Thursday 25 July 2013


I have had several interesting comments to my last posting  " The Week that Was"".

I felt that the issues raised were valid enough for another posting.  Firstly thank you Firdaus M,  Anon July 24 6.38am,  Anon July 24 10.09am, and Anon July 25 9.43 am  for your comments.

"Malay Muslims bears a lot of responsibility for their stupidity " (Firdaus).  To a certain extent I agree with you with regard to the issue of the canteen at SK Pristina Sg Buloh.  Such shortsightedness on the part of the school's authorities can cause a lot of ire among non-Malays.  

And speaking about schools always brings up past experiences from my teaching career in Singapore.  In the late 1960s, when Hari Raya was determined by the sighting of the moon, we, the Malay-Muslim teachers and pupils in Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak heaved a sigh of relief when the Government's allotted date for Hari Raya Puasa and the lunar sightings matched.  There was one year when this failed to happen. 

 The date for the Hari Raya break had been allocated, sealed and delivered.  There was to be no negotiation. Teachers and students were allowed time off in the morning to go for prayers and had to be back in school when that was over.  Well, only the teachers returned but no students were to be seen.  They went AWOL and why not?  Here's a case where Malay-Muslims were not responsible for the stupidity of a non-Malay-Muslim authority.

  Back to the present - there are certainly more dire examples of Malay-Muslims' "stupidity"  which have resulted in deep fractures within their own community and turned themselves into objects for target practice by others.

However,  "Chinese might have a perception problem, but why are Malays so stupid....? "  I do wish the analysis of the relationship between the Nanyang  ( Overseas ) Chinese and the Malays could be as simple as that.  It is related to perception indeed - a perception of a "3,000 year old" lighter skinned culture against a darker and perceived 'primitive' people. That's a universal problem like that of the whites vis-a-vis the blacks and all other prejudices due to colour differences.  And if this barrier is overlaid with disparities of income and wealth in favour of the fairer set, then the relationship becomes more fraught and the prejudice becomes deep-set and almost pathological.   (By the way, during the Apartheid Regime of South Africa, the Chinese were classified as "Honorary Whites".)   In a way the Malays are not so much stupid as ignorant for they have forgotten their own proverb Naga tak akan turun menjadi ular lidi.

And if Anon 10.09am can explain away the racist antics of  Tan and Lee as that of mere attention seekers, then fine -  they ( Tan and Lee) should confine themselves to exhibiting themselves and their private parts on the ether.  We know of "Peeping Toms", perverts and sickos who thrive on poking their eyes and noses into other peoples' privacy.  Well nowadays it has become fashionable to invert the PT syndrome and to exhibit yourself and your parts and allow other people to peer and gawk at the spectacle.  Some even describe this as a form of Art!

I would say, let Tan and Lee get on with their √©xpose, but desist from humiliating and mocking their fellow-Malaysians' religion and religious practice.  They are indeed seeking attention in this case, but one ridden with racist malice.    Given the context of their actions, what Tan and Lee did was arrogant, wilful, and deliberately, seriously provocative.   It was not just bodoh, and it was not just attention-seeking.  They are very knowing and know where to put the knife in!

As for the other 'culprits' mentioned by Anon 10.09am, I'm not familiar with the text and context  but I agree with what Anon July 25 9.43 suggested.


Tuesday 23 July 2013

The Week That Was

Last week was remarkable for the two diddies because we braved the peak morning traffic at Jalan Jelatek and Jalan Ampang to get to Tung Shin Hospital at Jalan Pudu. It was not just once - we did it three times in one week - and we survived, albeit in 123 pieces! Hats off to Darby and Joan for making it through what I reckon is one of the many moving parking lots in Malaysia. And I think of all those working-age youngsters and oldsters who have to do this 5-6 days a week, for 52 weeks a year!!!

 Last week was also the week of denouement ( well almost) for the Alvin and Vivian Peepshow - for Tan Jye Yee and Lee May Ling.

It needs to be said that their contempt for Islam and Muslims and Malays has a long pedigree.  Only the format, the representation and the cheek are new.  Their father's and grandfather's and great-grandfather's generations have been at it for yonks and we should not be surprised at this insolence.  Expect more.  As I mentioned in the last paragraph of my posting  "HMV :  His mentor's Voice"  ( see sidebar) .......

