By BOB TEOH
My Malay buddy texted me: "Would you comment as a non-Malay, in particular Chinese, how you see future of non-Malays, especially Chinese, with the likes of Perkasa, Jati, Jimm around and even Umno becoming more rightist. Also with country appearing to becoming more Malay as well as Malay population increasing while non-Malay population decreasing? Will not name you, of course."
He's a columnist just like me and he needed my response to help him put together a piece on the sorry state of race relations in the country. So I rang him up and offered him my opinion.
"Must be a hard time you Chinese are facing eh?" he said before assuring me he would not use my name in his column.
"Why not?" I asked. "Because the other non-Malay friends I asked would only speak on condition they remain anonymous." I reminded him my principle is that if I have an opinion I would say it upfront without the need to remain nameless. Otherwise I have no opinions to offer. "But that will look funny because yours will be the only opinion with a name, the rest would remain anonymous," he protested.
Not intending to sound Quixotic, I told him if one feels strongly about expressing an opinion, he or she should put his or her name to it. Otherwise, it's better not to say anything. The only exception is that if by doing so endangers someone else's life. Freedom of expression comes with a price. If it doesn't command a price then it's just cheap talk. Only fools do that.
The problem is not with the Malays. They have never been a problem. I have always lived in a mixed neighbourhood since young counting Malays as friends. When I was in Form Five, my good friend was a Malay who lived in Kampung Baru. Surely you can't find anyone more Malay than that. When I entered university on the first day of the May 13 riots, my room-mate was a Malay. During Ramadan, I attempted to fast with him but I didn't last the distance. Chinese just can't fast as well as Malays can.
But make no mistakes about it. There are Malay racists in this country. You see them in the news everyday. Though they seem to be growing more and more through the years, there's no empirical evidence for me to say Malays are becoming increasingly racist. My experience is that there are more Malays who would likely to be for me than against me. Likewise, there are also non-Malay racists. You see them in the news too.
So we have to live with this problem of perception. Is there a solution? Some say we may as well pack up and leave. I did just that more than twenty over years ago. But we came back from Australia after our only daughter graduated and started working. There's no place like home. And Malaysia is home. One can't leave home forever. The prodigal son returns some day. Migration, after all, is an elitist proposition. Only the professionals with skills to offer or those rich enough qualify for migration. The rest remain behind for better or for worse. But they still have a choice – to be at peace or at war with their Malay neighbours.
Non-Malays have suffered tremendously because of racist policies. Malays too have suffered if not more from such flawed policies based solely on race. The injustice seems only more cruel to them simply because they are supposed to the beneficiaries of such policies.
Racism has produced a distorted economy that will continue to drag Malaysia down to the ranks of among the failed states. More racist policies will not benefit anyone, least of all the Malays. We are all stakeholders. Time to say no to racism.