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An open letter to my non-Malay friends

This piece is meant to be read alongside "An open letter to my Malay friends" published on Malaysiakini on Aug 31, 2012.

Malaysia is a powerful idea, which is still believed by Malaysians far and wide, no matter how long they have been away from her. This idea will only remain a dream if all of us, as Malaysians, do not work together to make this idea into a reality. This is the reason I am writing this open letter to my Non-Malay friends.

First of all I would like to congratulate all my fellow Malaysians on Tanah Melayu's 55th year of Independence from the British, which finally led to Malaysia's Independence as a whole.

Like most of you, I too believe Malaysia is already at a crossroad. What turn we take next, will depend on you, my dear Non-Malay friends.

You, my dear non-Malay friends, hold a very important key to deciding Malaysia's future, which without, will only condemn our Malaysian idea to only an unfulfilled dream.

No matter what other fellow Malaysians who have left think about non-existent opportunities in Malaysia, Forbes on the other hand tells us that at least in 2006, within the top 40 wealthiest people in Malaysia, only 10 of them are Malay, or bumiputera.

With or without the "bumiputera special privileges" they talk so much about, the top eight of the wealthiest people in Malaysia are in-fact non-Malays, while the wealthiest of them all is a Chinese.

Our state of Penang chief minister is a non-Malay. Try and go to any of these economically successful persons and ask them if they had any lack of opportunities to succeed. I am pretty sure they will tell you otherwise.

Economically, my non-Malay friends have always been ahead. In 1970, the bumiputera only had 2% of the economy, while the chinese had 33% and the rest were held by foreigners.

After 34 years in 2004, even though the bumiputera makes 60% of the population, economic ownership has only increased to 19%.

Though we see the advances made by our Malay friends, my non-Malay friends have gone further ahead: They successfully increased their ownership of national wealth beyond the 40% mark.

This hold on the economy by my non-Malay friends have directly or indirectly limited opportunities available to our Malay friends.

It is perhaps due to the nature of our non-Malay friends to limit their sphere of influence to their own race. It is the norm to have "Chinese only" or "Mandarin required" open position adverts regardless if the job is only as an IT technician or even a lorry driver.

The fact that the Mandarin or "becoming Chinese" subjects were not compulsory requirements in our education doesn't seem lost. Thus economically, our non-Malay friends have a bigger say to promote changes in Malaysia.

Due to the bigger economic clout my non-Malay friends have, they are able to afford a higher level of education not easily accessible to my Malay friends. It makes sense when we see that 80% of the overseas Malaysians are non-Malays.

For the Malays, having an opportunity for an overseas education will most of the time equal to having some sort of scholarship somewhat, most of the time from the government.

After 55 years of independence, this is somewhat still true. The income disparity between Malays and non-Malays is still apparent.

Chinese households earn an average of twice more than the Malay household in Malaysia.

It is then only natural that we need the collective intellectual input of these high learning non-Malay friends to build our country to further Malaysia's greatness.

Unfortunately at the same time, Cuepecs tells us that due to the lack of interest of our non-Malay friends to help out in the government, in 2012 out of the 1.2 million applications to work for the government, only 2.1% are from our Chinese friends (These are only applications, not the number of accepted applications!).

Their reasons of not joining are because of low pay, and because they want high ranking positions if they enter the civil service.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, the current MP for Lembah Pantai, said, "One Malaysian regardless of race, who has left the country... is a loss to us. They should be here celebrating, to improve the economy. I detest many people trying to singularly find out whether they are Malays, Chinese or Indians."

My sentiments too exactly. Race is a non-issue. Unfortunately, this is not shared by my non-Malay friends. In a 2006 opinion poll by the Asia Foundation found out that a majority of the Chinese correspondents put ethnic first before nationality, while the majority of Malay correspondents put their religion first before nationality.

On the other hand, my ethnically Indian friends, overwhelmingly identify themselves as Malaysian first before their ethnicity.

This might explain why we have all sort of things happening where the identity and pride of the race is more important than the aspirations of the nation itself, such as Dong Zong demands for the SRJK(C) school to have only 100 percent teachers trained in Mandarin for its schools.

There was also a non-Malay friend of mine who questioned why was he unable to register his name officially at the Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara in Chinese characters.

He specifically pointed out the fact that he could do it in Japan (where he worked) but not in his home country, and this equals to discrimination and double standards practised in the country.

Another non-Malay friend of mine, who happened to be a staunch supporter of "Bersih", cursed an ethnic Chinese policeman who was doing his job protecting our prime minister from demonstrators, saying that the policeman is a disgrace to his race and demanding that the policeman ask forgiveness from his ancestors.

All and any issue that we have in Malaysia is not caused by one race alone.

One portion of our people are too scared that they will be coolies in their own country due to their lack and inability for more economic control, while another portion of our people are building walls around themselves due to their fear that their deemed as superior identity and so-called 'rights' will be overruned.

Unfortunately, the former has very little room to help out in the economic front because their involvement is too limited, while the latter has little say on how the country is being run because they are uninterested to take part in the system, more so when they deem that doing so is a degrading thing to do.

What saddens me most is that everyone complains and screams of injustice but when you look at it a little bit closer, no one is really making an effort of taking part and working together with their fellow countrymen to build the country.

We then take to the streets calling the fight the "good fight for justice" and making comparisons to Burma or even the Arab Spring.

And the brain drain? I am not really worried about this. The world is too small now. AirAsia has made it possible for you to get to the other side of the world without much effort.

You can always contribute back to your motherland wherever you are at, just like how the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi in Penang used to send money back to Fujian in China.

Monetarily, you can always send money back to your family in Malaysia, or even start a small business in Malaysia to support your overseas business, and pay corporate tax. More importantly, you can train Malaysians with the knowledge and skills you have gained abroad.

If it means that you would have to forgo your connections and opportunities outside of Malaysia to come back and contribute, it would actually be best that you stay wherever you are, and contribute remotely to your motherland.

When there's a will, there will always be a way.

When the time comes though, we should all be back to put our votes in the ballots, or do that at your nearest Malaysian mission (they plan to pass a law so you can do this).

Our democracy unfortunately does not recognise "voting by feet", no matter how strong you root for Malaysia. Doing that doesn't really change things much. We need to put papers into ballot boxes, in order to make a difference in this democracy.

So my dear non-Malay friends, every Malaysian, regardless of our skin colour, are responsible to make the Malaysian Idea a reality. The time all of us should have realized this has passed. It is not a zero-sum game.

It has never been, and it will never be a "we against them" issue. No matter how hard you try to build walls around yourself, none of us will be going away any time soon. There is only "us" in this land.

References:


1. http://www.rockybru.com.my/2010/02/jobs-in-malaysia.html
2. http://www.yyjob.net/detail-57973-e-learning-business-consultant-chinese-only.php
3. http://job-search.jobstreet.com.my/malaysia/job-classified.php?by=chinese-ads
4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16284388
5. http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/51191-so-you-think-you-know-the-voters
6. http://bigcatrambleon.blogspot.jp/2012/03/racial-extremists-endangering-chinese.html
7. And also the writer's own experiences