Moderator’s note : In May, 2007, in a posting on this blog, I apologised to one Dr Vanaja and every Malaysian who has been marginalised by the NEP for the benefit I received therefrom.
Today, I reiterate that apology to Gunslinger and every Malaysian who has been marginalised by the NEP, and renew my pledge to work with like-minded Malaysians to replace the present economic policy with one that is just and equitable to all Malaysians.
Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? – Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Malachi 2.10
Racism from an individual is expected. You meet some diamonds, you meet some stones, in your everyday life. People’s narrow perceptions, and over-generalisation where an entire race is lumped into a derogatory remark, comes from an incomplete upbringing, an unhealthy social environment and sometimes inherent inferiority….for it is all too easy to blame some other race for the social ills of yours. A superior being will always be benevolent, and not be afraid of another being just because he does not understand them. An inferior being, however, will fear what he does not know, and try to eliminate and suppress others in order to move forward.
I believe all religions teach you to become that superior being. I am not a Muslim, but I have read enough of the Quran to know that it holds equality and love of all men, as an important part of its religion. Prophet Mohammad said, “‘There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for a fair-skinned person over a person with dark skin, nor for a dark-skinned person over a person with fair skin. Whoever is more pious and God-fearing is more deserving of honour.”
The Quran (49.13) says, “O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you might know each other (not that you might despise each other). Verily the most honored among you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous.”
And in a saying from the Shiite teachings (Nahjul Balagha, Saying 21) that seems specially created for UMNO leaders, comes my favourite – “Whose deeds lower him, his pedigree cannot elevate.”
Galathians 3.28 from the Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And Jesus Christ himself had but one commandment “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Judaism too, holds strong to this teaching, Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.5 “But a single man (Adam) was created for the sake of peace among mankind, that none should say to his fellow, “My father was greater than your father.”
From the Baghavad Gita, one of the most meaningful books on life, with so much wisdom and teachings for a virtuous life, also dismissed as ‘Kitab Keling’ by Zulkifli Nordin of Umno Barisan National comes this gem, “An enlightened person – by perceiving God in all – looks at a learned person, an outcast, even a cow, an elephant, or a dog with an equal eye.”
The Buddhism teachings of Dhammapada, 393 “Not by matted hair, nor by family, nor by birth does one become a brahmin. But in whom there exist both truth and righteousness, pure is he, a brahmin is he.”
From the Japanese Tenrikyo, “ All the people of the whole world are equally brothers and sisters. There is no one who is an utter stranger. There is no one who has known the truth of this origin. It is the very cause of the regret of Tsukihi (God). The souls of all people are equal, whether they live on the high mountains or at the bottoms of the valleys.”
Yet in Malaysia, in an altar of prejudice we crucify our own, without seeing that the blood of all children is the color of God.
If we are a religious nation, then we must also understand that at the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being.
To be racist then means, your God is flawed.
William Faulkner said, “To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.”
And here is where my story begins.
About a month ago, I was in a foreign country to pitch business opportunities to their government. My friend, who I was travelling with, was close friends of the ambassador of Malaysia to that country. We were invited to visit him and his wife, at their home, and we did.
From the very beginning of our encounter, he started talking about Tony Fernandez and Anandakrishnan to me, insinuating how much money they are making, how much influence they are wielding….the discourse was neither encouraging nor uplifting, just rather whiney. I suppose he must have thought that since I am a Malaysian Indian, I must be related to them, (I am rolling my eyes as I write) and am to be blamed in some way or other for them being where they are.
I was not sure at all where he was going with it, but well, thankfully the conversation turned to other subject matters that did not leave my head spinning for answers. Unfortunately, that interlude was short-lived.
He brought up the coming elections. “The Malay heartland – the rural folks – are very unhappy with Najib, you know.”
I nodded in agreement. I think we all know that. But his next statement stopped me in my tracks.
“The Malay heartland feel Najib is giving too much away to the non-Malays.”
And I went in indignant disbelief, “What exactly has Najib given to the non-Malays, that has deprived the Malay heartland?”
