the pupils) had been taught to interact with each other to showcase the diverse cultural mix in Malaysia.” Contrary to popular belief, SJKs foster national unity just as much as Sekolah Kebangsaan’s do

Moreover, “the perception that Chinese primary schools have stricter discipline, placed a heavier emphasis on academic excellence and the economic rise of China have also persuaded growing numbers of non-Chinese parents to choose Chinese primary schools.”

One of the pre-requisites to a good career is a good education. As such, which parent wouldn’t want to send their kid to a school which has a good track record? If Chinese schools can provide good education, Malaysian parents wouldn’t mind it.  

Lastly, SJKs merely want to preserve their mother tongue & culture. As BM is the national language, we (Malaysians) do not need to worry about it ever disintegrating. The same however, can’t be said about Tamil and Mandarin

Now that we have established the fact that SJKs are not sowing racist ideology into the minds of schoolchildren, is being sensitive to the needs of our compatriots too much to ask? All they want is preservation of the language and their culture

Of course if one day the perks of SJKs can be incorporated into our national schools, there wouldn’t be a need for vernacular schools, thus leading to its abolishment. Until such a time, respect the status quo