Ong Kar Jin brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).
REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”
Malaysia turns 55 this year, and a generation is retiring – a generation for whom a mouse was definitely not something you wanted in the house, a generation for whom Emergency was when communists came knocking on your door and not when you lost your smartphone, a generation where “tweets” were only for twits.
As that generation passes the mantle to the next, it is time for reflection upon our yesteryear. Though our beloved nation has seen its fair share of controversy and angst over the years, there are certainly things for which we can be happy about. And so today, REFSA Rojak puts aside its usual cynical self, and celebrates those things that give us hope, things that unite us as a nation and as one people. Five things stand out as we turn 55…
5. Exorcising the ghosts of May 13, 1969
May 1969 no longer conjures the same feeling of dread it used to. It has become like the bogeyman in fairytales of yore – used only by people who think they know what is best for us, to scare ‘ghoul-able’ souls! This spectre of fear tried to rear its ugly head after the 2008 political tsunami. However, the attempts to stoke ethnic tension – cow heads in Shah Alam, church arson, pig heads in mosques, JAIS raids on church dinners, bible-stamping – fizzled out when ordinary Malaysians rose above the fray. With Bersih being the most ‘muhibbah’ event of recent years, and inflammatory film trailer Tanda Putera receiving a red light sabre of dislikes on youtube, it looks like this May 13 ghost has truly been busted.
4. A new breed of young political leaders
With the dead having been taken care of, let’s focus on those who are breathing new life into the nation. From the ever purr-fect and CAT-chy Lim Guan Eng and latest clean-and-lean analytical machine Dr Ong Kian Ming, to the Rambo-brave Rafizi Ramli, the blossoming Nurul Izzah and the far-sighted Saifuddin Abdullah, to name a few, a new breed of political leaders have emerged, leaders who stand up for what they believe in and kneeling only in service of the rakyat!
3. The blooming of grassroots movements
While young politicians at the top are spreading the spirit of nationhood down, grassroots movements from the rakyat are also spreading their roots all the way up! Civil society movements have burst forth these past few years. Many, such as UndiMsia, Loyarburok, Bersih, Stop Lynas and Tindak Malaysia have received overwhelming support from ordinary Malaysians. They are truly organisations by the people for the people!
2. ‘Jalan-jalan cari makan’
At the end of the day there is one thing in Malaysia that can stop FRU units mid-charge, blow away placards and banners, and unite the entire country against ‘Singaporean culinary culture thieves’- FOOD. From the divine balance of spice and fragrance in that Mak Cik’s nasi lemak, to the joys of chomping on a dhal-flooded roti canai from that machaar down the road – Malaysia is truly the land of Makanmania. All things point to the possibility of eating our way to inter-cultural harmony, and this may well be the foundation to restore inter-ethnic interaction and understanding.
1. The freedom fighters
No, we’re referring to not just the soldiers who fought in the Emergency, not just the leaders who claimed independence from the British, not just the entrepreneurs who made it big on the world stage, but people like you and me. We celebrate the parents who lay for us the foundations of freedom that shape our character and sense of right and wrong, the teachers who give us the beginnings of the freedom of thought, and the friends who teach us the meaning of freedom to be who we are. Today, as we remember our day of Merdeka, that fight for freedom continues.
Fifty-five years on, let’s recognise that there is much to celebrate. The things that really matter are really right before us.
“A great nation is not one which, like Russia, has an enormous territory; or, like China, has an enormous population. It is the nation which gives mankind new modes of thought, new ideals of life, new hopes, new aspirations; which lifts the world out of the rut, and sets it going on a cleaner and brighter road.”
L.E. Blaze, Lecture at the D. B. U. Hall, November 26, 1926
Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!