Saturday, September 04, 2010

What My Country Thinks of Me

"Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan
Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara
Keluhuran Perlembagaan
Kedaulatan Undang-Undang
Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan"

The Rukunegara

Malaysia 53
My country, right or wonky.

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 some Malays that I'm being racist or racially-minded. That is fucking ridiculous. It's only in Malaysia can someone calling out a racist policy be considered racist. When I express my wish to someday leave this country and be someplace where I'm not being discriminated against constitutionally, they would call me unpatriotic; they would call me a traitor. Do they expect me to lie around and be their doormat for the rest of my life, giving up a percentage of my earnings in support of a constitution which will discriminate against my children too? Can you really fault me?

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


février said...

*gasp* ! i feel the exact same way. and people already liken me to traitorous for speaking such of my country. it makes me feel guilty when i know i shouldn't be.

Anonymous said...

But isn't Malaysia moving towards a more tolerant system now? Things gonna change.

fingerscrossed said...

Dude, not all Malays hate Chinese and Indians...

I'm Malay, and I love my Chinese and Indian lecturers... They're awesome... I even had a crush on one of my Chinese lecturer once, but that's my dirty little secret la... Haha

and I taught in Chinese school once... my students were awesome...

I really wish that we can live together in harmony... but it seems that we just cant...

it's human nature... to defend our own self-proclaimed rights...

Malays would always try to be the dominant ones, Chinese and Indians would always fight back...


Dr.Vishaal Bhat said...


It's not just in Malaysia. This post could be transcribed for the Indian situation as well. Just replace Malay with any of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled tribes listed in the Constitution of India.

Also In India, people are fighting to get into these lists. Apparently the more 'backward' you are the better chances you have of getting 'Government backing'.

Zzzyun said...

that's how i feel as well. why shld i stay in a country who's gonna discriminate against me and call me a pendatang? why?

when all the good people have left (i dont only mean non-malays, cud be malays as well) then they will know what's gonna happen to their country.

they say things are getting better. really? all i see are ppl getting bashed up during merdeka day in a fit of racism. where is the improvement? i might even say we are going backwards..

that's what happens when a country lets go of its brightest minds and decides to reward mediocrity.

Ilidina.. said...


i am malay and i'm studying in uk government my programme there are also non my opinion it is ok for you to feel like this because u have the right as a malaysian to question the education system in malaysia..

Azygous said...

Blame on those who constantly politicize almost about every single event in this country for their own political gain.

We need a government who decides what is best for everyone, and not for their own interest.

And again,

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.
Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

Sadly, there ain't many fishes left in the river.
Till 2019 maybe?

Selamat menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan Malaysia ke - 53.


k0k s3n w4i said...

beve: on the upside, you've already escaped. i think the real traitors are the "my country, right and wrong" people.

Fikri Fadzil: i'll still be around for some years so we can see if things really do change for the better. so long as article 153 in the constitution exists in malaysia, i won't want to be. i just don't get why government aide isn't granted to anyone who needs it; rather than giving it exclusively to a single race and sometimes to individuals who really don't need help, but happens to be of the right race.

fingercrossed: never claimed that malays necessarily hate the other races in my post. this post is more of a lament really. it's just difficult when you think you belong to a country, but that country treats you like you don't. the chinese and indians, and all the other minorities aren't really fighting for anything extra. we just want to be treated the same, and in this country, that happens to be far too much to ask for. wouldn't you want the same if you're in my position? sigh indeed, mate :)

Dr.Vishaal Bhat: charity and help should be given to the ones who need it, regardless or creed, race, caste or ideologies. am i correct in assuming that these schedules castes and tribes are monorities individually? in malaysia, the majority is privileged.

Zzzyun: racism will exist no matter where we go. it's just a bit hard to swallow when racism is officially enshrined within our fucking constitution. i'd most likely be able to make a pretty comfortable living staying here in malaysia, but it's the principle of things. i can't take that sort of humiliation lying down.

Ilidina: all of us should have the right to voice our opinions without the fear of repercussions. i have a lot of problems with our country's education system and luckily for me, i turned out okay in spite of it. but the issue her is more basic, really: just justice and equality.

Azygous: what better way to secure the majority vote than to pledge to protect article 153, and to defend the privileged status of the biggest ethnic group in the country eh? i'm no constitutional lawyer. i'm not even sure if it's legal to take a bottle of correction fluid to parts of that rag. what i do know is what is lawful is different from what is right. selamat hari merdeka, by the way :)

McGarmott said...

"Nowhere in the written constitution is it mentioned specifically of the existence of the term ‘Malay rights’. Instead the only term spelled out is the ‘Special Position’ of the Malays in Article 153 ..."

Shuwen said...

Agreed. Everyday, I face people telling me to go back to China. Its like they don't understand I have a MYKAD and I'm Malaysian -.-

goingkookies said...

i heart ur " ps"... and here's hoping that one day we will be treated like the Malaysians that we are!

k0k s3n w4i said...

McGarmott: man, i wish i read that article before i wrote this post - but it seems i got all the highlights of the issue correctly anyhow. somehow, i don't think this battle is going to be won on the strength of rhetorics. i am hoping, naively, that we can appeal to a shared sense of belonging to this country instead :(

Shuwen: you sound like you get it really bad. most of my malay friends tend to be of the highly educated variety who thinks that article 153 is racist and should be reviewed. it was suppose to be a temporary clause anyway.

goingkookies: i was afraid i scared you off for good, haha. to the point at hand, i think it's a sentiment we all share. we truly love this place :)

McGarmott said...

Oh, and before I forget, watch this documentary:

It makes you feel all warm inside, makes you feel just a bit more gung-ho and determined (then you're like "to do what?", realise you have nothing, then just go "oh well ..."), and ogle at the unMalaysian production values.

Cicadasx said...

Nicely put.
However, times are changing.
With better education, things will be better. Our generation are better than those before us in things like this.
I believe that one day, things will be really good.
I choose to believe because I want to believe in my country and my people, us, the Malaysian.

Danial Ikhwan Jaafar said...

in an interview for JPA scholarships, only me and my Chinese friend were the one contributing to the group discussion. the interviewees memorised our names by the end of the interview. it was shocking to find out that he didn't get the scholarship to further his study in Architecture while the other Malays who were there didn't say much (not good result as his some more) and being the typical malays who didn't want to be too 'semangat nok mapuh' as the locals here put it.
it's just like you said, this country generously rewards mediocrity.
and i truly understand why many malaysians want to leave the country. my friends back in uni even begged me not to go back to malaysia LOL but i have to. because i believe this country can be better, will change for the better. and i'm gonna change myself first before i can change others.

i know its late already but what the heck,
Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan.

Victor Tan said...

Hey, Kok. Good sayings.

You should go see "Gadoh" - A Malaysian made film on racism (It's in my blog, go watch if you got 70 mins of extra time). It seems like you're pessimistic about the fact that we are discriminated by looking only at the negative side. Forget about the diluted constitution and the numbers of "racists" that are getting fewer and fewer.

When I browsed through the comments in Namewee's "Nah!" video, as well as some pages in Facebook on Malaysia, what fascinated me is the Malays themselves even understood about racism and stood up against that false ideology, instead of entering another pointless online war. You see, of 53 years we were together, we are actually getting more and more nurtured of getting together.

It shows that our race-based politics are getting obsolete over time. It's time for our nation to go through another change. Socialism perhaps? Anyway, what makes people to be racist? The environment, isn't it? :) Got the idea here?

I'd been stating these all around Youtube, Facebook, my own blog and even my class discussion - RACISM is an outdated and old approach in understanding the world. In the past, racism was used in wars and imperialism - an excuse to convince the people of a certain nation that war is necessary to spread their cultures to their opponent's world, as they are "bad" or "uncivilized". And in those times the people blindly followed them. Today, we know a lot of the corrupted ruling class' "tricks". Our generation had overcame the discrimination of the American "Blacks" and even the Apartheid system.

