“Chinese Malaysians Asking Far Too Much”
By Zaini Hassan
Source – Straits Times, published Apr 30, 2010
WHAT else do Chinese Malaysians want? Let us put aside the reasons why they do not support the current government in Kuala Lumpur. Let us study first what else they want.
For that, we have to go back to history. The Chinese came to Malaya to seek opportunities. They had lived a hard life in mainland China for hundreds of years. Like the whites who migrated to the American continent because it was the land of opportunity, the Chinese migrated to Malaya to make their fortunes in this bountiful land.
The strategy of their forebears has borne fruit. The Chinese have attained what they wanted. They now live in the lap of luxury in this land of opportunity called Malaysia.
In fact, it is not only in Malaysia that they have attained what they wanted. They have even gained full control of Singapore. Singapore is not their original country. The Singapore Chinese and the Malaysian Chinese were originally boat people. The difference is that those who landed in Singapore managed to gain full control of Singapore, but those who landed in Malaysia did not manage to control Malaysia.
In Malaysia, the Chinese live in peace with the Malays, the indigenous people and the Indians. In comparison, in Singapore, the Chinese control politics and the Government. In Malaysia, the Malays still control politics and the government. The systems of both governments are the same, but it is vice versa: The Malays dominate in Malaysia while the Chinese dominate across the Causeway.
In contrast, the Malays in Singapore and the Chinese in Malaysia are very different. The Malays in Singapore lead ordinary lives while the Chinese in Malaysia lead lives that are ‘more than ordinary’.
In fact, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad once stated that if all the Chinese-owned buildings in Kuala Lumpur were lifted from the map, only the buildings in Kampung Baru, a Malay area, would remain in the city.
All the other buildings are owned by Chinese Malaysians. The well-known shopping centres in Malaysia are owned by the Chinese.
The Chinese Malaysians are fantastic. They control all the cities and major towns in peninsular Malaysia, as well as Sabah and Sarawak. They produce the largest number of, and the most successful, professionals. The school system of the Chinese Malaysians is the best among similar school systems in the world.
The Chinese account for most of the students studying in the best private colleges in Malaysia. The Malays can gain admission into only government-owned colleges of ordinary reputation.
With regard to corporate and private organisations, it is the Chinese who dominate. The Malays number just a few; most of them are low-level employees. In fact, knowing Mandarin is a prerequisite for applying for jobs in these organisations.
Finally, an annual survey by the Malaysian Business magazine has found that eight of the 10 richest people in Malaysia are Chinese. The following is the list of the 10 richest people in Malaysia:
Mr Robert Kuok Hock Nien
Mr Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan
Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng
Tan Sri The Hong Piow
Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay
Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan
Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary
Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua
Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King
Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun
This is the reality in Malaysia, my beloved country. Is the current government, which has been in power for 52 years, cruel and totalitarian? What else do the Chinese Malaysians want? I think I know, and I think you know too.
All I can say after reading this article is, NIAMA. This fellow got nothing else to do other than trying to divide the races in Malaysia. I think its time for race based politics to go. All races in Malaysia should work together for the goodness of the country and not just for their own race.
I am glad that Kee Thuan Chye of Free Malaysia Today gave a good response.
Thuan Chye Responds to “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?”(Utusan Malaysia article)
By Kee Thuan Chye
Every time the Barisan Nasional gets less than the expected support from Chinese voters at an election, the question invariably pops up among the petty-minded: Why are the Chinese ungrateful?
So now, after the Hulu Selangor by-election, it’s not surprising to read in Utusan Malaysia a piece that asks: “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?” (trans. Chinese of Malaysia, what more do you want?)
Normally, something intentionally provocative and propagandistic as this doesn’t deserve to be honoured with a reply. But even though I’m fed up with such disruptive and ethnocentric polemics, this time I feel obliged to reply – partly because the article has also been published, in an English translation, in the Straits Times of Singapore.
I wish to emphasise here that I am replying not as a Chinese Malaysian but, simply, as a Malaysian. Let me say at the outset that the Chinese have got nothing more than what any citizen should get. So to ask “what more” it is they want, is misguided. A correct question would be, “What do the Chinese want?”
All our lives, we Chinese have held to the belief that no one owes us a living. We have to work for it. Most of us have got where we are by the sweat of our brow, not by handouts or the policies of the government.
We have come to expect nothing – not awards, not accolades, not gifts from official sources. (Let’s not lump in Datukships, that’s a different ball game.) We know that no Chinese who writes in the Chinese language will ever be bestowed the title of Sasterawan Negara, unlike in Singapore where the literatures of all the main language streams are recognised and honoured with the Cultural Medallion, etc.
We have learned we can’t expect the government to grant us scholarships. Some will get those, but countless others won’t. We’ve learned to live with that and to work extra hard in order to support our children to attain higher education – because education is very important to us. We experience a lot of daily pressure to achieve that. Unfortunately, not many non-Chinese realise or understand that. In fact, many Chinese had no choice but to emigrate for the sake of their children’s further education. Or to accept scholarships from abroad, many from Singapore, which has inevitably led to a brain drain.
