Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Progressive Singaporean Malay's View

This is a letter posted in Malaysiakini which I came across and would like you and others to think out of the box.

Oct 11, 2006
THE MALAYSIAN MALAY by Dr Syed Alwi of Singapore

Dear Editor,

As you know, I am an avid watcher of Malaysian affairs. I must confess that lately, Malaysia appears to be failing. Not a day passes by without more events that clearly highlight Malaysia’s race-religion fault-line. If things keep going this way, I fear for Malaysia’s future.

Today, schools in Singapore celebrate Racial Harmony Day. I can visibly see the joy in the children’s faces as they wear their ethnic costumes and have fun together at school. But in Malaysia - even the right to choose a religion has become a sensitive, national issue. No doubt, there are many in Malaysia who hate my liberal views on Islam, family included. But I will say what I must say openly. I have come to the conclusion that Malaysia cannot progress any further without first addressing fundamental questions regarding its identity and soul.

I remember the days when we can laugh at Lat’s cartoons on everyday Malaysian life. But sadly, the Islamic tide has polarised Malaysians. Some people ask why I should bother about Malaysian affairs since I am a Singaporean. May I remind Malaysians that it was Tan Siew Sin who once said that Singapore and Malaysia are Siamese Twins. Should Malaysia go down - it would hurt the region tremendously. Especially Singapore.

Where do you think Malay apostates would head for if Lina Joy loses her case? Singapore of course! I find the Malaysian Malay to be very under-exposed. For them, it's all Islam and the NEP and everything under the sun would sort itself out. I am sorry to say this - but Islam and the NEP may be the cause of the undoing of the Malaysian Malay.

There is nothing wrong with religion or affirmative action. But, like everything else in life, they must be taken in moderation and with a pinch of salt. A little doubt is good. Unfortunately in Malaysia, emotions over Islam have overcome reason. What we see today is the result of the NEP and Islamisation policies of the past thirty years or so.

No one owes Malaysian Malays a living. Let me assure you that should Malaysia fail - the Malaysian Malay will suffer enormously. And rightly so. After all - they have been pampered with all sorts of goodies over the years. They cannot now expect more goodies. Perhaps the day of reckoning for them, is near. Whatever it is, Malaysia had better wake up to the realities around her. The globalised world of the 21st century has no NEP to offer the Malaysian Malay. And humans cannot live by religion alone.

Dr Syed Alwi


Anonymous said...

I can't agree with Dr Syed Alwi more.
He is certainly right in saying the above. The Govt is not helping the Malays at all. Without the NEP and the protection, the Malays would be lost in this globalized world.I am not saying all the Malays, but the majority. Take the national car industry, survied because of protectionism. What happened today. There are numerous other examples-pointless to go through all. The Malays got to realise it themselves, untill then nobody can do anything about it.

samp said...

Discrimination in the private sector is everywhere. Even the Chinese businessman who is just starting gets discriminated against more established ones, unless he has a mentor to back him up.

As for career interviews, it is best to get a recommendation first. If I am using my own money, it is my right to choose whom I want - even to the extent of discrimination. Why would I want to hire someone that I cannot have lunch with, work with or converse with?

The BN government on the other hand is discriminating against the non-malays not with the malay money, but with probably the Chinese money as the latter pay the bulk of income tax collected in the country. That we are against.

yuking said...

If we read the Malaysia Federal Constitution of 1957, we will not find the word "bumiputera" - hence some would say the origin of the word is grounded in the political agenda of some politicians to discriminate against citizens not of malay ethnicity.

In short there is no constitutional legitimacy in the use of the term "bumiputera" except for its purpose which is to discriminate for the sake of discriminating.

Some fifty years after independence from the British, the demographic profile of its population has changed. Most of the Chinese/Indians today are no longer foreign born, and through the principle of "jus soli" (Latin meaning "right of the soil") are citizens by birth.

The word "bumiputera" (Sanskrit meaning "son of the soil") which came into popular use after the riots of 1969, is a convenient term not grounded in the science of anthropology but in the politics of race - in other words its use is a convenient invention by malay politicians and malay leaders to justify the policies of Umno which dominated the ruling alliance, which came to be known as the New Economic Policy (NEP).

It could have been called "The Great Affirmative Action Policy" but the architects of the NEP are visionary leaders whose motives go beyond affirmative action.

