Yesterday (2 January 2019) marked the first schooling day for the year. And yesterday too, marked the first day of schooling for approximately half a million Standard 1 students nationwide.
The change of government in May last year saw many Malaysians claiming that they are Malaysian first. This exuberance was even noted in the Finance Minister’s proclamation that he’s not a Chinese, but a Malaysian.
Lip service aside, one could not help to wonder the lack of unity, social cohesion between the various races and religions. We need not to look far. Just look at the Seafield temple riot. What was simply a case of hired thugs beating up temple worshippers, ostensibly to scare the devotees to finally agree to move to a new location, turned ugly with racial tinge, resulting in the death of a young fireman.
Let’s agree. Racism is deeply entrenched in Malaysian national psyche. And it is practised by all races.
Left-wing liberals often point to the Federal Constitution Article 152 and 153 as the root cause of racism in Malaysia, and they want the nation to ratify ICERD with the belief that this will rectify what they believe is an injustice, especially for the non-Malays.
Yet, they omit the fact that as at 1957, Malayan Cabinet back then had already had representation from minority races. This was continued when Malaysia was formed, and still hold true even after MAGERAN took control of the country. In fact, if you really have a look at ICERD and compare it with our Federal Constitution, you’ll find many similarities. But let’s digress from the ICERD ratification.
Let’s look at our job market. It is no secret that many private sector jobs come with conditions that the applicants must be Chinese or can speak or write in Mandarin. While it should not raise an eyebrow if the company frequently deals with businesses in China or Taiwan, that isn’t the case.
Even the so-called benign property rental market is affected, where you frequently see signs saying “only Chinese allowed”. A reminiscence of “No Chinese and Dogs Allowed in the Park” that once dotted the parks in Shanghai. Most recently, a youth of mixed parentage didn’t get to rent properties in Penang by virtue that he’s not pure Chinese.
So, how do we fix this quagmire that we are trapped in today?
For a start, the Pakatan Harapan government should look into implementing single school system. This can be done by strengthening the national schools, but not at the expense of vernacular schools. One big way that the government can push for the strengthening of national schools is by having Mandarin and Tamil to be made as compulsory offering in national schools. In fact, this idea has been floating around within some Malay intelligentsia. As the Pakatan Harapan Government was formed with the people’s aspiration, they should have not only the political will to implement this, but also political goodwill to see this through.
Vernacular school supporters shouldn’t be unduly worried about this. In fact, they should welcome the move as these vernacular languages will continued to be preserved and protected.
In the long run, it would also be good for the nation. Both Chinese and Indian community had long since been building walls around themselves and this does not bode well for the nation and their children. They must not forget, they are now Malaysians. No longer Chinese, no longer Indians.
To be fair, Malays also face similar issues where a portion of the Malay society has slowly grown insular.
But can it work? I believe it can. Mutual respect will grow when we can communicate effectively. Only then, we can kill this demon that is named racism.