"Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan
Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara
Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan"
Rukunegara is a portmanteau that means "National Principles" in my country's official language and I cannot recite half of it honestly. The first line calls for "a belief in god", which I don't and can't - not out of rebellious obstinacy but because my rational mind will not permit me. It would take either take a florid psychotic episode, a marked deterioration of my personality, an incontrovertible proof or extensive brain damage for me to develop any faith in the supernatural. The committee which authored this principle explained that a belief in a deity is important to any meaningful human life and that the lack of religiousity can cause the collapse of a person's character and ultimately doom that person's people and nation. What scares me most is that that explanation used to make a heckuva lot of sense to me as a kid. There was a time when I can actually equate godlessness to immorality in a finger snap because it's just one of those stereotypes which sounded like one of life's unquestionable truths. Drug addicts are criminals. Rapists are base animals. Atheists are just plain evil.
Then I became an atheist, and realise that being one did not automatically make me lose my conscience or morals. What I also realised was that the ignoramuses who penned the Rukunegara possess a worldview which was as only as sophisticated as a child's. It's all black-and-white; all us-versus-them. How do we unite a plural nation? Find something that we all have in common and gang up on the few oddballs who are different, that's how. Hyuk hyuk.
The third line in the Rukunegara can be translated to "the supremacy of the constitution" and my country's constitution treats me like a second class citizen just because I'm ethnically Chinese by birth. Article 153 grants the King the responsibility to "safeguard the special position of the Malay people and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities". It continues into specifics, like the establishment of racial quotas for entrance into civil service, public scholarships and public education... it's all academic but I'm a realist, so let's talk reality. A couple of days ago, one of my Psychiatry lecturers (an Indian by ethnicity) told us how he was both the best student academically and the sports captain of his high school, a never before achieved feat in his institution. He then told us how ten of his Malay friends, some of who used to copy his schoolwork, received government scholarships to study abroad while his applications were ignored. I too had to grin and bear it when some of my Malay classmates (who are both richer and did worse than me in the public examinations) flew off to the UK on government funding, part of which came from the tax money that my parents paid.
The realist in me asks, how is this country going to advance when it continuously rewards mediocrity while leaving its brightest minds feeling bitter?
Every time I bring this up in a public forum, I was told by
One or two of my non-Malay friends feel that this country can be bettered and that they wish to stay to make it happen - but most of us have already made up our minds to kiss this place goodbye the first chance we get. Do not question our decision to leave, please. If you really care, question the system which made us want to leave our homeland in the first place. If you don't care that we're going away, then more power to you.
I was born in Malaysia. Both my parents and most of my grandparents were born in Malaysia. It's the only home I know. I love this place, I love the people and I won't say I love the food because that would be an entirely superfluous thing to voice. I can write and read the Malay language but I cannot read Chinese. I have to interview patients in the hospital daily due to the nature of my studies and I can honestly say that I like talking to the Malay ones best - they are usually the most approachable lot. Also, believe it or not, I can speak Malay far better than I can speak the Chinese dialects. I am a Malaysian through and through, from my ankles up to the tips of hair on my head.
That Malaysian in me asks, why am I still being treated like an immigrant?
Maybe, when I finally turn my back and leave this country for good, the Malays, the bumiputeras, the self-proclaimed princes of the land can shout "good riddance" after me. In that moment, I wouldn't know what to shout in retort or if I would even feel like doing so. Because in that moment, I would be crying.
P.S. Happy 53rd birthday, Malaysia. I love you. Maybe one day you will love me back.
A Malaysian twofer,
k0k s3n w4i