October 9, 2019
On the day of covering the Malay Dignity Congress, I was having a chat with several colleagues and fellow reporters before the event’s start.
We joked that non-Malays would get the blame again later on. One of them told me, “After covering this event, you can get ready to migrate to Singapore!”
As half a Singaporean (my mom is Singaporean and we have family members living there), such an option has always been open to me although I have always been firm in my decision of staying where I was born and raised.
It has become customary for the country’s Chinese journalists to report disparaging remarks targeting non-Muslim communities or Chinese schools during the many past Umno assemblies or events organized by PAS and other Malay-Muslim NGOs.
It never once crossed my mind that covering this Malay Dignity Congress could prompt me to rethink an option I have long dismissed.
Before Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivered his speech, the congress presented resolutions on five areas: culture, economy, education, religion and politics, which they were about to submit to the prime minister in the hope they would eventually be implemented by the government.
So, what are their appeals?
– To ensure that only Malay-stream schools will remain within six years (meaning all Chinese and Tamil primary schools and independent high schools will have to go).
– To make scholarships available to SPM bumi students with C or D grades, PSD scholarships for bumi students only, and exemption of PTPTN loan repayment for first class honors students who are bumis only.
– Malay as the only teaching medium in all primary and secondary schools, and as dominant language at institutions of higher learning.
– Official documents in Malay only (Romanized or Jawi). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka is urged to take action against violators.
– Learning of Jawi compulsory for Malay subject at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
– Key government posts, such as prime minister, deputy prime minister, key ministerial positions and senior government officials are reserved for Sunni-Malays only.
– Abolish “Bahasa Malaysia” and reinstate “Bahasa Melayu”.
With the exception of the resolution on religion delivered by a PAS MP, the other speakers issuing the above statements were actually people representing their respective universities, or the co-organizing universities of UM, UPM, UPSI and UiTM. Three of them are students, one is a teaching staff member, all young Malays.
One of them told us these resolutions and appeals were presented on behalf of their respective schools after much deliberation, and were not the speakers’ personal views.
What terrified me was the tone with which the speakers delivered their speeches. When they made remarks that would hurt the feelings of non-Malays and jeopardize national unity and harmony, the participants — students from these four universities as well as members of PPBM, Umno and PAS — responded with thunderous applause and ecstatic cheers.
Mahathir claimed that the congress was non-racist as it did not trample the rights of the Chinese and Indians.
Those were the things that happened BEFORE he arrived!
These public universities were the ones which instilled the Malay-first racist and exclusionist ideology in the young minds of the country’s future hopes and future leaders!
Is there still hope for this country, the New Malaysia?
A deep sense of despair stayed with me for quite some time, until I went outside the auditorium to prepare my report. When a police cop responsible for the safety of the PM and ministers saw me searching for an electric point to charge my computer battery, he helped me look for it, and asked me whether I had my lunch.
Later when I managed to grab a seat at the dining area to do my report, a PPBM auntie accompanying her husband to the congress told me to take my lunch first before getting to work.
Looking at her smiling and amicable face, I picked up some courage to talk to her about the congress. She asked me how I felt, and I confessed to her it was a very uncomfortable experience and I was totally disappointed with this country.
I really thought we would finally see a New Malaysia following a change of guard in Putrajaya. I suddenly found myself choking back tears as I talked.
She simply responded with macam inilah!. I had nothing more to say, as we couldn’t go on from there and had to end our brief conversation.
At the end of the day, a young minister came up to say “Hi’ to me. I couldn’t help pouring out the hard feelings inside me, and how much the congress had hurt the feelings of non-Malays. I even told him I was very disappointed with his presence there.
“You know the prime minister is here, so…”
I used to think it was a very tall order to unseat the BN government which had ruled this country for so long, but somehow Malaysians did it!
Now I know the most difficult part is not to change a government, but the mentality of the people.
Sadly, such toxic mentality is fervently championed by politicians for their survival, the current ruling coalition unexempted.