Be encouraged: A way to live in Malaysia — Andy Chew

OCTOBER 31 — I am a Malaysian. I am a non-Malay, as some would address certain segments of Malaysian society as such. I embrace the Christian faith. Therefore, I am regarded as a minority in my country.

Many people have already expressed their views of the recently concluded Malay Dignity Congress.

However, the ripple effects will continue to be felt for a while more. I would like to reflect on the view espoused by some delegates of the congress concerning the reasons for the perceived erosion of the Malay dignity.

By and large, they laid it squarely at the feet of the minorities; people like me.

These delegates are no ordinary folks. They are the most educated and hold influential positions in very important institutions. I would regard them as the elite of the elites in Malaysia.

Therefore, what they said does carry weight, and deserves a response from those who care about Malaysia.

And my response is through the lens of an ordinary Malaysian who, in the context of this article, belongs to a minority ethnic group.

I was born in the 60s. My parents did not send me to a national school, but I learned about unity and harmony through lessons and stories of Ali, Muthu and Mei Ling in textbooks.

I sang the Negara-ku with reverence, memorised the Rukun Negara, and proudly lined the streets waving small Malaysian flags to greet local and foreign dignitaries in their motorcades.

Times were hard for my family financially in the 80s. I received an enrolment offer from a local university, but I struggled to raise enough money.

I was very thankful to finally receive a loan from the state government, but it wasn’t enough. I could only stare with envy at the abundant opportunities availed to my fellow students, of which I was ineligible because of a single criterion.

Eventually I finished my four-year degree program by working part-time, on top of the loan and later a study grant received from a private institution.

I met many capable and confident Malay colleagues when I started working in a multi-national company.

While I struggled to put together a sentence without grammatical errors, they spoke impeccably good English. Most of them were overseas graduates from renowned universities, and some were sent to boarding schools abroad at a young age.

By comparison, I was the product of our education system, very good with my Malay language but less so in English. Over the years, we thrived in the company we worked for because it celebrated diversity and made it a core part of its culture.

Through competence and performance, some of us rose through the ranks and eventually held senior positions in the company.

In my professional life, I have come to know many Malays who embraced the opportunities afforded them and excelled in their chosen fields.

They held senior positions because they were capable, not because someone else had to make way for them.

I need to also talk about my faith, which is ever so frequently being accorded a deep sense of distrust for purportedly having an ulterior agenda.

As a Christian for more than 15 years, I have been to many churches in and out of the country.

My faith taught me to be a man of integrity, and of respect and love for others. If there was another agenda, I must have attended the wrong churches all these times.

There is a political narrative about the minorities being “affluent and can afford many things,” and truth be told, some of us do fit into this description.

However, this narrative fails to inform that it was achieved through honest work. It wasn’t taken from someone else.

The beauty is that this path to success is equally available to anyone who so desires, and indeed many of my Malay and non-Malay friends have successfully trotted down this path.

So, as hard as I have looked, I cannot find an instance when I denied a Malay brother or sister an opportunity which otherwise he or she would enjoy.

Neither am I able to discern how my actions and way of life could have threatened the dignity of others. Therefore, I am utterly perplexed with the situation I find myself in, put there by others.

It is an incomprehensible notion that one should demand his lost dignity be restored by another except himself.

In conclusion, I would like to share a motto I find useful in my life. In Mandarin, it is called nan er dang zi qiang.

Loosely translated as “a real man ought to strengthen oneself.” A man who is worth his salt is one who is competent in his own right.

He is strong and yet humble, and doesn’t bully others, but in fact he does the opposite by protecting the oppressed and under-privileged.

I am living my life in hopes and a trembling fear that I can live up to the meaning of this motto. I pray others are similarly encouraged.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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