Friday, March 20, 2009

My Chinese friends

In Malaysia especially in the West Coast of the Penisular, Malays and Chinese were dependent to each other. Since I knew what life is about, I seen and witnessed interactions between the Malays and Chinese.

In my ‘kampung’ in the southern outskirt of Melaka Town, some 40 years ago I seen the Malays depended on a Chinese shop known as ‘Kedai Ah Nee’ for their sundry supplies, especially rice, sugar, chilies, fish and vegetables.

‘Kedai Ah Nee’ was gone, but others such as ‘Kedai Ah Pee’ and ‘Kedai Teh Kong’ withstood the turbulence years and are still there. At the age 9, my elder brother developed hernia and to treat him, my father brought home the famous ‘singseh’ we love to call Nyonya Lilin’.

In my primary school, I befriended a few Chinese; one became one of my best friends. His name is Lim Muan Yuen. He spoke fluent Malay as he had many Malay friends in his kampung of Bukit Cina. At one time, he told me, he wanted to convert to Islam, but when we grew up, we went our different ways, and he was ‘a long lost friend’

My father too befriended some Chinese, and during Hari Raya, they came ‘to sample’ my mother’s cooking. They loved ‘ketupat’ (rice wrap in coconut leaves) with ‘rendang ayam’ (chicken). I learned a few tips from my father; don’t served the Chinese ‘rendang daging lembu’ (beef) because they didn’t like it. Until today I am not sure whether the Chinese just don’t like beef or taking beef is against their religion just like Hindus.

When I grew up, my interactions with the Chinese widen. The truth is Malays and Chinese could not avoid each other. In short they needed each other. For example the Malays depended heavily on the Chinese in various fields such as suppliers of goods and repairs works while the Chinese depended on the Malays in security because almost 100 percent of police and army personnel are people of that race.

There must be a two way communication; the Chinese and Malays benefited from it in win-win situation. If it is a win situation only on one side, it is a selfish attitude and move and should be put to the end. The world and communication had become a borderless entity and race should not a hindrance to the understanding among people of the world.

With this background, I was very excited when a group of 10 researchers and officers from the MCA think tank, the Institute of Strategic Analysis & Research (INSAP) pay a visit to Harakah Editorial office recently.

The INSAP group was lead it’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Fui K Soong while Harakah’s side had it’s Group Editor, Ahmad Lutfi Othman; Editor Taufek Yahya and I as the Senior News Editor.

A question from Soong broke my silence in ‘the get to know’ (lawatan sambil belajar) discussions. She asked what was the difference between PAS and Umno grassroots. What’s the different in the struggle of Umno and PAS regarding Islam? Both claimed to be Islamic champion, so what was the difference between ‘Islam Umno’ and ‘Islam PAS’?

I didn’t know whether my answer was correct or satisfied them when I said this: “I would like to put the feelings of a Chinese columnist as an example. When he was a child, he had a sweet memory about his friendship with Malay boys and girls. In school he used to ‘salam’ (shake hands) with the girls but when he entered the working world, he was alarmed when some Malay girls, especially those wearing the ‘tudung’ (head cover) refused to ‘salam’ him.

“So he was not satisfied with ‘the new way of life’ brought up by some Malays. To him, Malays were not like that when he was young in the 60-s. They were more open, but nowadays some seem to be ‘more Islamic’ like wearing the ‘tudung’ and refusing to shake hands people of the opposite sex.

“So that’s’ differentiate ‘Islam Umno’ and ‘Islam PAS’. In Umno meetings and gatherings, you see their leaders shaking hands with women but PAS leaders would refrain from it. Usually their women and men were separated in gatherings.”

In my own ears, my answer sound shaky, so to avoid father embarrassment I turned to the Group Editor and to my relief he gave quiet a long and solid answer.

The visit by INSAP from MCA to Harakah signaled something big in politics yet to be witnessed by Malaysian. Before the March 2008 general election, some Indians came to Harakah office and openly bought bundles of the newspapers and distributed them to their communities and their effort might have some impact on the election’s results.

Four states in the West Coast (Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor), fell to the opposition, and the Indians showed that they were not cowed by the threat by some MIC leaders. They had their say and part in ending the Umno,Gerakan-BN hegemony in the states. They were fed up with ‘snake like’ tactics of some leaders of the MIC.

For example in Tuesday, 28th February 2008, the MIC placed a one page advertisement in all the English dailies. Among others, under the ‘Barisan’ and MIC logos with the heading ‘The power of truth’, the MIC threatened the people, especially the Indians saying; “If won’t vote for MIC then be prepared to pay the price…

“Vote for PAS and see where Kelantan is today. That’s how your constituency will be for the next 5 years. If you think that you are not progressing under MIC, than you can now imaging getting disintegrated under PAS.”

The BN leaders including those from MIC are so desperate that they have to resort to some of the dirtiest tactics available such as misusing the media including RTM which is a public-owned institution.

Surprisingly despite the many threats, the Indians openly supported not only the multiracial party of KeADILan but the Islamic party of PAS. In Indian densely populated areas such as Kota Raja, PAS candidate, Dr Mariah Mahmud managed to ousted BN challengers.

The Indians are open minded after the historic win in the four states. Indians in Kelantan and those from other states who had gone there, knew the truth. The PAS government is fair to all, not one residing in that state has made any complaint.

It was Umno-MCA-MIC and other components parties in BN and the media they controlled who made all the fuss and all sorts of lies to paint a bleak picture of PAS. But they failed badly in the March general election.

So when INSAP of MCA, made its entrance in the office Harakah, I sensed something BIG might be on the way!

No comments: