As Malaysians ease their daily lives through 50 years of independence from colonialism, many will testify that we are far from the dream of a united Malaysia. The vegetables in the melting pot of Malaysia proved too raw and resilient. Is the fire not hot enough to disintegrate the fibres or do the vegetables need to be chopped finer? I would say a bit of both.
Racial and religious tensions have stood the test of time and will continue to be the sensitive agenda in human civilisation. When Malaya was born, the dominating Malays had stamped their claim by enshrining their special rights in the Federal Constitution. The Chinese and Indians, whether they agreed or not, decided to honour their claim. It has started a racial dilemma because 'Ketuanan Melayu' has a vague but vast social implication.
As a second generation Chinese Malaysian, I initially failed to understand the social contract concept thanks to the impotence of the Malaysian education system. In school, I mixed well with people of other races. I find the Malays to be most helpful and courteous. But no one can stop the thoughts and feelings of racial unfairness creeping up to me with age. The initial reaction of most people was to hope that this discriminatory economic policy would be abolished one day.
It feels as if we all want to usher the Malays along the path to prosperity so that this nightmare would be over sooner. Currently, it looks like it might take a few more generations. Fifty years is a long time to allow a race to develop and uplift itself. Look at Japan and Germany. After the devastation of the Second World War, they rose, built their confidence and became developed nations in a matter of a few decades. In Malaysia, we have a one-sided policy to aid the Malays in all possible angles yet statistics fail to prove their economic dominance.
There is a certain malaise in how the whole thing has evolved. You can either blame the system for creating an unhealthy practice of corruption and layback attitude or you can blame the Malay race for lacking progressive attitudes. In any sense, the system and the mentality of the Malay-dominated politicians are too focused on the materialistic side of the unification process.
The social and religious aspects of Malaysia are not being handled progressively. Issues like the Lina Joy case, the destruction of Hindu temples, the issue of conversion of race based on religion, fair elections, the misuse of ISA, freedom to voice your concerns and so forth are only dealt with as it comes. I find that the government is anxiously struggling with these issues, trying to be sensitive to all sides but without an answer to them.
Racial unity means different races living in harmony, treating other religions and cultures with respect. The unification of Malaysians needs a massive revamp of the social system, not just economic system. That is where the BN leaders got it wrong. All these have to start with how the brain cells of politicians work - for the good of the nation, not their race only, for God's sake! The two roles would overlap but do not abandon other race completely.
Hindraf is trying to carry the voice of the forgotten Indians who has no where else to seek help. Although I fail to understand why they need to sue the British government for so many trillion ringgit (apart from global publicity), I admire their attempted Robin Hood effort.
The social tension that started during colonial times continue to fluctuate in our 50th year of independence. The current discriminatory system is outdated, inadequate and inappropriate to handle it. I fear that instead of preventing another May 13, it might just be boiling up a bigger one. I don't want to be around when it happens. I doubt there will be a conclusive answer to create lasting equality, peace and harmony in Malaysia. But at least start by treating each other with a little respect and helping each other when in need.