Why, Malaysia?

As we bring #WhyMalaysia week to a close, Lisa Ng writes a heartfelt customer complaint letter to our tanah tumpah darah, our beloved Bolehland, Malaysia.

My dear Malaysia, it doesn’t get more melodramatic than this, does it? “This” being about whether to stick with you till “death do us part” or to walk away, even if for a little while, especially if there is evidence of ill-treatment.

You see, for Christians, marriage is an unbreakable covenant between God and the couple. Some people would call it a “contractual promise” of sorts. Others would say that, however we term it, the general principle of faithfulness applies to Man and Motherland. The only difference is, even Christians are not so cruel that they insist we stick with our hurtful spouse (or even parent in some cases) if our wellbeing is at stake.

That is why my Conscience was clear when my family decided to depart from your bosom to—not necessarily greener—but relatively safer pastures. At least for now.

You may label me a traitor. Or you may accuse me of cowardice. Perhaps you may also venture so far as to call me an unfilial daughter. But loyalty is not a blind man. And I believe that loyalty to you isn’t meant to be at the expense of some measure of fairness owed to me and, more importantly, my dignity as a person. People may not be perfect and neither are governments. But there is a limit to what each person can tolerate. For the physically and/or mentally abused spouse, it could be the 100th punch to the face. For the oppressed Iban or Dayak, perhaps the face of a certain man they’ve seen on posters for a long time. But then, I’m no Iban or Dayak or any of the many indigenous tribes who can rightfully be called Bumiputera. I am, however, a true Malaysian. And while I am not entirely fed-up of the way you’re manipulating me, I am in need of some perspective.

I was born here. In Taman Cheras, Wilayah Persekutuan, to be precise. I have a valid birth cert, MyKad, Malaysian passport and even if my Bahasa Malaysia is rusty, I was brought up learning and speaking the language and when I meet a Malay, I salam them. I love your nasi lemak, roti canai, durian, cendol, satay and sayur lodeh. I am also a Malaysian because I’ve rolled with the NEP ever since I was old enough to understand its impact on me and not held any grudge against you or my Malay friends. I know how the political parties in Malaysia were formed because I rote learnt it in high school. Outside the Dewan of my school, I memorised the names of Sultans from the time of Parameswara, through the reins of the Mahmud and Iskandar Shahs, to the era of Disco, all the while sucking on those umbrella-shaped kacang merah ice creams sold unhygienically by the roadside.

During those formative years, there was already a lot of talk about different races in school having different passing marks for their SPM exams. The news was that Kelantan and Terengganu students could pass their Advanced Maths with 30% while the mark to meet for the “others” was 40%. I remember being bothered by this rumour but I don’t recall breaking up friendships with my Malay friends over this.

When I studied in Australia, my lecturers thought I was Malay because my skin is quite tanned and I don’t look typically Chinese. The only reason why I clarified that I was Malaysian Chinese was because it helped me explain the multicultural aspect of Malaysia (and prevent them from asking why I have special concessions on homes whereas my fellow Malaysians don’t). I pay taxes to you. I eat the vegetables your farmers plant. I am comfortable excusing myself when my Malay friends are fasting and I know the difference between Ponggal and Thaipusam.

I’ve even learnt a little bit of Jawi, for goodness sake.

Abjad Jawi | Source: www.mohdisa-abdrazak.blogspot.com

Abjad Jawi | Source: www.mohdisa-abdrazak.blogspot.com

So why do I have to prove to you that I am Malaysian, the way I just did? Because as time goes by, it seems that non-Malays need to, more and more, defend their citizenship to you. You, who BORE us. Citizenship is NOT a favour. Your granting me a Malaysian birth certificate and MyKad may require that I abide by the Federal Constitution and the laws of this country; it’s something I believe in and do. But it does not come with a gag that I have to put on robotically when your policies affect me negatively. After all, your “managers” are working for my vote. And if they’re working for my vote, then they are essentially in the service industry—and I’m not only a daughter of your soil but also your client.

So as the saying goes, this client is NOT happy with the current service. I have honoured our contract. You have not. Instead, you have tried to hoodwink me into settling for less benefits with the promise of living a quality life in peace and harmony. But as it stands, you’re not only NOT delivering on quality life; even the peace and harmony aspects are left fraying on the side.