“Just read the Utusan Melayu – they put out a list – out of the top ten richest men in Malaysia, only 1 is Malay. See how these non Malays have taken everything for themselves!”
Stumped at that logic, Utusan Melayu not being my favourite reading material, and not knowing who exactly these top ten were (in my mind I thought Robert Kuok? Lim Goh Tong? Anandakrishnan?) I argued back, “ The men who made it to the top ten list obviously worked hard to be where they are. And they pay taxes which comes back to the government. And they create job opportunities for thousands of Malaysians by having worked hard to get where they are.”
“How do you know they work hard? It’s the government who allows them so much room,” he replied. “The same with the average non Malays.”
My friend then interjected. “Yes, look at BRIM. They gave it to EVERYBODY – instead of giving it only to Malays.”
I gaped open-mouthed in amazement – I thought I knew her, but then obviously not.
“ They gave it to everyone because non-Malays are tax-paying citizens of the country! How can you keep taking taxes from a minority community and keep giving it to a majority community, while side-lining, insulting and offending them at every point! This is pure racism. Why look at everything as Malay and non Malay?” I practically stuttered in disbelief and cold anger.
The ambassador came back with “Yes, the migrants had to work extra hard to ensure that they got something out of this country… but still, they are migrants, you know, and the Malays feel that they are losing out” and I was like whoa, wait a minute, migrants? Who are you calling migrants? He went on talking but all I could hear was MIGRANT in my head….I came back to him, interrupting him in the midst of full oration to a lost audience, “ Mmm, Isn’t Khir Toyo a migrant?’ And he replied without missing a beat, yes. ‘And he is in Umno and became Menteri Besar of Selangor?’ I continued.
He suddenly caught himself and said,’ err, no, he is second generation, so that’s ok.”
“That’s ok?’ I replied incredulously. “Indian and Chinese Malaysians have been here much, much longer than Khir Toyo, and you are calling them migrants still? But Khir Toyo, an Indonesian immigrant, is considered a bumiputera (prince of the soil) and even becomes a Chief Minister? That is so wrong. It gives no meaning to the word bumiputera then!”
“But he is Muslim, so that makes it alright, and he deserves special rights,” the good ambassador argues back.
“So, affirmative action is based on religion, not even for the impoverished Malay? So, if I convert into Islam tomorrow, I immediately become a bumiputera – a ‘prince of the soil’, is that correct?’ I ask him.
“Yes. Just marry a Malay,la” was the condescending reply.
There must be 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, and by this man’s logic – they are all possible Malaysian bumiputeras. All they need to do is just ship into the country, marry Malays (provided they find 1.8 billion Malays of the right sex) and become instant bumiputeras. And they get special rights, get access to our universities on an accelerated ticket, get discounts on houses they buy, get to work in non-Malay barred organisations like Petronas, be able to apply for government tenders unlike non-Malays and get APs to import cars…the list goes on.
All this while, Malaysian citizens who have been living for generations here who have built this country from pre-independence to where it is now, are sidelined, insulted, and denied basic fundamental rights like education, housing, but more than that, pride and dignity of being called Malaysian and not Keling, Cina, whatever and ridiculed for being of a different religion.
I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable at the turn of the conversation, because not only was I at his house, but his wife, and my friend, both Malay Malaysians, never at any point said, ‘let’s change the conversation,’ or ‘let’s not talk about this’. I would not call someone to my house, and make them feel uncomfortable about their race and religion, ESPECIALLY if I were a diplomat and was supposed to be diplomatic, and especially not to a fellow citizen in a strange country.
They say religion makes you better. I disagree. When I look at people like this, who use their religion to discriminate, to bully and like in Umno’s case, to cheat, I start to dislike religion. I was born a Roman Catholic, but have embarked on a long road to atheism because I have seen the hypocrisy of ‘holy’ people who aren’t holy at all. I have seen religion manipulated, with more bigotry practised in the name of religion than anything else. And I have seen and experienced it all here, in Malaysia, under UMNO and its bastardisation of Islam, where hatred of the non-Muslim is perpetrated through the use of Islam.