It is not a coincidence that post-1969 saw the rise of business oriented leaders in Umno and the political demise of the malay school teachers whose hold over power in the party suffered a setback. The labeling is important as events many years later are to demonstrate to us that more is envisaged rather than just affirmative action.

Let there only be one class or let Malaysia be a nation of the "classless". Malaysians do not need a caste system like we find in India.

Enough is enough. The word "bumiputera" creates a class of Malaysians based not on ethnicity but on some dubious criteria with religion factored into it.

It is conceptualized for the convenience of policy makers who rode on the wave of malay nationalism unleashed after May 13, 1969 to maintain their position of power and influence.

The faster we do away with the word "bumiputera" the better it will be. The use of the term "bumiputera" post-1969, I submit, has less to do with affirmative actions but more to do with politicians who see in it the opportunity to maintain their hold over power.

It is time power be handed over to a fresh breed of Malaysians who think less in terms of Malay, Indian and Chinese or "bumiputera" and "non-bumiputera" but more in terms of Malaysians of different ethnic descent.

But let us not lose our perspective. The United States has been independent for more than 200 years but is still today struggling with racism. Malaysia is still politically a toddler learning to walk. Success is about what happens when we fall rather than in the walking.

kok said...

I am currently in one of the top UK universities. Here, we have arguably some of the best minds from the younger generation of Malaysia; many of the top scorers from all over converge here. Every year, around 40 of us enter the university, as undergraduates or postgraduates, and every year, around the same number graduate.

So how many actually go back to Malaysia to contribute their talent to the country? Safe to say, not more than 10 percent of the whole lot. Why? Because quite a number us are disenchanted by the system.

For those who have worked their guts out under the public education system, they just want to get out. This is especially true for those from lower and middle-income families who have to struggle beyond all odds, just because they are not 'special' punished by the system not because of their abilities, but because of their skin color.

Prospects for them to explore their potentials here in the UK after graduation are unhindered by any discriminatory systems.

What about the rest of the younger generation who are not so lucky? Many above-average Malaysian students are denied proper local tertiary education and end up being picked by universities from our neighbouring country (Singapore).

Hundreds of talented students are there because they were not given the proper opportunity at home. After graduating, most of them have to work in that foreign country for a couple of years and chances are that a great portion of them will not be coming back.

I have talked to a close friend from in a similar situation recently and he told to me that it is very depressing; in his own words, he said that he feels "like a destitute, unwanted by his own country" and yet he does not really feel as though he belongs where he is now.

Brain drain by the tank-loads is what we get. Every single year, Malaysia loses people who could potentially contribute to the country immensely.

vesewe said...

That is why malay is the most arrogant, corrupted, racist and terrorist race in the world. To the world population, malay is only a minority. And yet, still keep on talking about Islam, Muslim, Syariah law. Shame on you.

fargoman said...

Little did I know the life changing experience I was to face when I took up the opportunity to be trained in Germany back in 1972 after my A level.

On completion, I spent three years working in Singapore saving enough for a one-way ticket to UK for further studies. Graduated in 1979 with a degree in mechanical engineering and employed by ITT (International Telegraph and Telephone) in London, I was sponsored to continue a part-time master degree in computer science.

By mid-1980s, I was awarded a grant in robotic research at Imperial College. And further studies concluded an MA in e-business.

Having worked and lived in UK for 25 years, it was time to look back on my root in Malaysia. Initial programme by Malaysia government to lure back expertise did not impress me.

By this time I was married with two kids studying in better schools in UK than I can imagine possible in Malaysia. Fortunately I had the hindsight not to uproot my family back to Malaysia.

I understood the affirmative action to uplift the malays during my time. It was understandable and accepted by my generation in return for the right as citizens in Malaysia. In my eyes Umno had breached the contract with the non-malays.

Being born in Malaysia before 1957 and in the spirit of independence, my returning to help build a better Malaysia has been a mistake. I will not go into details here.

A short note should suffice for now. My trying to contribute to society by way of investment and helping the local students in predominantly poorer malay district was repeatedly delayed and later rejected for no reason at all or flimsy and it took me three years.

Contrast this with my experience of setting up and running a company in UK and Singapore in less than a month.

For those who are thinking of coming back to Malaysia I would advise them to think again. The only thing that attract me back to Malaysia in the first place was my connection to my parents who were in Malaysia and too frail to travel. Once they are gone, I have no more reasons to return.

For those who think I have sold my heritage by taking up British citizenship should know that there are no official policies to discriminate minorities in UK.