My ringgit is beginning to take the shape of a pisang rastali. My grocery bill looks like I shopped for Louis Vuitton vegetables and Prada pork.

Louis Vuitton vegetables and Prada pork? | Source: geniuscook.com

Louis Vuitton vegetables and Prada pork? | Source: geniuscook.com

Meanwhile, my mother had her handbag snatched three times in broad daylight in a span of eight months. And you conteng on my Bible while allowing a self-professed scholar to irresponsibly bullhorn his total ignorance of my religion to a wide audience, by associating Santa Claus with it.

In reality, clients get to complain. Then what ensues is a review of the business contract. Here, my vote has a tendency to get rigged. And if I try to protest, I’ll probably be arrested. If I ask why I am being arrested, you’ll probably tell me I have no permit. If I ask for a permit, you’ll likely say I can’t have one because protests are wrong. Meanwhile, as we speak, a large crowd of Malaysians will be dragging a headless cow in protest against an Indian temple being built in their vicinity.

WHY, INDEED, MALAYSIA?

Does it make me less Malaysian to want more respect? More fairness? More security? Or maybe just the opportunity to live comfortably without needing to convert to Islam? Has it occurred to you that “more”, of late, simply means returning a little closer to “equality”?

Does it make me less Malaysian that I’ve chosen to continue building my life in a different country? I don’t think so. We settle wherever we feel gives us the most value for money; nostalgia and sentiments alone are not enough if one has family. This may sound a little too businesslike, but you know, even businesspeople return home once their work is done.

I will always be a Malaysian. Even if I lose all my rights overnight. You can take away my identity cards too but I will still remain nothing but a Malaysian, because identity lives in the Consciousness of our being. It cannot be taken away once it is encrypted into one’s self-awareness.

I did not want to say Goodbye to you, Malaysia. I still don’t. The day we left in the taxi was an emotional one. Because I didn’t just leave behind corruption, crime and crooked policies. I left behind 37 years of friendship, late nights at the office to support the economy, pot-holes and school songs. I left behind countless national day parades, open houses, pasar malams, mamak stalls and yau char kwei dipped in kopi-o. And yes, I left behind all my hopes and dreams for my child to experience all these things. And more.

However, staying on would be akin to accepting that all is fine and nothing needs to change. Or standing up to challenge all that is wrong. Either situation means death to me. Death to the conscience in the first scenario, and death of freedom in the second. And neither is a position I want to take because, above all things, above being Malaysian or Chinese, I am a mother first. And mothers are supposed to put their families before everything else.

Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of “giving a toss” towards things that matter to the human race.


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Posts by Lisa Ng

Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of "giving a toss" about the things that matter to the human race.

Posted on 20 March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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20 Responses to Why, Malaysia?

  1. Mariam

    You know what you chose to migrate don't blame the country. Every country is not peaceful but Malaysia
    is in many many ways and I feel sad you people do not understand. It's your choice don't put the blame on Malaysia. The government is the people of the country and you choose your representative. Blame the representative and not the beautiful country. I have no other words to describe people who are blind. Like many others who want to be in the orang puteh country go ahead but respect the other country don't condemn. It's sad to see your remarks which are not true.

  2. LN

    Hi John/Old Skool Rocka/Zewt/Eugene/Belwee,

    Thank you for your comments.

    There are a lot of nice things about Malaysia. The people itself comes foremost to my mind. I think it's people who make the country; they determine the charm and livability of it. If anyone is sabotaging these qualities, it's the government. Which is also made up of people. Its policies – wah, I can't believe anyone can be so short sighted that they cannot SEE how their policies are undermining the future. By now, I'm convinced they don't give a toss. By now, I'm convinced it's all deliberate.

    Education is a pillar of society. That's gone to the dogs because of some strange decisions. Security…hmm, let's forget that one too. Freedom of expression and human rights? If they can drag a disabled man away under the ISA, they can make able bodied people disappear just as easily. Just because our MOUTH opens a little to critique what we see as wrong, our entire dignity gets abused. Our infrastructure used to be pretty darn good but not so these days.

    John: Out of curiosity, what about the culture here that doesn't agree with you?

    Zewt: Perhaps your friends are "fighting" in their own little ways. I have a friend who designs shirts in protest of bad govt moves which he sells to friends and friends of friends to spread the word.

