Monday, September 6, 2010

Ave Atque Vale there's a time and place for everything. The place is here. I just need to find the right time.

Something to ponder....

Sunday, September 5, 2010
I am...
I am a Malaysian.

With that notion firmly entrenched, I bear witness that my country is now 53 years old. It was an age ripened from the valiant efforts of yesteryears’ soldiers who fought for our country’s independence from both internal forces and foreign masters. Though many lost their lives (and are now remembered in memorials such as God’s Little Acre in Batu Gajah or honoured during Warriors Day), the nation was really one in uniting against the perils of communist and rejoicing together when the Union Jack was lowered many years ago. The Malayans simply lived together as religious and racial differences were assimilated to celebrate independence.

Now, Malaysia is an independent nation and unfortunately, the same ‘independence’ has lost its value. While we no longer have to survive communism or colonialism, we are struggling against new evils that were never there. There is a worrying trend of rising racism and religious intolerance between the different races in Malaysia, no doubt fuelled by unscrupulous parties out to serve their own causes. At the same time, we have leaders who preached about ‘Vision 2020’, ‘Malaysia Boleh’, ‘Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang’ and the latest to join the bandwagon is to point one finger upward and utter ‘One Malaysia’.

I am perturbed by how we’re defined by what our leaders label us to be. Far more amusing is that we allow these linguists, the opportunities to ‘reinvent’ Malaysia time and time again when everybody knows the main problem remains unsolved.

Vision 2020 is fast approaching and Malaysia is nowhere near the intended aim of becoming a first world developed nation. Well, if having the KLIA and hosting the Sepang Grand Prix once a year are the cornerstones of a developed nation, then hooray for us. And perhaps Vision 2010 was also dreamt for moments when we burst with pride that our local universities managed to be in the top 200 universities in the world ranking, one that befits our country’s aim of becoming the region’s top education hub. After all, it’s definitely none of our business that neighbouring countries’ universities are mostly ranked in the top 50! Our consolation (and we’re great at finding excuses) could be in the well known story of the hare and tortoise where the tortoise will eventually win. The problem is, we were actually the hare back in those days when our premier university was racing together with NUS, side-by-side.

What the education system in Malaysia today is, at best, one of a handicapped tortoise. We’re handicapped in every sense of the word, from graduates who can’t string a perfect sentence in English to educators who treat teaching with much passion as a toothache. But don’t let that dampen our spirits as we have thousands of graduates jamming the job market! Seriously, Malaysians are really lucky because we must be the only country where students are treated as the shuttlecock in changing the medium of instruction from English to Bahasa at one’s whim and fancy. And because what could be the next smart move to abolish national examinations in place of ‘assessments’, everyone will probably be assessed as smart because now, everybody gets to enter university. If you’re unable to enter one of the many local universities (I think at last count, there was 17), one can always go to the countless private universities mushrooming in every nook and cranny. It’s your choice whether you want to opt for an internationally branded private university or an education institution located on the first floor of a shop lot. If you’re undecided in pursuing which course to take, there is no need to seek out professional advice. Just read the stacks of brochures hurled at our doorsteps promoting quality education for all (but please excuse their glaring grammatical errors and suspicious contact numbers). Finally, Vision 2020 is also envisaged for the nation’s youngsters to grow up as borrowers (and eventual defaulters) as education loans are readily and easily available. It is indeed a bargain to borrow thousands of Ringgit for a degree that could be, in most cases, not even worth the paper they’re printed on.

Further, who could blame us for reveling in Malaysia Boleh when we won a handful of medals back in the 1998’s Commonwealth Games? We were the proud hosts, eager to show that Malaysia is able to stand in the eyes of the world. Okay, so we hosted but what were the costs involved again? I do not believe the accounts have been tabled for the citizens to see just how much the nation has spent for vanity’s sake. And yes, Thomas Cup belonged to us back in 1992. That was the Malaysia Boleh moment that saw every Malaysian kid picking up the racquet and shuttlecock in their bid to be the next Sidek brothers. But it is now 2010 and 5 successive campaigns have passed without the Cup in our possession.
Malaysia Boleh could probably be the explanation why the old Subang International Airport (an important building in our country’s history) was demolished to build, and this was a shocking surprise, another airport! Well, it’s now named as some sort of Sky Park but hey, Malaysia Boleh spend okay. Other governments think thrice and scrimp to get money but let us show you the way. Boleh demolish, boleh build, vice-versa. Either way, money will line certain already well-lined pockets.

Then there’s Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang. Honestly, I do not even know the meaning of those words. Perhaps it is ‘cemerlang’ that it only took our fifth prime minister a few years in office before retiring. One should really consider the previous prime minister’s tenure (and my God, he could almost rival the reign of Soeharto or if he’s a royal, the revered King Bhumibol of Thailand or English Queen Victoria). Well, most of us viewed the fourth prime minister’s reign as a regime anyway. It could also be ‘gemilang’ that government officers were directed to wear ‘batik’ every 1st and 15th of the month. I may not be fashionably inclined but who will actually do serious work when one is dressed up for a reception? I am lost for words in considering ‘terbilang’. I’m taking a shot here but has it got anything to do with the number of shrimps hurled to court for allegations of graft and corruption? Or maybe it refers to the lobsters tiding their sunset years with huge mounts of cash in Swiss banks, happy in the thought that lady justice will not be catching up on them anytime soon.

Finally, the ideals of ‘1 Malaysia’. I would be driving on highways and I’m forced to read huge billboards stating ‘1 Impian, 1 Harapan, 1 Malaysia’. The thing that struck my curiosity is this. Why the need to brand ourselves as 1 Malaysia? My grandparents and parents experienced a life made complete with their friends of different races. Sure, they worshipped different gods but they were united in friendship that transcended the influences of masjid, church or temple. They had no need to use separate tables, hang out in racially defined groups or view each other in a hateful manner. There were no assaults just because the other person belongs to a different race. Most importantly, there was never the despicable need to shout at someone to ‘balik Tongsan, China, India’ or wherever that our ancestors came from. And yet, those are the very things happening now under ‘1 Malaysia’. Isn’t it ironic and downright absurd to claim 1 Malaysia when racial intolerance has permeated into the social fabric of the Malaysian society?

I am deeply disgusted that a school principal uttered derogatory remarks about our friends of the Chinese heritage. I am more appalled that one race is seen to be protected more than the rest when it should be that all must be protected under the flag. I am saddened that May 13 happened (though there exists an irritating doubt that what I learnt from the history books are formulated truths) but enough is enough. It is time that we need to exist as Malaysians without any labels. By strict definition, I consider myself a Malay-Chinese Malaysian (given my mixed heritage) but I will not, at any time support racial extremists who see Malaysia as part of their God-given land. Nor will I condone any calls asking my Chinese and Indian friends to return elsewhere for I would need to go with them as well.

We are all here on borrowed time and the land where ‘tumpahnya darahku’ belongs either to all of us or none at all. Happy 53rd Merdeka and a wish for the upcoming 1st Malaysia Day.
Written by Raja Syarafina RS at 10:47 PM 0 hand prints to be shared
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