SEPTEMBER 27 — I love Malaysia. Singapore is home and, of course, you always love home more but I love Malaysia as a friend, a neighbour and a frequent visitor.
It’s familiar — the culture, the food, the people — and something like home but bigger, rougher around the edges, at times less safe but also often more exhilarating.
And, of course, it’s beautiful in a sort of expansive majestic way my attractive but petite Singapore can’t be.
From the chilly top of Mount Kinabalu to the clear waters of Perhentian, the markets of Penang and the rainforests of Sarawak.
Like many Singaporeans, I am lucky enough to have close friends and family across Malaysia which has given me the chance to see a lot of the country (though still not enough).
My many hundreds of visits have left me with nothing but love for the country.
And yet something I often wonder is, while I know I love Malaysia, do Malaysian love Malaysia? I know it’s a strange and perhaps rude question but I wonder nonetheless.
Malaysians can be so deprecating about their country. Oh, it’s not like Singapore they say, everything here is too corrupt, so unsafe, so backwards they say.
Of course Malaysia has its problems but sometimes I meet people who are so down on the country, you wonder if they love it at all.
I’m not saying this is the behaviour of all Malaysians but it is surprisingly common.
When I say I love Malaysia, many Malaysian are surprised and I am always like the food, the landscape, the culture, what’s not to love?
And yet for me as an outsider, it’s a real question. As I watch political developments in Putrajaya and see yet more political instability, more rich and powerful Malaysians making a mockery of ordinary Malaysians... I really wonder if these people love their country?
Or if they love only themselves and the small groups of accomplices that help them maintain their power?
There is so much avarice and divisiveness on show. At most, they seem to love their own — be it religion, ethnicity or even town — but how many of them see and appreciate Malaysia as a whole. Its sheer size, diversity and uniqueness.
And looking at these politicians, I wonder if something of the same blindness hasn’t seeped into the fabric of the nation... into the minds of ordinary Malaysians.
Corruption and avarice can sap the strength of whole nations. Sometimes I meet young people who just want to leave Malaysia — they tell me everything’s better in Singapore and I’m just baffled.
There is so much in Malaysia, yet they hardly seem aware of it. I’ve actually had young Malaysians tell me that their country has no good beaches or no jungles with wildlife and I am just stunned by the ignorance.
Is there something deeply wrong with their education?
And again, it all stems from the top. I’m not attempting a comparison with Singapore. This country has its own problems but watching Anwar Ibrahim make another bid for power and seeing claims and counterclaims about parliamentary majorities, it’s all so depressing.
Where there was a moment of optimism when we saw the first non-Barisan National government take power in 2018, now we just see tribalism, narrowmindedness, hunger for power and patronage on all sides playing the political game.
The people just seem dejected.
I don’t, of course, have an answer to this problem but I am confident it has something to do with love for the country — the whole country East and West, across religions and ethnicities.
Perhaps Malaysians would benefit from seeing the nation as outsiders see it — a place of great natural beauty, enormous resources and vast cultural diversity.
I know on the ground for many ordinary Malaysians things can seem rather bad but take a step back and you may realise things are better than you think.
I mean you’ll always have amazing food.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.