A young and hopeful Malaysian finds himself politely turned away at the Malay Dilemma Symposium on the basis of race, and shares with us his experience as he is escorted out by security guards because he cared for the Malay Dilemma.
Last Thursday, I was reading newspapers as usual. Then, I came across an article which mentioned an event titled the Malay Dilemma Symposium, which focused on how to solve it.
In my opinion, one of the major aspects of the Malay dilemma is that they are mostly restricted to their own social circle. This happens with other races as well but this aspect is rarely discussed or addressed. It is obvious that no social groups will benefit from their own ideas alone. With this in mind, I decided to attend the event to let them know that “we are willing to help you, because we are Malaysians“, despite being one person and never considering myself as a representative of non-Malays.
Later in the evening that day, I called the secretariat after getting the number from its official website. I asked about registration since it was mentioned that it was free for university students. Encik Zefry, who answered my call told me that I can register online at the website and that I am required to bring my student card during registration. He did not tell me nor did I know that this event was open only to Malays. Perhaps I should have taken the hint in its objective page, namely “promoting the Malay unity” which I may have overlooked. After all, I mentioned my name to him and it should have been obvious to him that I do not have a Malay name.
On the day of the event, I had to wake up early around 6am to take a commuter ride and switch rides on the LRT twice at KL Sentral and Masjid Jamek before walking to PWTC to attend the event. An unpleasant surprise awaited me. I was informed that the event was a Malay only event. I protested and told them that the secretariat made no mention of this when I contacted them earlier. Being unsatisfied, I was waited for someone to give an explanation but I was later asked to leave by security officers.
What ticked me off is the remarks from them, “This is the Malay dilemma, so it (the symposium) is for Malays only.” Of course, I argued that the Malay dilemma is not Malay-only dilemma, but being security officers, they were told that they were just doing the job. I decided to leave through the car park lot then. The next day, I emailed the secretariat demanding explanation regarding this matter but up until now I haven’t received any reply.
I can understand why the event was only open to Malays, but most of the reasons given are unjustified. First, based on the incident where a reporter from Malaysiakini was barred from entering a similar forum, it is possible that they fear that the non-Malays would misinterpret the symposium as a racist agenda and “stir racial tension” out of it.
They misunderstand. Hearing from non-Malays would help them understand our side of the story which they can reflect on. Yet, they decide to close their minds and insist on their ideas. Also, it is highly likely if the non-Malays talk about their dilemma in their own non-English languages they will be labeled racists without justification, so it is quite hypocritical here. This very lack of openness is part of the Malay dilemma itself.
Second, as per its objectives – to enhance the Malay race. Since when are non-Malays not allowed to help the Malays enhance them? It is the mainstream Malay mass media that claims that the non-Malays are the ones who hinder them and are trying to keep them from ever improving. But for me, this is untrue. Again, this hypocritical attitude is part of the Malay dilemma and they fail to realise this.
Thirdly, mentioned in the objectives as well is to rescue youths from negative cultures. This is something that affects everyone regardless of race. What sort of negative culture is this that only ravages Malays but leaves the non-Malays untouched? With the rejection of my attendance at the symposium, they are implying that non-Malays should “drown” in negative culture, which I would like to believe they do not really think so.
Is this a proper Malay agenda?
The Malay agenda, which is focused on the Malays themselves, should involve everyone because everything done under it will affect everyone regardless of race. They have the right to express concern for everyone even if their thoughts may not be immediately useful. If they keep on barring others from joining the Malay agenda, this will end up negatively affecting everyone because they do not get other opinions to adjust their ways of progressively developing their racial culture. I really hope that such events held in the future will be opened up to everyone regardless of race. After all, this country is supposed to be 1Malaysia not 1Melayu.
Poh Wee Chern is a young Malaysian with bright visions and goals to build a better Malaysia. He believes that true change begins NOW and we should look beyond the socially constructed aspect of race relations. True unity starts from the heart.