Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MALAYSIA AS I SEE IT AFTER 54 YEARS - JAMES GONZALES (MALAYSIAN INSIDER)


Like everyone else, I grow older every year. I take it in my stride as advancing in age is an optionless game for all of us. It is not my age that gives me a sense of trepidation, but what is happening in our country as we celebrate 54 years of independence.



Why should I be concerned at my age? I am, after all, a senior citizen, and someone who has a reasonably comfortable life. The reason I worry is for the future of our children and grandchildren. As I ruminate over the events of the past one year, I see the country I live in as being ambiguous, reticent and bogged down in a self-made crisis, which should never have ever cropped-up in the first place.



The Malaya or Malaysia I grew-up in the 50s and 60s is today beyond recognition. When I was growing up, we, as children of all races — Malays, Chinese, Indians and Eurasians — used to go to school, play games and celebrate with merriment all festivals. I am proud to belong to such a generation.



Today, I see a very polarised society, where our children only mix and associate with their own kind; definitely a disturbing trend in our country. We allow racial polarisation to permeate to all levels in society. It seems to be a gradient moving with no one trying to halt its rise. The minority seems to be trampling over the majority with their myopic and chauvinist views under the guise of nationalistic, racial and religious agendas.



Tolerance, understanding and mutual respect for one and other seems to have gone out of fashion. It is Malaysia’s multiracial population who are responsible for the fruits of our country’s success, peace, progress and prosperity. Malaysians of all races and foreign soldiers fought side-by-side against a common enemy during the emergency from 1948-60.



Many made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives for their beloved country.
It was the unity and sacrifices of all our people which enabled us to defeat the enemy, and for us to live in peace and harmony today. We stood together again when faced with the confrontation with Indonesia in the 60s. It was a trying time then, especially when Soekarno was elucidating his rhetoric with his infamous slogan, “ganyang Malaysia”. Thankfully, we had our friends, the British, Australians, New Zealanders and Gurkhas, with us during our hour of need. And a friend in need is definitely a friend indeed.




Malaysia draws its strength as a nation from its multiracial mosaic. Diversity in any country, including Malaysia, is an invaluable asset, which should be capitalised upon. Our forefathers built this country on the premise that there are and will always be tangible solutions in our quest to solve the problems arising.They knew how to drive hard bargains and compromise on issues, without wounding their fellow Malaysians. Definitely the hallmark of mature and esteemed leaders. Compromising, after all, is a sign of strength in one’s character, not weakness.


Where is the Malaysia whose foundations were laid by noble men like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun VT Sambanthan and Tan Sri Khir Johari? Definitely not even a shadow of what they envisioned it to be.



Today, no thanks to some of our “so-called” educators, a print media, political protagonists and “has-beens” and NGOs, the doctrine of fear and spiteful diatribes are continuously being churned out by these senseless characters. Not in the least bit concerned about hurting the feelings of their fellow Malaysians, even our schoolchildren. And they do it so blatantly!



What is baffling is that the silent majority of civilised and decent Malaysians seem to be turning a deaf ear to these propagators of disharmony. Even our democratic values such as the right to vote according to our conscience are being questioned, with castigation on a section of our citizenry just because they voted for a certain party. Is it not the constitutional right of every Malaysian to vote for any party as he or she wishes?



We seem to be more interested in the sexual escapades of politicians rather than focusing our attention and channelling our resources to more productive purposes.



Can we not have employment in the private and public sectors and student intakes in all educational institutions reflecting the racial composition of Peninsular and East Malaysia? The World Bank Report on the brain drain problem is indeed very disturbing, citing the one million Malaysians now working overseas. Isn’t it sad that our finest citizens are serving other countries, some making international waves, when they should be assets to the country? Why is this happening and what concrete measures are we doing to arrest this trend? Why have we allowed the present situation to deteriorate to such a level? Where are the good and gracious Malaysians who make-up the majority of our population? Why have they not voiced their concerns about the deterioration in race relations?



Former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah recently said that Petronas made a whopping pre-tax profit of RM90 billion last year, and yet the poorest states in Malaysia are the petroleum producing states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.



Our poor rankings by Transparency International continue to worry me. We were ranked in a dismal 56th position last year. Is enough being done to eradicate or at least drastically reduce corruption? Escalating prices continue to be a cause of concern to the rakyat, hitting the middle class and lower income groups adversely. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit, prices in Kuala Lumpur have increased by 25 per cent over the last two years.



However, being an eternal optimist, I can also still see light at the end of the tunnel, and would I like to believe that better days are still ahead of us. Malaysia continues to offers its citizens a good quality of life. And the Asian Development Bank recently reported that Malaysia can be an economic powerhouse by 2050. We continue to be a nation blessed by the Almighty, having been spared from catastrophes like Japan and New Zealand. Even our neighbours have not been so fortunate.



We take pride in promoting tourism with the tagline, “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, showcasing our multiracial montage and cultures and our diverse cuisine, which is something we all can be proud of. And we also offer tourists some of the most affordable hotel rates in the world with a variety of scenic tourists’ spots all over the country, which can enchant any tourist.



Tell me, how many countries in the world have restaurants opened 24-hours a day? Very few! As a nation, besides our warmth and hospitality, we are noted for our friendliness. We were recently ranked by HSBC as the ninth friendliest nation in the world. Isn’t it a remarkable achievement and a tribute to our people? Then, why do we give space for a minority to tarnish our image internationally through their misdeeds.



Seldom do we realize it, that even the weather has been kind to us. And this is despite the high humidity and the heavy downpours which at times results in flash floods. A fact that is always highlighted to me by my friends who work in Europe, when they inform me how they have to endure the harsh winters there, where temperatures can fall to as low as -25C! My friends always draws parallels between Malaysia and many countries in Europe, and highlight to me the positive attributes of our country, particularly in many areas in the services sector, where some government agencies are opened seven days a week.


And to our credit, and for all our grumblings, no one is ever turned away for free medical treatment at any of our public hospitals or health centres throughout the country. We now even have 1 Malaysia clinics for our people, another virtue of our country. The prime minister’s call for acceptance rather than tolerance of 1 Malaysia is indeed timely, and will be welcomed by all decent, peace loving and harmonious Malaysians. But to realise this vision, we have to ensure that we go down hard on those trying to divide our society and create a chasm among our people.
As we march on towards the status of a developed and high income nation by 2020, let us begin a renewal to make our country akin to that of the 50s and 60s, in which I have had so many fond memories.




Let us with one voice say there is no place in our country for extremism, bigotry and intolerance. We can do it if there is a concerted will among our people and if we can cross the ethnic and religious divide. We must always appreciate the fact that we are fortunate enough to celebrate our differences while simultaneously valuing our oneness.



Just the other day, I looked out of my window and saw a big bird and a little bird eating.
Then, the big bird went towards the little bird and started feeding it. Initially, I wondered why, but later I realised it was not because the little bird could not eat, but because the big bird cared for the little bird.




Do we care enough for each other as Malaysians irrespective of our race and religion or are we only concerned with our own kind? God bless Malaysia and its people.

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