...... his opinions and diktat ( of and for the Malays) are not his alone - they have, after all, long been whispered into the ears of this ageing autocrat.  So it will not end with LKY.  This chauvinism will be sustained for a long time to come.

If you can bear with me, allow me to relate a series of observations and experiences I have gone through during my span of 69 years, living and working in Singapore.  This is not a racist  ( someone who believes that people of their own race are better than others)  analysis.  It is more of a racial perception - relating to the relationship between different races of people who live in the same country. It just happens that I am a Malay and my bug-bears are Chinese.

Firstly, here's my experience from forty-three years ago, in 1966/1967 when I was an undergraduate at the University of Singapore, the same University that Tan Jye Yee attended.

Myself and about 5-6 other Singapore Malay undergrads were given a Special Malay Bursary of  about $1,000 a year as a scheme to help and encourage Malays into higher education. .........
Each time the note pinned to the Notice Board at the entrance to the Union House informed us to get our Bursary from the Bursar's Office, we  would find written on the notice nasty remarks like  " why give money to stupid  Malays?", or "why so special?" or other vulgar words in Malay, English and Hokkien - all very multi-racial.  On 9 July  1963, Singapore joined  the Federation of Malaysia  ........... but that also brought along with it racial and political tensions and the Chinese in Singapore were particularly against the affirmative policies towards the Malays and especially Article 153.  Their rallying cry was "Malaysian Malaysia" - a term/demand that the Malays were very suspicious of.

We, the Singapore Malay undergrads, sensed this undercurrent of hostility and resentment.  All this because of the $1,000 Bursary.  We got into the University on exactly the same credentials as the non-Malays, no favours in that direction.  We were not the off-springs of well-heeled professionals
 or taukehs, mostly lower to upper working class families.  Admittedly there were no unpleasant face-to-face encounters.  But the bigoted racist remarks about Malays, Malay rights, the Sultans, etc. which were scribbled in the Library's history and politics textbooks left me gobsmacked and confused.  There weren't enough Malays in the University to 'counter' this ' vandalism' of the text and context - so we just sat tight and took the brunt.

On one of my trips home from the hostel  ( Eusoff College), I asked my father  "why" ?  How do I live with Article 153?  He told me to read the History books, to study the statistics of the unequal distribution of wealth and income in the country, the big gap, economic and educational between the rural Malays and the urban non-Malays; why the Malays challenged the Malayan Union of 1946, and what are the Malays doing fighting the Communist guerillas in the jungle?  Of course all these issues were not the concerns of my A-Level History and Economics.

And when I glibly remarked - but the Malays are lazy and backward!  All those scribbles in the Library's books had an effect.  His jaw almost dropped .....


This happened 43 years ago.  And Tan Jye Yee and Lee May Ling are only carrying the torch of an old arrogance and  malice.


And as for racial perception here's my second personal experience.  In 1978 I was shunted to Anglo-Chinese Junior College because  I was getting to be too much of a thorn-in-the-side  of the Nanyang Graduates running the administration of Jurong Secondary School.  I decided then to leave for Brunei but I still had to serve my one month in ACJC.

I wore a baju kurung on my first day at ACJC, and for most days I would be garbed in this or my baju kebaya.  In the Common Room, a sweet Chinese lady teacher  welcomed me and said,  " You must be our new Malay language teacher."
I told her I wasn't.  I was the new Geography and General Paper teacher.
She looked shocked and uttered,  "You're a graduate?"
"From Singapore University, 1967,"  I replied.
She then made a sweet, quick retreat.



That plain old-fashioned baju kurung has been my symbol of identity.  I wear it to dignify my people and myself  during any important occasion.

It all came about during my undergrad days.

One evening, I can't remember when exactly, but before 9.8.1965 when Singapore was 'expelled' from Malaysia, I attended a lecture by Dr Mahathir Mohamed, of course he wasn't the PM then.  Came one question from the floor by a Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty, now a prominent Ambassador for Singapore.  He queried the rights and privileges of the Malays as enshrined in the Constitution and sort of recommended an alternative as  espoused in the "Malaysian Malaysia" mantra.

Dr Mahathir looked at him and said,  " You know what is the problem with you Chinese?  You cannot accept the Malays running the Government because you are so used to seeing them as your drivers and gardeners."  That was that.  The Lecture Hall was hushed.