"The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky.....A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are ONE planet."

- Carl Sagan, scientist.

We have the technology that helps combine people together towards humanity. Don't worry too much. Look at the bright side. The more social injustice like these happens, the more idealists were generated by them. You and I are already idealists. All we have to do is to continue spreading the words of humanity, and sooner or later, the majority will be educated.

Towards homo-emphaticus!

k0k s3n w4i said...

McGarmott: that documentary preached to the choir and it's just a wee bit too optimistic, but dammit, it should definitely get more coverage. too bad it's not easy getting people to stream a half-hour long vid through our malaysian broadband connections. it should be seen on tv!

Cicadasx: i just hope change comes before i leave, so i won't have to :)

Danial Ikhwan Jaafar: that's a great testimony, man, and i thank you for it. i sincerely admire anyone who would stay and help this place change, but i'm a strongly apolitical creature. i may have opinions, but i swore i will never play the game. the only thing i know how to do is write, and not very effectively at that.

Victor Tan: gadoh is by pusat KOMAS too? i promise to try and take it in soon. i just watched a half-hour documentary posted by that group minutes ago on mcgarmott's recommendation and i'm not exactly sitting here with a thumb up my ass all day, haha. personally, i am confident that racism is indeed slowly dying out in the world's most enlightened quarters (and most of these quarters are on the internet); as evidenced even by the comments of our malay friends here. i was pretty much raised by the the world wide web, so i'm already a "citizen of the world" and "race: human" idealogue. i am also well aware of the positive social zeitgeist we are currently in but you know what they say about being a pessimist: you either get proven right or get pleasantly surprised :) i am an idealist, yes, but i sometimes wonder if idealists are just cynics-in-training. and i believe you meant to say homo empatheticus :P (but i may be wrong)

mg said...

it truly saddens me that wat you have stated here is a fact. the fact that we have never been treated with the respect/dignity as a citizen of Malaysia. just like what the rest have mentioned, we have mykad, we are born in malaysia. we are malaysians.

living abroad in a country that encourages migration, it struck me how koreans/chinese from china/europeans/africans are all residents in this country (nz). they all have equal rights, and they were not born in this country. why can't malaysia be like this. why cant we work together to change our country into a better place, no corruption, better distribution of resources to help all the poor and needy. all those pendidikan moral values are just words, they dont exist in malaysia. tolerance? respecting each other?

im going to back to work and i know im going to work in hell compared to the health system here but i still hope that we can change this beloved country of ours. It's free from natural disaster (at least for now) and we have the best food in the world. i dont know. im sad as well.

Victor Tan said...

Yeah, homo empatheticus, whatever it spells, we are towards that.

Good thing you are also based by this quote by Thomas Paine.

"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good."

Slowly, things will change. (
This is for anyone who comments here too). Don't only just wait for it, be the part of that change, it's already obvious that you and I had receive the message of transformation, make it viral for everyone to be in that change. But this sort of change may take a long time. Malaysia shall change for the better as there are more idealists becoming aware of the flaws in the current system. We just have to let the others to be aware of it as well.

We're actually in the part of the 21st Century Enlightenment. :)I hope Malaysia's society be more aware on social aspects instead of falling under the business mentality, where people only blame politics whenever something goes wrong.

Now, that's true change we can believe in, not the one claimed by Obama. hahaa

Azygous said...

Maybe you should blog about the movie 'GADOH' once you've finished watching it...:)

Nana Eddy said...

people are realizing how wrong it is. So hang in there kok.

On the note of scholarship, Najib promised that government scholarship will be given to those who excel, not based on their monetary or racial background anymore. Let's see how it turns out. If he walk the talk or just talk the talk..

k0k s3n w4i said...

mg: actually, when i do leave, i'll be heading to new zealand. the only way malaysia's transformation would be expedited is if all our young people who went abroad can come home to dilute the crazies. once we get a stable two-party political system running, i believe things will get a lot better.

Victor Tan: thomas paine, yes. also the dalai lama,

"There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness."

i think utopia is still a far cry from reality. the first step towards the world you want is to ensure that everyone gets an excellent education, and to allow everyone to have access to the internet. i think that it is a basic human right, a stance that a few countries like estonia, france, finland and greece also shares. i believe these are the prerequisites to an enlightened society.

Azygous: i already have it buffered fully in my browser and i'll probably have time to check gadoh out during raya (yes, i don't turn off my computer ever). i'll see if i feel strongly enough to review it :) i already have one film i watched recently which i'm itching to write about.

Nana Eddy: haha, i'll be hanging on for quite a few more years to come. personally, i think scholarships should be awarded according to two criteria; academic achievement AND monetary background. the reason why all our race-based economic policies failed to redress the disparity of wealth across the races is because a huge portion of the money ended up in malay families that are already rich to begin with. i believe nothing any politician has to say. we have to create a political clime in malaysia that encourages the government in power to stop ignoring the concerns of the people - and the best way to achieve that is have a two-party system. we need an opposition that is equal in clout as BN.

nis said...

NZ, the land of atheist. haha.

goingkookies said...

haha.. perish the thought.. me is one tough kookie =p

nah.. was and is busy with things.. haven't had time to read blogs nor blog.

i think it's important not to be too sensitive and well, be able to see things objectively. based on my experience, there's ALWAYS two sides to a story and each will always think they're right.

and i ll still come back to read ur blog cos i think it's definitely different from a lot of (no offense) bimbotic blogs... it makes one think =)

then again, there are times u do get a little anal about things.. then again, don't we all.. plus, it's ur blog.. ur prerogative

hehe.. don't go bashing me for saying the above ya.. =p

Anonymous said...

this is heartfelt. i don't know if this would mean anything to you, but the whole post made me teary because i felt you. =(

not all malays have this kind of mindset towards the chinese and the indians. i was in convent kulim, saint george balik pulau and stella maris kangar - skools in which the majority aren't malays. the years were the best of my skool life. back in derma kangar, i had many non-malay friends, too. i remembered sharing food and books and other stuff with them, zero prejudice. nothing at all.

and there were many times when i wondered why some of my malay friends just can't see through the skin color and had to make a fuss over things that didn't matter like 'why did cikgu give mei yuan 100% for BM, she's so good ka?'

sorry that i rambled. i just thought that some things just shouldn't happen. scholarships should go to the people with the brain but not the money - it shouldn't have anything to do with what race you're born into.

this post is inspiring. =,) it made me want to become one of those who contribute towards change. enlightening. thank you.

and i hope you'd never leave. it'd be such a loss. honestly.

McGarmott said...

A perspective I gained lately is that (and this may not be as widespread as I think it is, but then again ...) perhaps some of the Malays (and this isn't being racist, as I doubt this is the true for any of the non-Malays ... it is, however, stereotyping) feel that the act of spirited discussion, whatever the content, automatically equals 'touching on sensitive topics' or 'seditious and inciting racial hatred'.

Meanwhile, this country is falling further and further behind, all because we, the people, are not able to talk to each other properly. All those statistics about having the highest Gini coefficient in SEA (note: it is a bad, bad thing) or how we have fallen so far behind South Korea and Philippines ... and all we needed to do to start on our journey to healing and recovery of lost ground, is simply to talk to each other.

I don't just mean, the fact that the racist Malays, or the racist Chinese, or the racist whatevers, are unable to accept dissent of opinion. I also mean, the fact that WE, the liberal progressives, do not know how to engage them. Chose to just live and let live, avoid all dealings. Chose to run away ... not that it doesn't make sense to do so.

