Wednesday 9 April 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 1

I'm an ex-Singaporean who grew up and lived in Singapore  from 1945 to 1978.  I had the 'benefit' of an English language colonial education - and got as far as the pukka University of Singapore. I went through historical events like being in and out of Malaysia, the race riots of the early 1960s,  Singapore's Independence and living under the 'aegis' of that master Sifu Mr Lee Kuan Yew.  I also had the privilege of teaching in both the Malay and English mediums and for just a month I discovered the intricacies of teaching in a top-notch Christian Junior College.  After 1978, I hopped between Singapore, Brunei and England. Each time I left that island  for Brunei and England, I felt so relieved that I did not have to spend the rest of my life there.  Knowing what I went through as an educated Malay, I vowed that my brother and his family should have the same chance I had - the chance for a better life in Malaysia.  But we had no intention of taking any handouts or freebies from Malaysia , even though we could.  My brother left behind his wife and son in Singapore while he pursued his degree in Hull.  When he finally made the move to Malaysia, he did not come empty-handed - he had something to give to his father's and grandfather's Tanah Air.

He misses - I miss - our childhood places where we grew up  while living and schooling in Pasir Panjang.  Tempat jatuh lagi dikenang, inikan lagi tempat bermain.

In 2011, we made a sentimental journey to our primary school,  Pasir Panjang English School.  It is now a rehab centre run by evangelical Christians.
Seperti sirih pulang ke gagang - we finally carried out what Abah wanted us to do many years ago: but we had to leave our father and youngest brother in their final resting place at Pusara Abadi, Jalan Bahar.

Back in our father's homeland, my brother's family had a chance - to work hard and study diligently to  make full use of the opportunities available.  Malaysia helped him and his wife to bring up an engineer, a doctor and a lawyer.  Don't ever think they were fed with a silver spoon by the Government.  My brother and wife sacrificed and committed their resources to educating their children to enable them to compete for their places in the University.  I am so proud that my engineer-nephew who had been head-hunted for a job in Toyota, Frankfurt made a decision, albeit a heart-wrenching one, to go home and serve out his bond in his country instead.
And so, this ex-Singaporean finds  it very amusing when Malaysians, especially the Malays, wax lyrical about the achievements and development of the Republic of Temasek.  And when they go on and on about how Malaysia  should follow in the footsteps of the Mandarins and Sifus  of Singapore, I can't help thinking of an  image of a gibbon crushing a flower in its hands.

If these clever and articulate Malay-Malaysians had to live and study and work in Singapore they wouldn't like it one bit - for the sake of their children and their future, they would move heaven and earth to escape to Malaysia, as they did in the 1960s and 1970s.     Later these Malays became more adventurous and migrated to Perth, Vancouver, Washington, Auckland - they were the pioneers of the Malay Diaspora!

So what is wrong with Malaysia - in comparison to Singapore ?

Here's an insight from the writing of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, as reported by The Malay Mail 26 March 2014.

To quote the MM : The policy of mollycoddling the Malays will only get in the way of efforts to keep up with rapid globalisation, industrialisation and modernization.  There are two issues here.  Firstly, in what ways has Malaysia failed to "keep up" with globalisation etc?  And who has benefited the most from Globalization, Industrialisation, and Modernization - this Holy Trinity of  "Progress"?  Most certainly they would be the inhabitants of the urban areas.  That certainly leaves the non-urban Malays and the Indians out of the picture.  Albeit there would be a smattering of  'globalized' Malays;  the elites who benefited from the NEP  ( the vehicle of 'mollycoddling' ) and the elites from the old feudal and colonial days.  

Secondly, when did 'mollycoddling'  begin ?  That choice of word is an unfortunate and deliberate snipe at the policy of affirmative action for the bumiputeras.  

If we look back at the history of the Peninsula from the period of Portuguese conquest and British "intervention" there is no doubt at all that the urban non-bumis in Malaya especially were the main beneficiaries of Imperial rule.  One could say they never had it so good  in the Peninsula and Straits Settlements during the reign of  Imperial Britain, compared to Chinese immigrants in Indonesia, the Philippines, the USA and in South Africa during the same period.  I shall leave the details and statistics to the experts.  One only has to look at this item from a 1957 school textbook  (Bahasa Kita by D.R. Hughes - an introduction to the Malay Language for non-Malay pupils in Lower Secondary Schools in Malaya ) to understand who got the bigger slice of' 'modernization'  in British Malaya.

BUT, nowhere in Datuk Zaid's  Zaidgeist did he use the word 'mollycoddle' - it was the choice-word of the Malay Mail entirely.  The closest reference to that boo word is Datuk Zaid's  "Our Malay leaders, whether from Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat, are very protective of Malays".