Back to my story, I never felt so alone that day.
It did not end though. He brought up the ‘social contract’ and said, “Non-Malays should respect this you know, all this questioning of the status quo is making the Malays very unhappy. It is hurting our sensitivities”
This piqued me.
“What the hell are non-Malays doing and why are you picking on us all the time? We mind our business, we try to survive within the various confines of whatever you throw at us, and even when we succeed against the odds and make a decent living, you find that unreasonable, saying we are taking away something or other….come on, la give us a break, man,” I said
“And, what social contract is this, and where in our constitution is it found? This is something we have only heard about in the last few years, no? ” I asked.
There was no answer, and he switched back to the nine richest men in Malaysia, a fact which was obviously making him very unhappy. Frankly, I am also unhappy I am not one of the top ten richest in this country, but the difference with him and I is, I am angry with me for not being clever enough to have made it to the list. While he is angry with them, for merely being clever and hardworking.
‘…Yadda yadda…..This proves that the wealth is controlled by the non-Malays,” he droned on, “which goes against the social contract.”
The lack of reality in the arguments were making me dizzy by this time, and also tired.
“Almost 95% of the civil service is Malay, all government-linked companies which control almost every major industry in this country is predominantly Malay, all Vice Chancellors in every public university and almost all lecturers and senior lecturers are Malay, the military, the police, the politicians from the ruling party is predominantly Malay, foreign investment must have 30% bumiputera equity, any big projects undertaken by non-Malay Malaysians must have 30% bumiputera equity, public university entrance is predominantly for Malays… how on earth , pray tell, is wealth, or anything else for that matter, being controlled by the non-Malays?’ I asked.
“The non-Malays should not be made the scape-goat for all the woes of this nation, we have contributed a lot and we are such a small minority – merely 30% of this country. We are equal citizens…and it is tiring to have fingers pointed at us all the time with untrue accusations. UMNO just fabricates this, through Utusan Melayu, and their various other media, to hide the real problem, their plunder of this country! ’ I hotly added.
A question no one really asks is – what is the definition of the Malay and who defines it, and why is all this definition so very important? This country is no better than South Africa during the time of the apartheid, if you ask me, where definition of colour took precedence over merit and performance.
He tried to cool me down by changing the tone.
“A lot of urban Malays believe what you believe, but you must understand that these are the unhappiness and frustration of the Malay heartland.” He was now being the reasonable one. But I was not buying the reason offered.
“I don’t think so, ambassador. I saw the Malay heartland at the Bersih rallies and at Anwar’s ceramahs, and I believe they would agree to disagree with you. It is not the non-Malays they hate, but fat cats from UMNO who steal from the country, at the expense of their name, acting like they represent them,” I countered.
He realised then, that I was more than he bargained for. This woman does not seem to back down, he must have thought. So he tried another tactic.
“Well, do you think PAS is any better? You know how militantly Islam they are, UMNO is such a better deal than PAS you know, you should be scared of them.”
“Well, I am not,” I replied. “No PAS members desecrated Hindu temples, no PAS members cut off cows’ heads and paraded it in front of temples, no PAS members tried to introduce racist books to try to corrupt young minds in schools, no PAS members call Indians Keling, no PAS members asked Malaysian Chinese to ‘Balik Cina’, no PAS members have swindled the rakyat out of millions and as far as I know, no one from PAS has ever brandished a keris, promising to bathe it in non-Malay blood like your beloved Home Minister. So, no, I am not at all afraid of PAS. Give me PAS anytime over UMNO.”
He was actually proud of all the keris-waving. “There was nothing wrong with what Hishamuddin did. Do you know where the word ‘amok’ comes from? It comes from the Malays you know. Foreigners should not push us too much, for we will fight back” and I saw his eyes blaze, and his skin rise in colour and I thought oh no, he is going to ‘amok’ right in front of me. I surreptitiously looked for possible exits from the corner of my eyes…
But sheer morbid curiosity made me ask instead “Who are you calling foreigner?”
He looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You.”
Then I went amok. Not really, it was more a verbal amok. I said bits and pieces of the following. Of course, what I really said was spluttered out indignantly and probably at that time, incoherently, due to the shock of being insulted, but the gist was there. Not going to give you the verbatim version of what I said, naturally. But here goes:
Researchers under the Human Genome Organisation in 2009 found that the first peoples of the region arrived in a migration event originating from India around 2500 to 1500 BC.
The earliest kingdoms in what is now Malaysia include Gangga Negara and Langkasuka from the 2nd century AD, and Pan Pan in the 3rd century, all of Indian origin. Chi Tu, from the 1st century BC, was settled by Funan, of Chinese origin.
Most of Malay culture, art and language draws from Indian and Chinese origins – Javanese shadow puppet (wayang kulit) plays were originally based on the Hindu epics, the traditional dance-drama mak yong practiced in northern Malaysia (particularly Kelantan) had animist and Hindu-Buddhist roots and the keris, a symbol of Malay supremacy as claimed by Umno, has its origins from Hinduism and Buddhism, with forgesmen often incorporating the symbolism of the Hindu cults of Vishnu and Shiva into their designs, sculpting designs such as the garuda, the steed of Vishnu, and the trunk of Ganesh, elephant-headed son of Shiva.
There are up to 750 Sanskrit loanwords in Indonesian and over a thousand in Malay. These include such everyday and even fundamental terms as agama (religion), bumi (earth), manusia (human being), nama (name) negara (country), roti (bread) and suria (sun). Even Islamic, monotheistic concepts are named or described in Sanskrit, often Hinduistic terms rather than Arabic equivalents, e.g. syurga (heaven), neraka (hell), puasa (fast) and sembahyang (prayer). The very name Malaya/Melayu is Tamil in origin – Malai and ur, meaning “mountain” and “city, land” respectively. As described by Sabah Malay language expert Raymond Tombung Boin: “If we speak 10 words of Malay, often seven of them would probably be Sanskrit while the rest may be Tamil, Hindi and Persian, if not Arabic and English, Chinese too.”
Silat, draws upon both Chinese and Indian martial arts, with silat’s thigh-slapping actions reminiscent of malla-yuddha (Hindu wrestling). In the 5th or 6th century, the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma is thought to have introduced new forms (patterns of movement) from India to Srivijaya, from which it spread to the rest of the region. The name silat itself is likely related to the Tamil silambam, which has long been practiced by the Indian community of Malaysia and whose movement patterns are named silatguvarisai.
Malays, Indians and Chinese are, on one level, a single common race. We come from one stock, and our ancestors would be shaking their heads in disgust to see what UMNO has made us become.
After ranting for about two minutes, at most, I threw back, “We are all migrants. At some point we all came from somewhere. Malays are as much migrants as the other two races, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately UMNO can’t seem to get past that, and strives to hide this past, and denounce the other races to make themselves feel superior.”
And guess what? He agreed, admitted he comes from Thailand actually, his wife has an Indian grandfather, and my friend anyway is half- Indian, and then , everyone got up and prepared to go out for dinner.
He was merely spouting UMNO rhetoric that has been indoctrinated into him, by the Biro Tatanegara, and the hundred over ambassadors which Malaysia sends out, carrying their special brand of racism with them to infect the world.
But I could not just get over it. I went, sat in a sofa, and oh the shame and horror of it, found hot tears welling up and the floodgates burst open.
My whole life, everything I had to suffer stoically, in the name of racism, suddenly overwhelmed me – the ambassadors direct racism, reopening a festering psychological wound from somewhere deep inside.
To be turned down for the faculties I applied to in the university although I was one of the brightest girls in school and had enough points to make it. I took the ‘lowest’ course they would give me, because I was poor and just wanted a university degree. I thought it was unfair but I had, early in life, learnt to accept it as my fate.
When Malay students were given special tutorials before exams that the rest of us were not privy to, it hurt. But it did not matter, because I just worked harder and got my degree nevertheless.
