A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article entitled “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?” in The Malaysian Insider. It was taken from Utusan Malaysia. The context was the Hulu Selangor by-election.
Because it is addressed to “sahabat kita, orang Cina Malaysia” it clearly was written from a Malay perspective. It questions the community’s attitude towards the government, and BN, while casting aspersions on the motives of DAP. So it is easy to conclude that the writer identifies himself with the Malay community, the government and BN. May 13 was raised, saying “Mereka tidak membaca pun buku 13 Mei yang ditulis oleh Tunku Abdul Rahman dan mereka tidak pernah tahu pun wujudnya perarakan penyapu oleh DAP yang mahu menyapu orang Melayu pada masa itu” while hinting darkly “mengenai realiti politik yang berlaku di sekeliling kita sekarang”.
But the point the writer wants to make is that in Malaysia the Chinese community live in peace with other communities. They are successful in economics and education and dominate corporate and private organizations. And finally, the writer gave a list of the 10 richest men in Malaysia and a single Indian and Malay made the list.
What more do Chinese Malaysians want? Or, as I understand from the article, why are Chinese Malaysians flirting with the spectre of May 13 by their present support of DAP (who did not contest Hulu Selangor by the way) while risking all the gains that they have obtained in the 52 years of BN reign?
The results of the Hulu Selangor by-election is an opportunity for us to reinforce the fact that the majority of Malays and Indians of Hulu Selangor voted for the Indian MIC (BN) candidate while the majority of Chinese in Hulu Selangor voted for the Malay PKR (Pakatan Rakyat) candidate. We should be trumpeting the point that race was not an issue and that much more it was a question of which political coalition was favoured. Instead the article subtly casts the issues in racial terms.
Even more subtle is the use of the word “lagi” – what more do Chinese Malaysians want? The picture painted is that of a community which has been “blessed” while other communities are lagging behind and yet this community selfishly wants more (and equates that with voting for PKR). What the writer ignores is that in every community there are those who are “blessed” and those who lag behind. Everybody is trying to make a living and eke out a life. Some succeed more than others. But by asking the question “what more do you want?” and addressing that question to the Malaysian Chinese community, the writer creates the impression that the political choices of the Malaysian Chinese are selfish and detrimental to the well-being of the other communities.
Finally, the first thought I had when I read the article is that here is a person who is utterly materialistic. Surely everyone has a price. You have been paid so richly, what more do you want? And my response is, not “more”, as if material gain is my primary concern. What do I want? Justice. Compassion. Honesty. Competence. Fairness. For everyone. And this is what I want, not as a Malaysian Chinese, but as a Malaysian.
So why did I finally write this article, 2 weeks after? Well, today I read another article, this time by Wong Chun Wai of The Star, entitled “Where have all the Chinese gone?”
He raised the concern that the number of Malaysian Chinese are dwindling (proportionate to other communities) and claims that this situation needs to be addressed with “far-sighted solutions”.
My question is “why?” If in 50 years time the population of Malaysia will be 95% Malay and Malaysian Chinese become tourist attractions in isolated “Chinatowns”, so? As long as this is the result of lifestyle decisions of Malaysian Chinese (in his view the primary cause) and not because they are driven to emigrate (a secondary cause, and a cause for concern). Why do we continue to look at ourselves as a community competing with other communities? When will we think of ourselves as Malaysians? Why doesn’t Wong Chun Wai write a piece on the number of Malaysians who have emigrated and explore their motivations instead?
The Malay writer asks the Chinese community “what more do you want?”. The Chinese writer observes in alarm “the number of Malaysian Chinese are dwindling” and calls for far-sighted solutions.
By continuing to perpetuate a discussion that pits the concerns of one community against another we continue to harden the fault lines that have plagued Malaysia. When will the mainstream media play its vital role in forging a united Malaysia – call it 1Malaysia if you must, but can we talk about the issues from a Malaysian perspective rather than a communal one? Can we condemn those who speak to entrench communal interests as anti-Malaysia while according respect and praise to those who promote issues in the interest of all Malaysians?