I hate to write this but the recent hoohaa over 'Chinese as immigrants' and 'Chinese should be grateful' are greatly disturbing and at the same time, mind boggling too.
I would like to share my own family's history with you all. It all started when a wealthy Chinese tycoon who had 'made it' in Malaya brought his countrymen from his impoverish village in the province of Guangdong to Malaya. My great-grandfather had to sacrifice family comfort and risked uncertainty to come to Malaya for work. With only a paltry sum of money in his pockets, he journeyed through the South China Sea in a packed merchant vessel and headed off into the unknown.
When he arrived in Johor Bharu, he worked numerous jobs. He was a waiter as well as a lottery centre cashier. He worked very hard and was promoted to the post of a manager with the lottery centre after many years; his boss gave him a huge bonus after a windfall year. With the money, he invested in real estate in the then-fledging Kuala Lumpur in the late 1890s.
Then he went into tin-mining. He made more money and my family became one of the richest in Kuala Lumpur. Back then when there were fewer than a thousand cars in Kuala Lumpur, my family had four and even a driver. My grandfather was chauffeured to school in the 1920s.
Then came the Japanese and while the majority of the Chinese were the target of the Japanese aggression, my family which went hiding somewhere near Balakong were spared simply because we were rich and gave all of our cars to the Japanese. In a rare gesture of humanity then, they gave a smaller car back as there are old people and pregnant women amongst family members.
When the British returned, my family suffered another blow financially as all the converted 'banana money' was unrecognised. Then the tin-mining industry collapsed. All my granduncles went their separate ways after my great-grandmother passed away and we were poor.
My grandfather bought a wooden house in Cheras (demolished many years back as it was a squatter settlement) and my father and his siblings had to worked very hard to support the family. In the early 70s, my grandfather bought a double-storey terrace house with his life savings and my family had been living there since. My dad now ran his own business and we had a few properties.
Please pardon me should my story bored you but this is to illustrate that ethnic Chinese do not have it easy. My family fortunes raises and fall throughout the century. My dad started working as a storekeeper in a small company, and later as a store manager at a well-known hotel. Then he started his own business in the backyard of my house. Now he has three factories.
Many years back when business were bad and I had to go to university, he had to withdraw his entire EPF (pension) savings to finance my education. It is sheer hard work and determination. Sometimes, ethnic Chinese are born rich but they are not rich all throughout their lives. To be rich and comfortable, we had to work very hard.
One can't blame me for feeling disgust and disturbed by sweeping statements about the ethnic Chinese for my family members and many other 'minorities' worked very hard to achieve what they have today. For years, I have not really complained how unjust and unfair the New Economic Policy (NEP) is but for all its bad and good, I just could not tolerate there are people with the mindset that the NEP is there to 'help them gain what is rightfully theirs'.
So, is taxing people of their hard-earned money a noble way of helping the majority? I do not mind being taxed to help the poor and any race, but not for someone to get discounts when buying a huge mansion in a gated community.
On patriotism, I have represented Malaysia in a number of events and forums internationally. My grandfather is a high-ranking officer with the police force (after the tin-mining crash). And we do fly and honour (I do not simply fly the flag everywhere without respect) our Jalur Gemilang for the entire month during our national day celebration. And of course, I always put myself first as a Malaysian when dealing with the international community. So are we patriotic?
My family is into the fifth generation here in this soil. The Chettiers, Peranakans and the Eurasians are here for hundred of years. Are we still immigrants?
Our neighbouring country had an ethnic Chinese as a prime minister (ex-PM now) and the chief of Armed Forces a Muslim. Are the majority there punished? Are they marginalised or mistreated? If they could see and elect their leaders beyond the confines of race and religion, I believe we could. Malaysia Boleh!