In fact minorities are often supported, as in the case of my kids Chinese language class, are provided free by the local government. We are judged by my abilities not on color of our skin or our beliefs.

Meanwhile my entire family has taken up British citizenship. I may have lost my right as Malaysian citizen but not the right to visit or stay in Malaysia (silver hair and second home program). My kids will never miss Malaysia (you can't miss what you did not have) and will look forward for a brighter future.

For those who are staying back to fight for their birthright as equal citizens in Malaysia, you have my support and admiration. I apologise for not being able to be with you for now and I hope you understand my decision. But I will in my own way contribute from afar to help in other ways.

To the Malaysia government, I quote, "You cannot build courage and character by taking away a man's initiative and independence." - Lincoln

tim said...

In Japan people commit hara-kiri if they have erred. Here Malaysia we have half past six ministers pointing fingers at each other. See the big difference? Our ministers here their skin is thicker than Kobe beef.

aston said...

Singapore's fervent drive for efficiency especially their pressure cooker education system produces highly efficient straight-jacket bureaucrats. The result is declining entrepreneurial talents. Their government is aware of it.

Fortunately, they can depend on their backwater Malaysia for such talents. It has been proven that the oppressed and suppressed citizenry would most likely to emerge entrepreneurial and highly productive.

So Malaysia is efficiently producing such 'bi-products' to fuel the Singapore fast pace economy. Our discarded 'bi-products', Singapore converts them into jewels, convert wastewater into drinkable water.

As for politicians, they say that most academicians and cultured (educated) people are too polite to be politicians. Exactly that. It is because the responsible and righteously cultured people are too good to be politicians that we abdicate our social responsibilities to safeguard a civil society.

What we vacated, the shameless ones aptly take over and run the country like their own merry land contrary to what a civil society should be. That is the result of our choice. So we now should shut up, and allow them deliver us ISA, OSA, etc, etc, upon us. If we allow monkeys to look after our bananas, it is not the monkeys that are at fault when the bananas are gone, it is us.

Politics and politicking rob the country of productivity although we have to admit that it is also the necessary evil. I am no fan of Lee Kuan Yew, but from my prospective, he has done Singapore good by reducing politics and politicking in the Island and concentrates the people into economic activities.

In Malaysia we do the opposite, tremendous amount of energy and resources are expended in political activities using all sorts of excuse like class, economy, ethnicity and religion to score political points.

Umno and the BN is a humungous resource gulper depleting the nation's treasure chest. Spinning out of control, the BN and in particular Umno has created monstrous GLCs in the way of more productive and efficient private companies.

Economy is basically making the citizenry productive. Like the king that levied astronomical taxes on its subjects eventfully have nothing to tax because the taxes became so burdensome that stifles productivity and eventually there is nothing to for the king to tax. The robbing has to stop. The cake is shrinking. Pretty soon our politicking would be reduced to fighting for the crumbs.

Having said that, my concern is whether our education system will allow for independent, creative and critical thinking. As I see it today, our education system is rigid and promotes rote learning and conformity.

The output of our education system (our local graduates) pretty much answers concern above. Not only I think our young should be exposed to as many varied and diversified fields as possible they should also be exposed to different perspectives even for the same field of studies. The coconut shell should not be known as the sky!

It is such a common exhortations in management that we should have a 'helicopter views' of things. With so many limiting impositions on our local university especially the politic-connection and the racial policies which caused racial segregation, there is a danger of grotesque offspring of in breeding.

Let us remove the coconut shell such that we can look in top down from the 'helicopter views' and the ones inside the shell now can experience the exhilarating atmosphere of the outside world. Open sesame to a new wide worldview.

wihong said...

As a brain drainer whom has fled to Australia, here are my reasons for leaving.

(1) Better government. Australia government is way less wasteful than Malaysia government. I am rather tired of seeing my tax money going into white elephants and useless projects while our Malaysia schools are getting neglected. Oh, and my tax returns are guaranteed to be paid back in 10 days. Usually I will get my tax returns in 4 to 5 working days.

(2) Better lifestyle. I cannot own a car and still be able to get around Australia. I am looking forward to do my masters degree in a proper university environment and being supported by the government through PELS scheme and tax deduction.

(3) Better traffic. Besides Sydney, traveling around cities in Australia is quite a relaxing task. You don't have to deal with some corrupt policemen or crazy drivers.