The next day, I put on my beigeish-yellow cotton Esbyline Baju Kurung, which I had borrowed from my sister and walked to my lectures with my head held high.  My baju kurung is my heritage, it was not to enclose me but to set me free, not as a proud Malay, but one at ease and comfortable  with my Malay ways and purpose - Malay warts and all.

(Extract from the posting "Baju Kurung".)


Back to 2013.  The format of this persistent denigration of the Malays has now entered the electronic media.  In the past it was more muted and restrained because the mode of communication then was not as widespread and pervasive.  Also the electronic media enables you to  hide behind an anonymity which gives all and sundry unadulterated licence to be as vulgar and as  irresponsible as they wish.

Today one can twitter insulting remarks about the Yang di Pertuan Agong.  In my time, my fellow Chinese undergrads, in the privacy of university hostels and canteens would snigger and mock the Constitutional Head of Malaysia as the " Ah Gong".

As the Malays would say  "Bapa borek, anak rintik".

And mark my words, such racist and racialist antics will not end with Tan and Lee.


Finally, one sweet story from the week that was.  On Tuesday last week, I decided to give Osman and Aisha a lift to the Post Office - to pay their electricity bill -  as I was heading in the same direction.  That done, Osman decided to get a bag of cat biscuits for their one cat at home and the other stray cats in our neighbourhood.  He was in his working clothes ( Osman and Aisha are road sweepers).  From a distance I could see Osman at the counter digging out small notes from his pocket to pay for the cat biscuits.  I knew he had enough.

I then walked towards Aisha who was waiting near the Information Counter.  Minutes later, Osman came and told us that the man who was in the queue behind him had offered to pay for his purchase!!!

Allahu Akbar.  This was truly the spirit of Ramadan.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Lest We Forget .......

Extract from "The Malay: Lover of Colour and Ceremony" by Ian Morrison,  The Geographical Magazine, Volume XXIII, NO. 4, May 1950 - April  1951.

It is the weakness of the Malays as a community that, from the economic standpoint, they fall into two well-defined groups.  At one end are the Sultans and the hereditary Malay aristocracy, the latter filling many posts in the administration.  At the other end are the peasants, the dwellers in the kampongs or villages.  The latter produce nearly all the rice that is grown in Malaya, although this represents only one-third of the country's needs.  Along the coasts they are often fishermen, living in small fishing villages under the coconut palms that fringe Malaya's coastline.   These Malay peasants and fishermen are most likeable people, hospitable, cheerful, kind,courteous, but they are also backward and unambitious.  It is part of their charm, of course, that they are unambitious and easy-going, that they do not worry too much about the morrow and trust the morrow to look after itself.  But it causes real complications in the political sphere and as many of the educated Malays realize, it may in time lead to their playing a permanently subordinate role in the country which has been theirs for centuries.

......Few Malays are in commerce.  There is, in effect, no Malay middle-class.  The role of the middle class in Malaya, as in several of the other countries of South-East Asia, is played by the Chinese.

Here's my patchwork of images from my collection of old books to complement or decry some of the above points.

"Children born with silver spoons in their mouths.  The children  of high class and prosperous parents wear sarongs and jackets of beautifully coloured and finely woven materials and quite small girls possess their own set of jewels. " Today a similar class of silver-spooned off-springs are sprung from the corporate and professional Malay elite.
"Engaging Malay girl.  Singularly winning is the smile with which the Malay girl confronts the world."   I suppose this fits in with Morrison's  perception about the Malay who "do not worry too much about the morrow...."
 However in this 1956 Malay School Textbook this was what the Malays taught their children - but only in the Malay schools, not the English schools.

"Sebab rajin dan jimat, lama-lama ia boleh pulang negeri China, bawa ringgit negeri ini.  Chuba kamu buat macam itu.  Kamu boleh juga dapat duit.  Lagi tidak payah beli sayor China."  Well , some Malays today "juga dapat duit". It can be seen in their luxury cars, their palatial homes, their holidays  to Disneyland and Switzerland and they still "beli dari orang China".

All the virtues of hardwork and skills and business and savings are suggested here but  sometimes it's like getting the tortoise to run against the hare in the 100 metres dash!
According to Morrison, the Malay peasants and fishermen are " most likeable people, hospitable, cheerful, kind, courteous" - but these charming facets do not help to pay the bills.  All these qualities are such a shame ( I'm being ironic here) because the Malays are still  "backward and unambitious".