    Old Skool Rocka: Once you have children, your actions are governed by what you feel is best for them. There's no sentimental all-balls-out warrior action to go save the country from dastardly government officers; you save money for them to go overseas (for some) and you stay back and learn to survive by being "smart". I understand that pragmatism very well.

  3. many label me a traitor too… for leaving. and all of them said they choose to stay and fight. but till today, i still dont see what they mean by "stay and fight".

  4. I agree with many of your sentiments, Lisa.

    I have been in New Zealand for eight years now, and I have found the grass to be greener here. Much greener, in fact. However, that said, you still can't eat grass, and there will be challenges you have to overcome in order to settle and succeed in a new country.

    My situation is unique in the sense that I didn't leave Malaysia because I was unhappy with the government. Rather, I left because I couldn't agree with the Malaysian culture. I have always been the odd one out, feeling no sense of belonging, hence I decided to pack my bags and go elsewhere.

  5. old skool rocka

    This is a very good piece. I think what Lisa feels is felt by most of us. I only can say this. Our ancestors left their motherland, worked and toiled ,some even died to build up this country. This land had all the minerals and splendour of nature, but the country only prospered when our grandad's came. Now, we are pendatang.We should go back to the "shit hole" we came from. What dumb and ungrateful bastards! I think its too late for me, but Im preparing for my kids. They should never feel that they are a 2nd class citizen. Let this end with me. The grass is not always greener the other side of the fence, but we have no choice as the grass here is filled with poison!

  6. belwee

    nice letter. Hi from a fellow Malaysian Chinese living in Perth. I left Malaysia when I was 15 and I'm currently 17. In my 2 years here, I have discovered the freedom of speech, human rights, and most importantly non-discrimination. i don't think that migrants are traitors – if you want to live in another country because there would be a better future waiting for you/ your children/ your career, go live there!

  7. Eugene

    we all have but one life. We have to choose. To live for ourselves or to live for the country. For many in the world this is not a conumdrum. But for Malaysians, especially the non-bumis, this can be a very difficult question indeed. It is especilaly difficult for those who have found success overseas. I salute the Tony Puas who having found success abroad go back to serve the people at a huge price to themselves.

  8. migrating is normal. it's happening everywhere with other people too. we all have choices to make. and it is understandable if you think being overseas is better for your kids. ive lived overseas and currently overseas – have seen the best and the worst – and i think malaysia still isnt so bad. sometimes we need perspective, may be we will appreciate what we have. good luck to all of you who choose migrate. to those who stay – the fight is on!

  9. Chano

    My family & I have left our 'beloved Motherland'. We've enough and do agree with Lisa that family comes first.

    We have the resilience to start all over again in a foreign land. After all, didn't our ancestors emigrated out of China for economic & political reason?

    We'll survive because 'the four seas are home' to us.

  10. kosinga

    sad, very sad, look like can only change after a DISASTER!

  11. LN

    Still Contemplating: Dilemmas are ok. Helps us do more soul-searching. And guess what, whether you choose to stay or go, you'll still feel uncertain after the decision is made. Because we secretly want to know that we will have a happy ending with the choices we make but there's no way of knowing this till, well, the end. :) PLUS, the cliche is true – there is no perfect government, no perfect country. It boils down to what you need at a given stage of life.

    Sam: Good question. I am an ordinary person whose mind is free but whose body is lagging behind. The body has been re-orientated to look after the interests of family once the husband and kid arrived. The mind – half hopeful and half pragmatic – has ordered the body to prioritise the well-being of family while it sits in the cavity of my head mulling over what it can do in the face of the "issues" we face in the country. It definitely will tell the body to get back to the Tanah Air and vote when the time comes.

    I'm not sure we've emigrated just yet as that suggests we have PR; we are aiming to emigrate for our child's future. My other half has chosen to try doing business here to see where it takes us. Am sure his mind will also tell his body to return to vote when the time comes. So, no, Malaysia will not lose two votes. Whether those votes go to the intended parties or not is up to the EC.

  12. Sam

    Lisa Ng,you are one of the lucky ones who can afford to migrate.There are still thousands that can't afford.

    But the question is-if you really care for fellow malaysians,why don't you stay on and fight this political warfare.

    You see,when people like you left,we are of one less vote(at least) for the opposition.What if there are thousands leaving?