(4) Things are actually affordable here. You might have to pay 10 bucks for a plate of 'char koay teow', but the size of the plate you can share is with 3 people in Malaysia. Oh, and you get the big prawns too.

Like someone said, I go back to Malaysia for the 3Fs - family, friends and food. If I do stay in Malaysia, I do not see a future for myself or my family. My children will be discriminated at school. Education will be extremely expensive. And I will die earlier due to all the pollution in the air.

As many doctors leave Malaysia every year, there are more illegal Indonesian workers coming in and became citizens so easily. The country does not only flush away good brains but also refill with……….(sigh) - this is an insane country.

No no no, this is not insane. We did great things to the world you know, like providing brains to others, and accepting rubbish from others. That is a Malaysia Boleh!

reek said...

It seems to me that BN is a fellowship of cheats and thieves, corrupted and unprincipled idiots, morons, sexists, tyrants who steal from public coffers.

God, with 90% BN members in parliament, who needs a parliament?

honyang said...

I refer to the explanation for the 'reluctant apologies' by these two guys. They say they were defending the BN and its leader.

I say, Pak Lah, I am sure you have better guys to defend you than these two 'mouth leaking' political monkeys.

Now the whole world is laughing at us. How unfair just because I am a Malaysian.

Now, I hope no pea-brained ministers or political monkeys will become so sensitive to tell us not to even mention the word 'bocor' because it symbolises Malaysia.

If BN continues to bring in these type of 'bocor' people into their fold, it shows they don't have much talents in their team. I think this is the beginning of their end.

I would like to air my bit on our two buffoons if I may. It shows the class and the mentality of our elected representatives. The speaker managed to drop the issue like a hot potato after searching for a technicality.

The prime minister conveniently 'hears no evil, sees no evil'. The women's minister is happy with a 'closure'. So tell me what else is new. After all the fuss we are back to square one. A very unique Malaysia solution. God helps us all.

Dear Bung and Said, I will not address you by your titles as they are meant to be honorific titles.

Apparently, sometimes it takes an eye for an eye to realise the mistakes you clowns made. Let me ask you this and after my question, I would like to quickly apologise for it - would you be not be angry if someone posed the same question to your wives?

My question posed is in jest (as defended by Najib) and if it offends you, I would like to perhaps retract the question or quite possibly even apologise for it (without any pressure).

Our sleepy prime minister as usual will not take any actions against these clowns. What can you expect from a corrupt, racist, sexist and poor performing government. Folks, why do we still put up with these clowns?

Time to vote for DAP, PKR and PAS. We have a democracy in place but yet we have failed to exercise it.

ruyom said...

Nope. You got the equation wrong.

BN won was because there is no equal playing field. In a free democratic country, all parties are given adequate airtime on national television, newspaper, Late Show with David Letterman, etc.

Here, coverage is only for BN. Each time you switch on the TV, you will see our Bapa Slogan sleepy face. You don't have a chance to catch a glimpse of any of our oppositions figure. Tell me when was the last time you watch Anwar on national TV?

All the draconian laws in Malaysia prohibit free speech, and our local mainstream media will have to abide by it. Try to switch on to any of our TV news at 8 o'clock later and the answer is very clear there.

In conclusion, our oppositions are not weak. It is the unfair level of playing field. Period.

San said...

It is the racial division in all facets of the government's racially based policies that has led, and unfortunately, is still forcing non-malay Malaysians to head for overseas for better opportunities in all fields.

I left Malaysia about 20 years ago. I left not because the economy was in a bad shape. It was in a good shape! In fact, I would have done better if I had stayed behind. I left because I was fed up with the divisive racial-based policies of the government that I experienced since as long as I could remember. And I felt there was no way I could change the system.

When I was in lower secondary at a government-aided school, I was wondering why only the Chinese pupils had to buy textbooks and pay the monthly school fees. Some others had it all free. I didn't know the rationale then but could only envy them.

Later on, I was surprised when two malay classmates were selected to proceed to do the then Higher School Certificate (Form Six then) although I had far superior academic results than both of them. I missed the selection.

Every Monday morning we stood shoulder to shoulder at the school assembly and sung the same national anthem with the same gusto and yet we were treated differently. Again, I couldn't understand all that.

I had at great expense to my parents, to do my HSC at a private college before embarking on my tertiary education overseas (you guessed it right - I was rejected by the local universities).

Upon my return, I found to my great disappointment that nothing had changed and that the malay and non-malay concept was still firmly entrenched in all aspects of government policies.