 " The implements used ..... are primitive in the extreme: a plough is usually fashioned from a fork of a tree, and the harrow is of the crudest design.  Long weary hours must be spent ...... in cultivating their own plot of ground, for they heartily dislike  toil and their indolent,  pleasure loving natures would always borrow rather than earn money".
If that's the case how did they manage to feed one-third of the country's needs?  Furthermore, who decides on the price of their padi, certainly not the farmers?

What do we have today, besides the growing skyscrapers, the burgeoning corporate cats and the swell of the middle classes?  We have become such an ambitious people that we leave some to scratch such sad messages for their meagre survival.

I took the above photograph on our way from Georgetown to Tanjong Tokong three years ago.

This is the background to that wall painting.  Is this the price of development?

But in this month of  Ramadan - while we fulfill the tenets of our faith which came from the Arabian Peninsula let us not forget our dreams and hopes as the people of the Malay Peninsula.  This is how we can strive ....

Photo by Sukar Sarif  in Intisari

..... and this is how we should inspire our young.  As our old Malay saying would put it  ......

As a former teacher, I have met many, many good seeds.  But seeds also need the clean light of the sun, the soft, warm wet earth,  the loving hands to train the branches and the tendrils  and to learn from the good examples set by the adult plants.

Have a peaceful and fulfilling Ramadan.  But please remember that generosity, kindness, courtesy, consideration and thankfulness for Allah's blessings  are  not only for Ramadan.

Wednesday 3 July 2013


Been feeling poorly, under-the weather, out-of sorts or just plain knackered!!

My usual remedy is to go through my magpie collection of old books and this made me smile.

But first, listen to this  ...........

You see, I have this Duckworth's Encyclopaedia from 1891.

 Amongst other hilarious entries, I discovered this.

The Wife's Duty

Here are some of the main points.

1.Be careful in your purchases.  Let your husband know what you buy and that you have wisely expended your income. ( I don't, especially after a spending spree at Charity shops like "Animal Rescue"in Leicester.  And if he notices them I will shrug my shoulders and say it's coming from my state pension, lah, which is about 22 GBP a week!)

2.  Let no wife devote a large portion of her time to society work which shall keep her away from home daytimes and evenings, without the full concurrence of her husband. ( The spouse reciprocates this rule except when he disappears into a second hand bookshop.)

3.  Beware of entrusting the confidence of your household to outside parties.  The moment you discuss the faults of your husband with another, that moment an element of discord has been admitted which will one day   rend your family circle.  ( Isn't that called backbiting which no one, whatever the relationship, should do to another.  As for me I call the spouse a MOG or Miserable ole git, a SOG or Silly ole git  and he regards me as his 'Tart' .  And we say that to all our friends and relatives!!)

4.  Beware of bickering about little things.  .......  he is in the habit of giving commands  .... and the same dictatorial spirit may possess him in the domestic circle.  ( I have to remind the spouse that  all items in the kitchen should be properly kept, there's a place for everything and everything has its place. )

5. Be always very careful of your conduct and language.  A husband is largely restrained by the chastity, purity and refinement of his wife.  ( For a number of months last year the spouse was unable to do the driving.  Three times a week I had to drive to Tung Shin Hospital at Pudu.  Such is the level of driving in Kuala Lumpur that you cannot keep your sanity without screaming expletives in the car.  All the spouse could do was to roll his eyes upwards in despair and once asked,  "Where did you learn those words?".  I gave a short crisp answer,  "From my workmates in Leicester!!"

6.  Whatever may have been the cares of the day, greet your husband with a smile when he returns.  Make your personal appearance just as beautiful as possible.  ( I will when he does.)

7.  Be careful that you do not estimate your husband solely by his ability to make display.........  The superior qualities of mind and heart alone will bring permanent happiness.  ( When either of us say  "I love you" to the other - the response is always the same - "What for?" )

8.  A man does not alone require that his wife be a good housekeeper.  She must be more; in conversational talent and accomplishment she must be a companion.  ( I'm not a good housekeeper but I always try to have the last word  and I'm also an accomplished listener.)

AND FINALLY - a tip from 1891 for all those who do not know how to make money -  especially those who live on the urban fringes and in the rural areas.  It is still applicable today and it must work - when you see the well-heeled and influential scoundrels surrounding us today.