One mollycoddles or spoils someone who doesn't need or deserve the special treatment.  Malay privileges and the NEP , especially after the trauma of 13 May  represented the importance of bridging the yawning gap of wealth and development between the (rural) Malays and the (urban) mainly Chinese immigrants.  This was the toxic 'heritage' that the British gave to the Malays.

How did Semenanjung Tanah Melayu turn into "a plural society"?  Were the Malays sleepwalking into this demographic time-bomb created by the British?  Read this and compare the concern and awareness of the Malays then with the "modernized, globalized, industrialised" Malays today.

And despite such Malay voices of concern (in 1948 and from 30 years before that), the 1957 population data recorded the Malays making up less than half of the population with the Chinese making up the largest immigrant population at 37 per cent.  Do read Item 11 in the above footnote - I like the sense of humour in this Reader from 1955.

Just in case the above sounds like a load of unwarranted whingeing from the Malays,  let's look at the misfortunes suffered by the natives in other parts of the British Empire as a result of "British Development"..  This is from my father's book on :

This was the way the British dealt with the problem of mixed peoples in their Empire after the Second World War.

For Canada, there is no mention or recognition of the people of the First Nation - the Indians from the north of the North American Continent - only the immigrant Europeans.  As for the natives of the southern part of the African Continent there are far too many of them. My word!  They outnumber the immigrant whites!!  How the whites fear about being swamped.  But who cares about the protests of the natives in the Peninsula who faced the same fear as the immigrant whites (as noted in the Majlis of 1948)?  But Australia and New Zealand take the first prize for 'mollycoddling'(?) their kind. Just keep out the Asiatics like Chinese, Indians, Malays, Indonesians, etc. etc.  Oh, how protective of their "purity" are those immigrant whites, when they want to keep a country they have colonised just  for themselves!

   But what of the Semenanjung?    The British coined the term 'Malaya' (as in the "Malayan Union") in 1946 - mainly for administrative purposes and  to accommodate the immigrant Chinese and Indians within the motley collection of colonies (the Straits Settlements), protectorates (the Federated Malay States), Unfederated Malay States and independent Johor.   The inclusion of the word "Malay" in 'Malaya' would keep the Malays quiet and dull their feelings of displacement and discrimination in their Tanah Air.   It was just window dressing, as was the formation of the Malayan Union in 1946.   However, this time the (Malay) worms decided to turn.   After some adjustments the Federation of Malaya was created in 1948.   I suppose we should be grateful that they did not rename the Peninsula Victoriana after Queen Victoria, like the Philippines after King Philip of Spain!

I salute those brave voices from over 75 years ago.  But now their modern, globalised, and highly educated grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a strange desire to emulate that golden child of British imperialism from down south.    Or at the very least take their Singdollars?

                                                        Banana Boat Song -Beetlejuice


sayangmalaysia said...

Thank you Kak ASH for this posting. Many Malaysians are denied the right truth of the country's history.

I am a Malay who benefited from NEP that gave me an opportunity of education. Growing up helping my mother tap rubber, I know I would not be where I am if not for the NEP affirmative action policies.

Admittedly there are abuses and some very obvious, and we should work to fix those. We have to admit some of the government policies in NEP has been well executed. Look at the make up of doctors, engineers, and many other professionals ... there are now significant number of Malays, thanks to the education policy.

As I am now able to pay for my children education, I pay for them myself. And I know many Malays who thanked the Government for the help they get and choose to not grab someone else who is more elligible to get scholarships. And I do feel for the poor non-Malays who must also get scholarship. So the correction that is needed is to stop abuses by Government machinery, not throwing away the whole policy!

I now make a living in China and I wish Malaysians will see the situation in China, then only they will realize how good we have had it.

Like you said ASH, if you give a flower to a monkey he may only know how to destroy it!

anak si-hamid said...

Dear sayangmalaysia,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

I'm proud of you and your commitment like I am of my engineer-nephew.

Anonymous said...

my dear nor....
thank you for the mention . But there's something you could not mention . YOU. You sacrificed a lot supporting a brother's overseas education and the family cost of living in UK. We were, by no means a rich family...not financially at least. But the sense to create, make good and realize a Father's dream, no one but no one can take that away . ....and insyallah, the same spirit has been taught to my three children and your nephew and nieces. They may not show it, but believe me I have seen the fire in them as it was and still is in you.
Bless you.


anak si-hamid said...

Dear Mus,

Thank you. Remember we are Anak si Hamid and his strength and spirit lives in us.

IdrisMdIsa said...

