I am writing in reference to the Toyota salesmen and the national language. Saad Hashim, while being perceptive to the environment around him, especially with regard to 'unity building', is slightly off the mark with his solution.
He remarks, 'When every Malaysians speaks Bahasa as a matter of course, then we will get somewhere". Well, my response to that is define 'somewhere'. If 'somewhere' means interaction among the races along the lines of mutual respect thereby creating a path to national solidarity and possibly a national identity, then I think you are on the wrong path.
Creating national unity is one thing and creating a national identity (the next step) is yet another. However, they both require a unifying element - a sense of equality (of belonging, of having an equal stake, shared values etc.) among the parties involved. If you cannot have racial equality, an ethnic group's allegiance is almost always to its family, its tribe/group, against a common threat and lastly to country - in that order.
The solution to integration (or 'integrasi nasional' as the subject was called shortly after May 1969) is to create the basis for national unity conferring with all ethnic groups, respecting each group's position, ensuring equality in all aspects that true nationality confers and then proceed to the subsequent steps in addressing the economic imbalances that Saad Hashim talks about.
In Malaysia, BN politicians are notorious for never acknowledging the racial issue since this will require a compromise on their position. Hence, rather than face the problem head on, they look to symbolisms as an indication of solidarity - flag flying, speaking the same language, sign-posts in Bahasa, military conscription, buying Protons etc, in the hopeless expectation that somehow, national solidarity will emerge. Vast sums of public funds are being wasted on these futile endeavours when it is already a foregone conclusion that failure (national solidarity) is guaranteed at the outset.
This is akin to building a house on a swamp without first draining it, a guaranteed failure. So they plod on year after year, one failed enterprise after another looking for the alchemist's dream. Hey, wait a minute. Each of these failed enterprises is an opportunity to make money - national service requires uniform supplies, food tenders, cafeteria tenders, gasoline supplies, cooking supplies etc, so it is actually profitable to engage in this 'integrasi nasional' business!
The great irony is that way back during my school days, we never felt our racial differences to the extent that I see it now. We played, laughed and intermingled with visits to each other's homes as a matter of course. All this when Bahasa Malaysia was not even a factor.
No Saad Hashim, I am not mocking you, only the BN system. Indeed, I am pleasantly surprised that you spent your free time reflecting on a very fundamental issue facing Malaysia. I wish more BN politicians would reflect like you did and try to do the correct thing.