My ancestors risked their lives, cramped into small boat, and sailed from China to Malaysia. They will be mad and may haunt me from their graves if I were to leave Malaysia. How’s that for an answer?
Now, here is my answer to your question. The only reason why I choose to continue to live in this country is because this is my home. It’s that simple. I have a job, and life goes on as usual. Here’s the thing – people often talk about discrimination in other countries, but in Malaysia, the Chinese and Indians do not see it as discrimination. We see it as preferential or special privilege given by the government to the majority Malays. This affirmative actions on behalf of the majority Malays are limited to official and government institutions. Beyond that jurisdictions, life is the same as in other countries. Hence, Chinese and Indians are rarely found in those institutions.
In order for Malaysia to progress to become a fairer society, the one way and only place to begin this endeavor is through education. What this means is politicians from different races must come to an agreement that Malaysian children must grow up and schooled together under the same roof. These children will become our future generation, who will then lead Malaysia to become a fairer country. Unfortunately, what we have in Malaysia today are schools that are designed to cater for different races. We have Chinese school. We have Indian school. We have Islamic religious school. These schools admit student from their race, say 99% are all the same color. Kids attending Chinese school never have to worry about eating BBQ pork in their canteen. The Malay kids attending Islamic religious school may have different experience all together. During fasting months, everyone fast and not a single soul can be seen eating or drinking in canteen. They may even witness the ‘sacrifice’ of cows during festive seasons. Then, of course, Indian kids will never ever see any ‘sacrifice’ of cows in their own Indian school, since cow is sacred to Indians. Imagine how will these kids grow up after their high school?
Majority of the Malays kids will go to UiTm, which is, a special universities for the Malays. We have plenty of UiTM in Malaysia. Chinese and Indian kids will, if they are very clever and matured, go to the limited public universities. Upon graduating from tertiary education, these kids will enter into the working society. Now remember, ‘special privilege’ is very real in government or official institutions. Graduates from UiTM will be channeled to become civil servants – teachers, police, inspectors, judge and officers in national institutions. Graduates from public universities will most likely be absorbed by private sectors. All grown up now. Suddenly, these newly grown up adults, whom never experienced life shared other races before, are suddenly put together. In my opinion, this is the true formula for disaster. What they will naturally find is culture shock in their own country. Of course, we do not recognize it as culture shock in Malaysia. We simply call all the wrong happenings as ‘insensitive’ or ‘rude’. Those Chinese continues to eat BBQ pork, some may do so right in front of a Malays colleagues. Malays teachers, perhaps from these special schools, forces non-Muslim students to eat lunch in toilet or sacrificing cows in front of Indian students. To these religious Malay teachers, eating in fasting months is a sin, and they have never had to deal with non-Muslim in all their life before. Many of them also see cow sacrifice as a norm. Indians, not knowing any better, also do something that offends others.
Many of my friends expressed anger when the above mentioned happened or when they read them in newspaper. However, I am of the opinion that these happened because each race had live their life in their own community for too long, and our education system had completely failed to educate all of us a shared life concept with different races. Everyone ended up having culture shocks when we start to work. I don’t expect one who never had a shared life with other races to be able to understand and empathize other races so easily.
Hence, I do not believe anything will change in the next 10 years. Our politicians really need to stop demanding more Chinese, Indians or Islamic religious schools. All these can be done inside the same school building by splitting up the kids few hours a week to study their own mother tongue or religion. We really do not need to split up the kids into different schools. Instead, we must put them under the same roof. That is the only way I know how to do it…. I know it’s politically unpopular, but it will work.
Hong Chung Chow