Thinking about us as a country

JULY 23 — The whole world witnessed a tragedy last week that killed 298 people.

To some, they were only numbers. An easy target to others. To many, they were family members, friends, people who give meaning to so many lives across the globe.

The helplessness that ensued made us realise how small we are as a nation, and reminded us of how vulnerable we are to the politics of the rich and powerful. I sincerely hope our leaders, through all their imperfections, have the means and ability to tell who our friends and enemies are.

I am confident that the attack on MH17 will not bring down Malaysia Airlines. Neither will it break their resolve to fly our Jalur Gemilang around the world. 

We have a world-class airline with world-class pilots and cabin crew working in a world-class airport. 

All we need is a world-class management team who will put MAS and the national interest above their own, and restore this great company to its former glory. 

The attack might have destroyed the plane and everyone on board, but we will not let them destroy our resolve to seek justice for the 298. 

If anything, MH17 has moved everyone to defend this great nation of 30 million. We may be a small nation, but will not be bullied into submission by the world powers.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Balik Tongsan

As the nation mourns the loss of lives from MH17, we have people jostling and fighting over who is more Malaysian than whom. One politician had apparently told the wife of another to “balik Tongsan” for being un-patriotic.

Over the years, I’ve had people telling me to “balik Cina”, “balik Indonesia” and “balik Arab.”

There were also times when they told me to “balik tanam jagung.”

To those unfamiliar with the slang, they are insults, implying that you do not belong in Malaysia and should just go-back-to-wherever-it-is-you-came-from. 

But never has anyone told me to “balik Tongsan.” 

So I made a quick Google search to find out the meaning behind “tongsan”. But instead of finding answers, it only made me question more.

First, I realised there is no place called Tongsan, aside from the one “Jalan Tongsan” in Shah Alam. 

But then it doesn’t make sense. He could have just said, “Balik Shah Alam.” Politicians think and act complicated, but in reality they are not.

Then second, I found out that Tongsan is a type of fish. A Chinese carp to be exact. Go ahead, do a quick Internet search and they will tell you Tongsan tastes good steamed, and there is another recipe with “kicap berempah.” I’m not sure if he meant “balik ikan”, which again doesn’t make sense, unless the party keep those who are mentally challenged around.

And third, assuming there was a spelling error, I remember there is a mountain in Hong Kong called “Tung Shan”.

And again, after taking into consideration our education standards, he could have also meant “Tongshan” (again a spelling error), which is a beautiful district in China. 

Folks, that is why education, which is very different from schooling is very important.

So which one is it? Could he be an uneducated man, not knowing how to spell, or tell the difference between fish and place, or perhaps had made a racist statement to a fellow Malaysian?

In the current political climate, it has to be the latter. 

Assuming that all Malays are patriotic is stupid. Asking fair-skinned people to “balik Tongsan” at the slightest hint of insult to the nation is just ignorant and racist. 

Don’t forget, they could be Koreans. 

Hari Raya

I miss celebrating Eid as a kid. When my grandparents were still around.

Not mentioning the thick, fat green packets I got every year, my grandma was a great cook.

She made the best satay chicken. Her rendang, when taken with “ketupat”, will put most of the other cooks to shame. Her peanut gravy was smooth, thick with just enough spice to make you beg for more.

Thankfully my mom and aunt inherited her cooking skills.

I never understood why people would stare at us whenever we went shopping in town. Especially when we started asking for red “songkok” to accompany the red “Baju Melayu.” 

Perhaps it was the fashion sense. Perhaps the sight of an elderly Chinese couple going around looking for Raya clothes and “Baju Melayu” buttons was too much for the small Alor Star town in the 80s.

I sometimes wonder whether we have progressed or regressed since then.

My grandfather who always said, “This is our country. There is no where else for us to go”, who was elated when Tun Dr Mahathir listed Bangsa Malaysia as a prerequisite to achieve vision 2020, would have been disappointed at how fragmented we are as a nation if he is still around today.

Our differences and diversity, which were the source of our strength before, have now been relegated to ancient materials used as a tourist attraction, showcased in brochures and songs glorifying the past.

Nothing more. 

With so many racial NGOs mushrooming in the country, threatening to behead, kill and injure those who go against them, using the Federal Constitution as and when they deem fit, one would wonder if there is a grand plan to destroy the Malaysian way of life that our forefathers worked so hard to build.

The way of life that we have fought so hard to preserve. The way of life that is guaranteed to all Malaysians in the Constitution. 

So in the spirit of the upcoming Raya, we should resolve to put our differences aside. It should be our strength, not weakness which we can build the future upon.

Our children should thrive in an environment that promotes respect, tolerance, and celebration of each other’s differences, not one that antagonises, suspects and oppresses one another. 

They should stand equally tall, speak equally loud and strive equally hard to realize each and every one of our dreams.

That should be the spirit of Raya. That should be the spirit in which we celebrate all of our festivals.

That should be the future of Malaysia.

Wishing each and every one of you a blessed, and prosperous Raya ahead. 

God bless us all.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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