When uncaring lecturers who not fit to do their job, but were give a job anyhow, because they were bumiputera and had to fill the quota system screwed the education of the undergraduates, I wished I could have had the money to study in ‘real’ universities where academics actually taught, and not write maths equations on the board without once turning around and facing the students.
I was not allowed to apply for jobs in certain government-linked companies because they were for Malays only, and certain Chinese companies preferred Chinese only. I did not think much of it, I was happy enough to get a job.
Certain housing areas were specially kept for bumiputeras, and bumiputeras could get discounts out of house and car purchases which I was not entitled to. I taught it was unfair, but I saved up anyhow and bought a house and car, but the differentiation rankled deep inside.
When my business took off, after years of struggling, with no subsidies/grants/ loans/ help because I was not entitled to them, and I tried to pitch for government tenders for work that I knew I was best for, again, I was told I could not apply because I was not bumiputera.
When I made enough money to start new ventures, expand my business, I was told to buy licenses from non-performing entities by the corrupt ministries, and then I need to give 30% of all I earn to a bumiputera partner, who they would gladly introduce me to. I said, no thank you, I will keep my money in the bank.
Every time during Merdeka messages, The Prime Minister would talk about Malay rights, and the Malay fight and I wondered – what were we , chopped liver ? What are the Malays fighting for, and who are they fighting and why are citizens of the same country fighting against each other, as proclaimed by the country’s own Prime Minister? Hearing and watching the Merdeka speeches, or the new year messages, made us feel like unwanted strangers in our own land. Can you just imagine the equivalent of say, President Bush going live on TV and saying , “this independence day, we should continue the white supremacy fight …” You know who will be the first denounce him, The Father of Racism, Mahathir Kutty, who pretends he is the ultimate Malay.
I read in the papers, of UMNO politicians who keep exhorting the Chinese to “Go back to China” and the Indians to “Go back to India’ if they are not happy. Malaysia is a racist country, that is not even ashamed to hide it anymore. Under UMNO, we have a racist government who have mastered the art of hypocrisy, saying everything they don’t mean with the straightest of faces, most crooked of minds and the most twisted of hearts.
I have suffered racism my whole life, and have learnt to live with it, even taking it for granted – and have excelled in my life, in spite of this. For excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.
Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in a way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. But when the oppressed advance nevertheless, it is an achievement.
For the flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful flower of all.
But even flowers wilt, for the flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be a dying.
And I fear for our torn and bruised country, that has lost so much of it’s spirit due to the mischief brought upon it by this vicious, greedy, stupid, tyrannical and utterly racist party led by unscrupulous, vile men and women. Scumbags of this Earth.
Instead of fostering confidence and pride in the wonderfully rich and diverse cultures of the Malaysian peoples, UMNO drives a wedge between everyone with a double-edged sword that wounds no matter what.
Even the most blatant bigots, when made aware of their racism, can change. Well, except maybe for Mahathir, he is beyond redemption. He has no soul.
Today he says, “You (Chinese) agree from the very beginning that there will be no assimilation, unlike the people from Arab countries, Indonesia, India or Pakistan, who assimilated into Malaya. You (Chinese) agreed from the very beginning that there will not be any assimilation, so you can continue with your culture, your language and religion. Hence, you cannot be the same as others who adopted the idea of assimilation… you cannot expect the same if you do not want to assimilate.”
On giving ICs to Philippino Muslims before elections in Sabah, to turn the tide for Barisan Nasional , he says, “As a matter of charity, almost, we decided (that) they have been working there, they speak Malay and why can’t we consider them as out citizens? Tunku Abdul Rahman gave one million citizenships to people who couldn’t speak a single word of Malay and their children also do not qualify. If you going to be a citizen, you have to be tested on whether you are able to speak Malay or not. But the people in Sabah can. The one million that we gave (before Independence), why no questions were asked?”
I rest my case.
Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.
A vote for UMNO is a vote for racism.
A vote for UMNO is a vote for evil.
A vote for UMNO is a vote that spirals you into the abysmal pits of hell.