Writing about race relations in Malaysia offers myriad problems for those who intends to do so. It is even more complicated when one is to write about the relationship between the Chinese and the Malays. The truth and those prepared to listen to the truth are dismayingly hard to discover. Misinterpretations, conspiracies of silence and the hijacking of truth for political and personal agenda are certain obstacles. Therefore, many prefer to remain silence or only speak with the condition that it is off the record.
Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a student doing her PhD in England about an interview I gave to Jonathan Kent of BBC in 2004 titled: Chinese diaspora: Malaysia. In that interview I asserted that the Chinese in Malaysia will much safer and important when China emerges as a superpower.
This is in view that Chinese immigrants are different from other races: no matter what terrible things happened to them in their respective countries or to their families in China, they will gather to help whichever ways that they can or on whatever terms the government allows. So, Chinese that faces difficulties in let’s say New Zealand will be viewed by the Chinese government and the Chinese globally that they need help and help will be provided, although via quiet channels most of the time and China’s soft power.
This is in part of the pragmatism that runs so deep in most Chinese that it excuses the past but it is more than that. China to them is not a political system or a group of leaders but something bigger than that. No matter where there are, every Chinese identifies themselves as the descent of the dragon.
Fast forward 8 years later, in his dialogue with Chinese youths at University Malaya on 24th June, Najib urged the Chinese community not to be offended by people who call them “pendatang” (immigrants) because such remarks are made by a handful of “lunatics” with “loose screws”. Frankly, if China is not a superpower today, no Prime Minister of Malaysia will ever utter such a word which is quite akin to saying “sorry”.
Moreover, this Prime Minister is the same person in 1987 who said that he wanted to wash the Malay “keris” (dragger) with the blood of the Chinese during a rally. Ah Jib Kor, when are you going to say sorry to the Chinese community over your “keris with Chinese blood” remarks?
Moreover, you also left out those Malays who asked the Chinese to “balik Tongsan” (Go back to China). We the Chinese do feel the insult with that remarks too. Don’t forget that you guys the Malays are also from the Indonesian archipelago, so you are migrants too. The difference is that the Malays migrate to this country some couple of hundred years earlier than the Chinese. The Malays also share so many similarities in culture with the Indonesians that they make claims that this and that belongs to them, even to the extent that our national anthem is a copy of their love song “Terang Bulan”.
If all Chinese are to return to China as well as other races return to their respective countries and left the Malays alone in Malaysia, I wonder how this country can function, how can the second Penang bridge be completed, where to buy the trains cheaply for KTM and many more.
Malaysia belongs to all of us regardless of race and religion. The Chinese never ask the Malays to go back to Indonesia so for the sake of racial unity, stop asking another race to go back to their country of origin. 55 years after achieving Independence, our nation building is akin to nothing because the races are still as divided as ever and off and on, some racial remarks will be hurled at other races.
If the Prime Minister is sincere at making 1 Malaysia works, he has a long list to do but he should first sack his special officer, Datuk Nasir Safar who for instance had labeled Indians and Chinese as “pendatang” and added insult to injury in declaring that “Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially women came to sell their bodies”.