The writer of the Utusan article says the Chinese “account for most of the students” enrolled in “the best private colleges in Malaysia”. Even so, the Chinese still have to pay a lot of money to have their children study in these colleges. And to earn that money, the parents have to work very hard. The money does not fall from the sky.
The writer goes on to add: “The Malays can gain admission into only government-owned colleges of ordinary reputation.” That is utter nonsense. Some of these colleges are meant for the cream of the Malay crop of students and are endowed with the best facilities. They are given elite treatment.
The writer also fails to acknowledge that the Chinese are barred from being admitted to some of these colleges. As a result, the Chinese are forced to pay more money to go to private colleges. Furthermore, the Malays are also welcome to enrol in the private colleges, and many of them do. It’s, after all, a free enterprise.
Plain and simple reason
The writer claims that the Chinese live “in the lap of luxury” and lead lives that are “more than ordinary” whereas the Malays in Singapore, their minority-race counterparts there, lead “ordinary lives”. Such sweeping statements sound inane especially when they are not backed up by definitions of “lap of luxury” and “ordinary lives”. They sound hysterical, if not hilarious as well, when they are not backed up by evidence. It’s surprising that a national daily like Utusan Malaysia would publish something as idiosyncratic as that. And the Straits Times too.
The writer quotes from a survey that said eight of the 10 richest people in Malaysia are Chinese. Well, if these people are where they are, it must have also come from hard work and prudent business sense. Is that something to be faulted?
If the writer had said that some of them achieved greater wealth through being given crony privileges and lucrative contracts by the government, there might be a point, but even then, it would still take hard work and business acumen to secure success. Certainly, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who is one of the 10, would take exception if it were said that he has not worked hard and lacks business savvy.
Most important, it should be noted that the eight Chinese tycoons mentioned in the survey represent but a minuscule percentage of the wider Chinese Malaysian population. To extrapolate that because eight Chinese are filthy rich, the rest of the Chinese must therefore live in the lap of luxury and lead more than ordinary lives would be a mockery of the truth. The writer has obviously not met the vast numbers of very poor Chinese.
The crux of the writer’s article is that the Chinese are not grateful to the government by not voting for Barisan Nasional at the Hulu Selangor by-election. But this demonstrates the thinking of either a simple mind or a closed one.
Why did the Chinese by and large not vote for BN? Because it’s corrupt. Plain and simple. Let’s call a spade a spade. And BN showed how corrupt it was during the campaign by throwing bribes to the electorate, including baiting a Chinese school in Rasa by promising RM3 million should it win the by-election.
The Chinese were not alone in seeing this corruption. The figures are unofficial but one could assume that at least 40 per cent of Malays and 45 per cent of Indians who voted against BN in that by-election also had their eyes open. So, what’s wrong with not supporting a government that is corrupt? If the government is corrupt, do we continue to support it?
To answer the question then, what do the Chinese want?
They want a government…
a. that is not corrupt;
b. that can govern well and proves to have done so;
c. that tells the truth rather than lies;
d. that follows the rule of law;
e. that upholds rather than abuses the country’s sacred institutions.
Because BN does not fit that description, the Chinese have learned not to vote for it. This is not what only the Chinese want. It is something every sensible Malaysian, regardless of race, wants. Is that something that is too difficult to understand?
Some people think that the government is to be equated with the country, and therefore if someone does not support the government, they are being disloyal to the country. This is a complete fallacy. BN is not Malaysia. It is merely a political coalition that is the government of the day. Rejecting BN is not rejecting the country.
A sense of belonging
Let’s be clear about this important distinction. In America, the people sometimes vote for the Democrats and sometimes for the Republicans. Voting against the one that is in government at the time is not considered disloyalty to the country.
By the same token, voting against UMNO is also voting against a party, not against a race. And if the Chinese or whoever criticise UMNO, they are criticising the party; they are not criticising Malays. It just happens that UMNO’s leaders are Malay.
It is time all Malaysians realised this so that we can once and for all dispel the confusion. Let us no longer confuse country with government. We can love our country and at the same time hate the government. It is perfectly all right.
I should add here what the Chinese don’t want:
a. We don’t want to be insulted,
b. We don’t want to be called pendatang
c. We don’t want to be told to be grateful for our citizenship.
We have been loyal citizens; we duly and dutifully pay taxes; we respect the country’s constitution and its institutions. Our forefathers came to this country many generations ago and helped it to prosper. We are continuing to contribute to the country’s growth and development.
Would anyone like to be disparaged, made to feel unwelcome or unwanted? For the benefit of the writer of the Utusan article, what MCA president Chua Soi Lek means when he says the MCA needs to be more vocal is that it needs to speak up whenever the Chinese community is disparaged. For too long, the MCA has not spoken up strongly enough when UMNO politicians and associates like Ahmad Ismail, Nasir Safar, Ahmad Noh and others before them insulted the Chinese and made them feel like they don’t belong. That’s why the Chinese have largely rejected the MCA.
You see, the Chinese, like all human beings, want self-respect. And a sense of belonging in this country they call home. That is all the Chinese want, and have always wanted. Nothing more.
The Utusan Malaysia article: Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?
Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up’. He is a contributor to Free Malaysia Today.