I'm 15 years your junior. Don't know whether to call you kakak or makcik. Haha! Read your articles seriously today, 4 or 5 of them at one go, with breaks for solats, foods & toilet.I must confess I love your writing immensely. They are academic, factual, critical but very objective and articulate.

Unfortunately, most Malays/sians are no fans of academic writings. So I reckon yours are not widely read. Since you are an ex-teacher, I am sure you have in abundance reference materials which you ust share with us.

I love writing too but most times I am hampered and halted by lack of materials to support my arguments. Also, I don't write full time since I still have school going kids and I am a nobody's chrony. Slogging for survival has to take priority.

But my heart bleeds and my blood bois each time I read (just) excerpts from those kurang ajar portals, especially MalaysiaKini, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Chronicle, Free MAlaysia Today, the Malay Mail Online, the Star, the Rocket etc. How I wish I could devote my time fighting them intellectually. Now, for factual resources I know I can rely on your blog. Well, I'll give you credit for whatever fact I ceduk from your blog. TQVM

anak si-hamid said...

Dear IdrisMdIsa,

Firstly, my deepest apologies for this belated reply. At 70, you begin to live life in the slow lane.

Thank you for your kind comment.

I'm glad to find such a 'soul-mate' who cares and empathises with what I am concerned with - for our people and our country.

All those papers and websites that make your blood boil? - they are also my nemesis. They have a clever way of disguising their anti-Malay/Muslim agenda in liberal rhetoric. And the shame is, nobody in the Malay world of journalism, academe and media communication can offer such a counter to their schemes.

I heartily agree with you not many Malays (unlike the Chinese and Indians) want to read anything serious, which forces them to think and re-appraise where they are going in their tanah air. Fluffy writings are all they can handle.

I understand your frustration - but your children and family must come first. However you can bring them up to share your concern, imbibe your values and write like you can! Just like my Abah did!

Cronies? Who needs them? Only weak, lazy and avaricious beings.

By all means, use what you can from my blog. Also, do remember to cite the sources I got it from - credibility is uppermost in everything we write.

You're young enough to carry on the torch and I'm so glad to know that there are young Malays out there like you.

Finally, most of my former students would be your age - just call me Cikgu.

Terimakasih said...

Thank you dan terima kasih di atas penulisan anda. Fakta fakta seperti dalam buku A Graduated Malay Reader sungguh menakjubkan.

Ianya menjadi penyuluh untuk generasi baru Melayu seperti saya. Kini saya sedar masaalah orang Cina dan India di Tanah Melayu sudah begitu lama diketahui dan disedari bahayanya.

Malang sungguh UMNO tidak memperjuangkan maklumat ini disekolah kerana suatu masa dulu Menteri Pendidikan UMNO dua dua adalah orang India Kutty dan Ibrahim Pulau Pinang.

Ini adalah sebab utama kenapa fakta seperti ini tidak tersebar dan hanya diketahui umum apabila sistem komunikasi blogging wujud seperti sekarang.

Ramai orang Melayu tidak sedar bahaya Mendeliar dari Kerala dan Tamil kepada sistem sosial dan pelajaran melayu nah sekarang kita boleh lihat anak anak melayu gen y tidak tahu. Malah saya yang bukan gen y dan banyak membaca pun hanya mengetahuinya hari ini dari blog puan.

Malay Mail adalah sarang penulis India sebab itu mereka cuba menokok tambah dengan perkataan molly coddlying sedangkan ini adalah hak Melayu dan orang India masih lagi rakyat India dan patut di molly codlying kan balek ke India. Beri insentif untuk balek india kerana kerajaan Modi sekarang sangat nasionalis dan sayangkan orang India. Penulis Malay Mail pasti gembira di India, makan daging lembu pun boleh dibunuh oleh mob. Tapi di Malaysia setiap tahun korban lembu dilakukan oleh orang Melayu jadi tiada sebab kenapa mereka tidak mahu pulang ke india.

Hingga sekarang, kerana dibantutkan oleh Mendeliar, pemimpin Melayu diperingkat Ketua Bahagian tidak tahu bagaimana untuk menutup pintu Tanah Melayu dari kebanjiran pendatang asing yang baru dan lama.

Tetapi dengan kekayaan kita sekarang, sistem insentif untuk beralih ke australia, us atau uk dll boleh dilakukan.

Sekarang ini ada rakan Cina saya menggunakan duit sendiri untuk pindah ke canada atau new zealand. Jika UMNO sediakan tabung seperti Permanent Outward Transfer maka lebih ramai kawan Cina saya akan pindah. Dan membantu mereka mendapatkan kerja di Canada/australia/new zealand adalah sungguh dihargai.