Saturday, September 1, 2007

I'm No Politician...

There are a few things I want to say today: I believe I did ruffle a few feathers out there when I said I wasn't going to fly the flag earlier on. Okay, you turkeys, I didn't fly it but it was no big deal. I was just talking about a small cheap flag for my car. Every year in the past I did fly one or two.

It was interesting to notice that there were very few flags- that is - in Miri proper, been flown on vehicles this year.

Before saying anything else, I want to remind my buddies and visitors out there that I'm not a politician. I don't wish to be chameleon, modifying my camouflage colors to suit my surroundings-in short-sucking up to the top just to get something , usually a selfish desire. Don't get me wrong - there are exceptions to some politicians who have cast aside their own the Tunku, Malaysia's founding father.

So what does it feel like to be overseas and then back to Malaysia...I guess in some ways pretty much like Gulliver in Jonathan Swift's insightful satirical Gulliver's Travels.

Here's what Malaysiakini (The must-read out of the box online paper) has interestingly's a charmingly well-written letter from a lady by the name of Susan B.... Hmmmnnnn ...wonder if she's single and available for a handsome neighborly Sarawakian bachelor...

England, Sabah and Merdeka thoughts
Susan B
Aug 30, 07 2:23pm
Adjust font size:
Come August every year, there seem to be this sudden need to be patriotic or to talk about Malaysia’s development, to reminisce of the idyllic past when race and religion did not seem to divide the people. I, too, am caught up with the Merdeka thoughts and would like to share a recent experience.

I have been away doing my postgraduate studies in England for the last year and returned to Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. It felt really strange leaving England. I tried to take in as much of the scenery as I could on the way to London’s Heathrow airport to return here. There were pangs of sadness and I shed some tears along the way.

As expected I exceeded the luggage allowance by 9kg. There’s no point trying to explain your way hoping to get some sympathy from the counter officer. In England, it seems the rules are adhered to strictly - a 20kg allowance means a 20kg allowance. In Malaysia (well, in Sabah at least) most people will tell a sob story and the counter officers will look at you as if it is the saddest story they’ve ever heard and then say, ‘Okay, I’ll let you through this time without paying but next time don’t do it again’.

The journey home was not interesting, nothing much to tell. It was a full flight, with many Malaysians of all races on board. I remember reading the in-flight magazine and getting annoyed reading the 50 reasons why it’s great to be independent (in reference to the 50th anniversary of our independence). Whoever wrote that piece needs to be sacked!

Things written included reasons like ‘Because we can eat ‘nasi lemak’ at a food stall at 2am’. My goodness! Are we that desperate to find 50 good reasons? I mean, I enjoy my ‘nasi lemak’ but I can’t imagine saying to my children before independence, ‘Children, we must fight for independence with all our might! Sacrifice your life in the name of ‘nasi lemak’ at 2am’ Ridiculous isn’t it?

It also annoys me that it is claimed that Malaysia is 50 years old this year. In actual fact, it has only been 44 years since the formation of Malaysia, not 50 years. Malaya gained its independence from the British on Aug 31, 1957 and it was only on Sept 16, 1963 when Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak together with Malaya came together to form a new country, Malaysia. I cannot believe that the same mistake is being repeated every year.

After 50/44 years (take your pick), we are still a divided nation, by race and religion. The recent claim that Malaysia is not a secular country brought feelings of dissatisfaction from many non- Muslim citizens as evident from the numerous letters sent here.

Some claimed that non-Muslim citizens of Malaysia are classified as ‘dhimmis’. Also, there’s the quite blatant abuse of the affirmative action polices such as the National Economic Policy which was set up initially to bridge the economic gap between the Chinese and the Malays. As a result, many Indians, Chinese, and to a lesser extent, the indigenous people are marginalised in Malaysia.

Even if you are the fourth generation and classified as Malaysian citizen, you are still considered as not being equal to the ‘locals’ and are even branded as ‘orang asing’ (foreigner or alien) no less by the so-called leaders of the country. Never mind that it was the sweat and blood poured in by all the races that created Malaysia that brought about the development of the country.

Landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I felt really touched by the reaction from an elderly Chinese who was travelling with his family. As the plane landed at the airport, I saw his face trying to suppress a big smile before he proudly announced ‘We are home!’. On the connecting flight to Kota Kinabalu later, I sat behind another Chinese man. Sitting next to him was a European man who was travelling with his family to visit Sabah.

True to the Sabahan way, the Malaysian started a conversation with the European man. Realising that it is their first visit to Sabah, the Malaysian man relayed to the European man the beauty of Sabah and Malaysia, where to go, what to try out, endlessly talking about Sabah life. I was impressed by his knowledge. The term ‘orang asing’ or ‘alien’ is so remote a description for this Malaysian man.

I knew I had arrived home when the local passengers undid their safety belt as soon as the plane tyres hit the airport runway; the immediate standing up as soon as the plane came to a halt; the mad scramble to exit the plane; the sleepy immigration officer at counter; the glazed look of customs officers who seem oblivious to the passengers pushing two trolleys each full of large boxes; the sleepy crowd at the airport exit; the haphazard parking of cars along the road blocking trolley ramps; the ‘Welcome to Sabah’ archway as you exit the airport; the potholed road; the mini-buses that stop as and when according to their passengers’ requests; the weaving in and out in the slow traffic by tiny local-made Kancil cars; the unlit road lights along the highway and, of course, the colourful neon lights of seafood restaurants along roads.

I exclaimed ‘I’m home!’ half-smiling, half-sighing ... it is good to be back. I have spent 10 years out of 36 years of my life living outside of Malaysia, and I have always wanted to return to Malaysia. I may not fly the ‘Jalur Gemilang’ in August but my loyalty, love, unrelenting hope and participating in extending the narrow boundaries of democracy in Malaysia are my gift to my country. Malaysia.

No comments: