#Opinion* Mohsin Abdullah: An all-familiar story of the non-Malays

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Last Updated: 8:48am, Oct 04, 2013

IF I'm a non-Malay, Chinese in particular, I'll be worried sick. Scared even. For my future and that of my children. In this beloved country. What with the likes of Perkasa, Jati, Isma, Jaringan Melayu Malaysia etc running round "threateningly". And even Umno seem to be turning rightist. Am I justified in feeling scared and worried? Before we continue, I would like to state that the people I spoke to for comments in this piece are all Malaysian Chinese. Or should that be the other way round – Chinese Malaysian. Anyway, they are Chinese and they are Malaysian. All are professionals. Some are not named upon their request, The reason for talking to a strictly Chinese respondents is to have a "truly" Chinese perspective on the matter. Theirs would encompass the perspective of the other non-Malay communities. The country seems to be more and more "Malay". Both look and feel – to use the branding jargon. To emphasise, well sort of, I'll lift a quote or two from journalist Stephanie Sta Maria when she was interviewed by fz.com writer Kristina Mariswamy last month. "Because of what I've seen of late, I can sort of anticipate where the country is going," said Sta Maria. And she is moving to Australia soon because "the direction the country is heading and because I wanted a better future for my children". Without going into specifics, I think what she was driving at is clear enough. "The non-Malays are doomed. The country will go to the dogs," said a gentleman whom I met a couple of days ago in Bangsar.  Angry words indeed. Said another: "The country risks becoming another Burma by being inward – all can go back to wearing sarong." More angry words. Then there's this question of population. The Malay population is increasing while the non-Malay population decreasing. Said The Star group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, "Going by current trends, the projection is that the non-Malays will continue to drop further with some saying that by 2050 there could be 80%  bumiputras in Malaysia and just 15% Chinese and about 5% Indians." "Not too concerned about numbers. The Chinese in Kelantan never felt threatened despite being the minority," said the first gentleman I quoted earlier –  going on to say "what scares me is what lies in the hearts of Malays like Ibrahim Ali, Zul Nordin", referring to leaders of hardline Malay group Perkasa. Both continue to be seen by non-Malays as "racists" despite their several denials. But there are those who feel groups like Perkasa shouldn't be given too much attention. One of them is Hu Pang Chaw, the chairman of PAS supporters congress, the party's non-Muslim wing. "Chinese do not have much worry as they (the likes of Perkasa etc) are just small groups. With globalisation and internet access, more and more educated Malays are becoming more moderate," said Hu. Still to a political analyst, "young Chinese have a big resentment towards the racial overtones of right-wing Malay organisations and politicians. They include the young politicians active in the DAP. They subscribe to the Malaysian Malaysia concept. They like the 1Malaysia concept which is not dissimilar to DAP's Malaysian Malaysia but that (1Malaysia) concept is now temporarily halted for Umno party election". Now, that view of 1Malaysia concept taking a back seat for Umno elections has struck a chord with a political observer I spoke to: "Umno is fighting to be jaguh kampung. The concern is they'll get the cheers and lose the war", he said, implying Umno is playing to its own gallery and risks losing future elections. And said another political observer, like it or not Umno needs to "get back Chinese support as they cannot survive on Malay support alone. And also it's impossible that Umno can get 100%  Malay support. So they must win back the Chinese or they lose GE14". No easy feat that. Considering the current Chinese sentiment and with Umno, Perkasa and so on making things more difficult. "The Chinese have little or no choice now but to support DAP. The MCA can't be depended on – what more with the infighting now," said the observer. Are we straying form the topic? Not really, as what the duo are saying is –  Chinese still feature prominently despite their small numbers and "problems" faced now. But the political analyst mentioned earlier in this piece had this to say: "The young Chinese are naïve to think that by this time, after we achieved independence for 56 years, all Malays will accept them as equal Malaysians. "To be accepted by the Malays they must first be fluent in the national language. But as Malaysians, they are not proficient in Bahasa Malaysia. So it is common for them to be criticised by the Malays. They ignore the criticism and continue to fight for fair treatment in this county." But this "failure" to speak good Bahasa, said the analyst, is due to to "the leniency of the BN government as Chinese are free to choose education in their mother tongue and in this case Chinese (in Mandarin) – from kindergarten right up to secondary school  via Chinese independent secondary schools or Du Zhong. And some may continue with tertiary education using Chinese in Taiwan and China. Or 100% English in private colleges and universities in the country or abroad. "At least half of them cannot speak decent Bahasa Malaysia to communicate with the Malays," said the political analyst. I remember asking an Indonesian journalist friend of mine some time ago why Chinese Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesia as if it was their mother tongue. His reply was simple: "We do not have bumiputra and non-bumiputra in Indonesia. When you classify people as such, you are dividing them into groups and they tend to keep to their group and naturally, protect their language culture and all." Anyway, speaking of bumi and non-bumi, the question of privileges and special treatment crops up. "The Chinese must accept they still have to make some sacrifices in certain sectors to enable the poor Malays to catch up with them," said the political analyst. But to veteran journalist Bob Teoh, helping poor Malays has never been the issue. "Of course, we know there are Malays who need help and they must be helped. But racial line cannot or should not be used as a policy framework. Help all who deserves help," said Teoh. Government assurances of "fairness" to all with regards to the bumiputra policy has not allay "concerns" of the non-bumi communities thus far. And the policy will not change. Not anytime soon if at all. So for some or rather quite a number of non-Malays, migration is the answer. Said Australia-bound Sta Maria: "And for those who say why go to Australia, you are going to be a second-class citizen there as well, I say I feel better being made to feel like a second-class citizen in an adopted country than in my own country which is what I'm feeling now." Teoh opined differently though: "Where to migrate? The West only wants the professionals. Most of us don't have anywhere to go. But in the first place, why migrate? We are all born here." Hu Pang Chaw concurred: "Chinese have been here for more than 500 years. There's no reason to leave. We are Malaysians. This is our motherland." Mohsin Abdullah is a specialist writer at fz.com. He likes rojak. And nasi campur. And durians. Perhaps that’s why he writes about this, that and everything else. Pretty much rojak and nasi campur. As for his writings, well, they can be like durians. Aromatic and delicious to some people, smelly and off-putting to others.

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