  13. still contemplating

    An amazing piece to end "Why, Malaysia".

    Thanks Loyar Burok for making me realise that i am not alone, but one of the many still deciding on whether to find greener pastures overseas.

    Did the articles help me much in my dillema? Honestly, no. but to know that i'm not alone really makes a difference.

    i am still contemplating, but definitely with lesser worries and concerns in regards to the public opinion on being truly malaysian if i do leave. Despite all the "quarrels" and "unhappiness", I have and will always love this country. . anak mana yang tidak sayangkan ibu bapa?

  14. TooMuch

    Excellent piece Lisa and rest assured, you are not alone. There is hope yet for our country that you have rightfully call "our motherland". Many of us irrespective of religion or ethnicity share exactly your same sentiments and frustrations. Many are multi-generations and have no where else that we can go. This is our home, our tanah air that we share with our like minded indigenous as well as Malay countrymen and we must not be robbed or conned of our rights as Rakyat Malaysia.

    Whispers will become Voices and Voices will be supported by Echoes culmunating into Thunderstorm with Thunder and Lightning. Time will come that lightning will strike the corrupt, the cahoots and thieves, the greedy and the biased. Time will come these vermins and low lives will drown in the storm. Storm so strong that bagi semua nya Mati Katak…

  15. LN

    Karl and Prezdabez: Sorry I didn't cover Malays who have left or are contemplating to do so as I was writing this article in a personal "Dear John" way. Maybe I should have made a mention of it as I didn't mean to suggest that ONLY non-Malays are affected by what's happening.

    Me the Martian: It's not so shitty yet that we cannot do something about it but maybe the timing of our departure is such that it prevents me from doing more to contribute to the 'Cause'. And you are right, those who have the means to go have an advantage because at least, there's a choice. But if you're afraid or concerned for family, you go whether or not you will be financially comfortable in the new place or not. Eating maggi mee and roti everyday for a while is not a bad thing, I guess, against everything else.

    May: In defense of those who have permanently left, I think you're right. It mustn't be an easy choice unless you have a boat load of cash and are a super practical person. Most of us have sentimental attachments to our homeland and all the experiences and people who make up that homeland. We may be gone for 2 years, maybe 5 or 10…but "home" is always on our mind.

    All in all, my personal opinion is that those who hate the system, but choose to stay and do whatever "drop-in-the-ocean" bit they can to make a difference are a courageous lot. As for me, I'll keep on doing what I can from wherever I am – write.

    Thx for the feedback. Much appreciated.

  16. May Chee Chook Ying

    First of all, Lisa, you have a right to live your life the way you want. I, for one, think the choice you have made is a very brave one- to start anew in a land not of your birth. It must have been a very painful choice. I would not have been able to tear myself away from the land of my birth. I guess living away from home at a certain point of your life has helped.

    I speak for myself when I say that today's Malaysia may not be our cup of tea or Utopia, but if we remain steadfast and make our voices heard, some where/time down the road, our dignity and courage will be redeemed. We and only we, ourselves, can make this happen.

    My fellow Malaysians, I do know for a fact, it's not a race or a colour that makes a man. But, it is corruption of the body, mind and soul that destroys him.

    Be patient, be brave, live with integrity and have much love and respect for your fellowmen. Your day will come. Human may be your condition but not your fight. Have faith.

  17. AgreeToDisagree

    @me the martian

    "because i live here too – and i know how bad it is, but i am going to stay anyway"

    How about running for candidacy instead of accepting the way things are, so you can change the law as an MP? Then you can extend freedoms and protections to everyone?

  18. i agree with the Karl's. i can see that even malays leave this country for various reason. anyway, i will link this post to my blogpost as it is relevant to one of the topic i addresses, the Brain Drain.

  19. Karl

    Lisa, an honest and brave piece. I would just like to add though, that many Malay Muslims too share the same sentiments you do;

    disrespected, unappreciated, unloved.

  20. i don't view people who migrate as traitors. it's just that you have the means to escape this misery you call malaysia – because – not just your mothers got snatched – other people's mothers got snatched too. i am just as miserable as you are, just when you think all malays are blessed. no, we are not. but we dont have the money to go elsewhere. this shitty place is home. so i am not going to be sympathetic with your plight – because i live here too – and i know how bad it is, but i am going to stay anyway. good luck with your new life elsewhere.