I didn't want my children to compete in such an unfair environment. I wanted them to have 'a fair go' especially in education. For this reason, I left Malaysia. This was the same reason that drove so many well-educated, multi-skilled non-malay Malaysians to leave.

Malaysia simply can't afford to lose so many highly educated, highly skilled non-malays. Other countries will only be too happy to welcome them. Just imagine the benefits they stand to gain without having to outlay any costs to train them.

If Malaysia is to survive competitively at the international level, it has to seriously reassess its racially motivated policies. The polices have failed to uplift the well-being of the malays with the exception of the well-connected elite group.

Admission to all local tertiary courses, the appointments to public office, the tendering of contracts etc, have to be based solely on merit not along racial lines. Public scholarship to higher studies should be likewise too.

Malaysia's future is at stake.

Anonymous said...

Kita memerlukan lebih ramai Melayu seperti Dr Syed.Progesif, sikap terbuka dan berani mengutarakan sesuatu. Inilah Melayu baru! Inilah Melayu yang sanggup bersaing dalam alaf baru! Inilah jenis Melayu yang akan membawa harapan kepada Malaysia!Malaysia Boleh jika kita punyai lebih Melayu seperti Dr Syed Alwi. Syabas!

Speechless said...

When today's bad news of the biased decision of the court came out regarding Lina Joy's human right (after 8 long years!!) to remove the word 'Islam' from her IC, I wept in bitterness, not only for Lina but also for Malaysia-it has let me down. For years I had believe in sharing everything and the affirmative policy but this court decision meant that there is a very special race and religion with special rights. Even the Singaporean Malays got it right and learnt to compromise.
At this time, I have decided that my inventive 11-year-old kid-a potential Bill Gates who loves to strip toys and build movable 'robots' from them-will one day leave this country and never remain. There is no bright future for him and non-Malays.

Colonel M. said...

I believe that PM Badawi is making one blunder after another: He acts on the presumption that his so-called Islamic Hadhari or progressive Islamic values will lessen corruption, crime, etc. Instead, it has not succeeded but made & is making radical Muslims more intolerant towards others. In incorporating this hadhari thing into public service, look at the high profile examples of apparent corruption & possible corruption, etc. Hadhari and the sucking up to other arab states is also a folly as those states like M'sia are tolerated because of oil wealth, etc. which do not last forever. Hadhari, with Islamic banking, etc. I hope is not a guise to lead us backward into a theocracy which has never succeeded, like shameful Dark Ages Iran with no humanity.

Luke said...

Dear visitors, Thank you for all your comments and opinions.

I confess honestly that it was not my original intention to enable this blog for the discussion on the issues of race, religion, etc.

Events, however, such as the Lina Joy case, which is so outrageously unjust in the eyes of many of us decent, God-fearing Malaysians that I had to take a stand and share a letter like that by a truly compassionate person, Dr. Syed Alwi. In fact, I was twiddling my thumb for quite a long time, leaving his letter buried in another less publicised blog of mine, right after God opened my eyes to it.

I share a similar sense of anger, frustration and outrage that many of you so eloquently expressed here on the sorry state of affairs in Malaysia these days.

Like some of you, I was also once a foreign student overseas in the '80s, in Canada to be exact, and I could see the Malaysian situation from a distance.To think out of the box, so to speak. But unlike many Malaysians overseas that I know of, the gung-ho 'patriotic' character of mine made me more of a rare non-Malay overseas flag-waver than a flag- burner in those days.

In the '80s it wasn't so bad socially and politically but now it's not getting better... So I am taking a stand for myself, my family and freedom-loving Malaysians.

Islam may be our official religion as the constitution states; it does not mean Malaysia is an Islamic State. The overwhelming non-Muslim partner-states of Sarawak and Sabah have a moderating role in this proper balance of the religion and I say that Malaysia is a secular nation.
Justice has not been done in Lina Joy's case. I am sorry for her and the other tragic cases of apostates who have been shamefully separated from their loved ones and are detained in re-education centres. The narrow-mindedness of a few, including the 2 offensive M.P.s is making our whole country a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.

Sad apostate said...

Where is justice and my human rights when I have to be harassed by family members, so-called friends, neighbours and religious authorities if I believe in another religion? Why must a person I love need to convert to Islam to marry me? Why can't Malaysia be like more advanced countries like the U.S., Singapore, the United Kingdom and many others in letting us decide what and whom we believe in?