We are a bunch of people living in the same country who somehow found a way to live in separate countries.

k0k s3n w4i said...

nis: i won't call nz atheistic, but it is much more secular compared to malaysia :)

goingkookies: i can sometimes appear single minded when i pursue a line of enquiry or a chain of arguments - but you can always tell when i really lose it. it's usually when i break out the profanities, perform brutal rhetorical smackdowns (i usually hold back otherwise) and tell the person i'm talking to to never comment in my blog again. in all other times, i'm just me being me :)

Nani Othman: i certainly do not characterise all malay people to be callous and unthinking - and many malay commenters here have proved to be the opposite of that as well :) thanks for sharing your experiences, nani, and i'm glad you enjoyed the post. your comment do mean something to me, by the way.

McGarmott: I also mean, the fact that WE, the liberal progressives, do not know how to engage them.

you might enjoy my next post then. in it, i recounted an incident in which i engaged a racist chinese head on. anyway, i regard the whole concept of sedition to be ridiculous. the moment a government give purchase to that idea, it's a sign that it is turning into a dictatorship. i share this perspective of yours, of course. our people, by and large, lacks the rhetorical faculties to engage in civilised dialogue and so, chose to avoid it. i believe the battle for malaysia's soul will not be won in the mind, but in the heart.

Anonymous said...


Let's hope that the 1Malaysia concept will eventually pull people together.

I really haven't experienced the kind of violence and attitudes that many of you have...I think it depends on what part of Malaysia you live please don't give up on it.

I'm based in Sabah, and a lot of West Malaysians who come over here to work, usually end up not wanting to leave. I think it's because here, there's a lot more racial and religious harmony than there is in Malaya.

I was sad to read about some of the experiences of being called a traitor and being told to 'go back to your country'. My grandparents were Malaysian, and I'm half English and half Chinese.

On the outside, I'm a 6ft1 orang-puteh, but they consider me Sabahan because I was born here. I left when I was a teenager for my higher education, and lived in the UK, US, Japan and Sweden. But after 15 years, I decided to move back to Sabah to spend time with my parents.

What I've always loved about it here, is that at Christmas, Muslims will sing Christmas carols and the supermarket will be playing Christmas songs. Then Chinese New Year comes around, all the decorations change, and we all celebrate CNY. Then Harvest Festival comes around, and we enjoy all the Kadazan-Dusun festivities. Then during Hari Raya, we'll go to our Muslim friends homes to celebrate.

I know that not everyone in Sabah does this, but with so many different ethnic groups here, and families who have members in more than one religion, you've got to just learn to get along!

I guess, for me, Religion (I'm not religious myself) has produced many good things here...all these religious festivals are a chance for people to come together, and create a harmonious community. As long as no one tries to convert anyone to their point of view, then I think it's a good thing. I love the mosques, the temples, and the churches, the holidays, the open houses, the carols, the celebrations and

Thanks for writing this's given me a lot to think about. But I believe Malaysia can become a better place, so don't give up on it.

You can make a difference, and you can change the world. Try to make more Muslim friends, and celebrate Hari Raya with them. Then celebrate Christmas with the Christian friends etc.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Anonymous: i befriend anyone, regardless of what religion they believe in - so long as they are okay with me thinking that all the supernatural things they believe in are absolute bunkum. after all, i know for a fact that most of them think i deserve to burn in hell. fair trade, i think. i enjoy festivals, but i certainly don't think that religion is the sole producer of that very human love for festivities. celebrations are very earthly things and i can think of many non-religious festivals; the lunar new year for example (even though some people perform some rites, but they aren't really essential).

betakappa said...

Wow. Just so you know, this "phenomenon" isn't limited to government (JPA) scholarships.

I'm a PETRONAS scholar, I got into UTP based on my trial results (apparently this offer was only made to students in selected schools) - back in 2002. After a few months there we received our REAL SPM results and some of us were given an opportunity to get an overseas education.

In our batch, only 4 non-Malays (that I know of)out of 100plus people received the overseas offer, while some of the best, including my Chinese friend Ron (perfect score in SPM and great extracurricular etc) didnt. Many of our other Malay friends with 5As etc got through for some reason.

Now that we're working, serving our bonds, we face that ubiquitous glass ceiling.