By William Cheah
To my Fellow Chinese Malaysians,
I have always wanted to write this but never found the right time. Maybe this is the right time. For reflection.
I have never supported any political party that was Chinese based, regardless of whether it was DAP, MCA, Gerakan etc. It may seem funny coming from a Chinese, especially one whose lineage has ties to MCA.
Some of you will start cursing me now. A traitor to his race amongst the curses. But hear me out if you can. At least listen to my reason.
And the reason is one only.
All these parties, regardless of which side they come from, whichever ideology they believe and practise, have one thing in common.
They champion or profess to champion the rights of the Chinese. Whether they do so openly or not, we all know and believe they do. Come any election, all will trumpet loudly what they have done for the Chinese community. So vote them. Vote your champion. The one that guards and protects your rights. The one that has the best interest of your race, culture, language etc at heart. Vote them so they can continue to do that.
And that’s the problem for me.
Because in their call-in protecting my rights as a Chinese, I do not see what they have done to make me Malaysian. Neither in action nor in guidance. In their obsession in becoming the big fish in a small pond, they have ignored the vision of turning the small pond into a big lake.
I look around at our Malaysian Chinese population and I see one undeniable fact. We are growing lesser by percentage with each passing year. And as each second ticks by, we are growing weaker because our numbers grow smaller. In a democracy practised such as ours, it is all about numbers. The fewer you are the lesser your voice.
Maybe in the past, it was different. When the Chinese here were 40%? More or less? But dynamics change when you have become closer to only 20% now. One day we will become 10%, then 5%.
What then? How then?
For all the parties “championing” the rights of the Chinese in Malaysia, the ones which call Malaysia their home, the generations which by now, by right, should consider Malaysia their Motherland, I believe you have done a great disservice to all of them, to all of us.
By constantly focussing on the specific and unique “rights” of the Chinese, you have denied us the opportunity to become Malaysians and boxed us in, in thought and practise as forever Chinese.
By right, today we should be proud to consider ourselves Malaysian first. Not Chinese first. By right, our fellow Malaysians should be considering us as Malaysians and not Chinese.
But we cannot. They cannot.
Because we are more adamant in promoting our exclusivity rather than integrating into the national identity. Because we tell ourselves and others, we are Chinese. We identify ourselves as Chinese. Even amongst ourselves.
We refuse to adapt and adopt wholeheartedly certain requirements which are paramount to being Malaysian. Language for example. How many Chinese families promote the use of Bahasa Malaysia as their first language? Some don’t even consider it a second language. And yet we clamour to be called Malaysians. Even after 62 years of independence.
Let us not talk about our stand in regards to other race-specific practice. It would be too painful to admit. From name rights to even our loyalty to the flag.
Have you wondered why are such issues cropping up now? Or has it always been there but just never voiced out?
I believe, that many Malays are angry at us and do not consider us as full-fledged citizens nor one deserving of equality, simply because we do not act and behave as one which deserves so. It’s not just about religion. It isn’t just about race. It all stems from the basics.
It would be simple to point the finger at them and say they are wrong. To justify our rights here as being born here. By our constitutional rights. By history.
But truly, I ask you, what has each and every one of us doing to embrace the identity that makes us Malaysian? What have we done to blur the lines that segregate us based on race or have we actually been repainting the lines to make it even bolder and sharper?
And that is the reason why I till now do not support any Chinese based political party. For in their stand, in their practice, in nearly every action they have taken to gain support from the Chinese community, they have been strengthening the lines that keep us from truly becoming Malaysians. Their very strategy calls for us to be separated from the rest. To be different from the rest.
And yet, in wanting to be different, we unashamedly demand to be given the same rights while refusing or at best, struggle, against the responsibilities and requirements needed to be accepted as one.
No, I am not asking for us to forget our culture, history or even give up our practices. But I do wish we can embrace certain aspects that make us Malaysian. And to embrace it wholeheartedly.
But this will never happen till the day our so-called political champions, decide that it is time to focus on what can be done to turn the Chinese here into Malaysians rather than focussing on the fact that we are Chinese always.
Only then maybe can we truly begin the process of truly Malaysian identity. Ignore it, and slowly but surely, we will lose not just our voice, but our home as we know it.
If I want to known as Malaysian first, to be given the full rights as a Malaysian, to be accepted and viewed by my fellow Malaysians of other races as a Malaysian first….then I must be a Malaysian first. Not Chinese first.
We cannot have it any other way. Being born here is a gift. We need to do more than that. to make it a reality. We need to live it.
On our 62nd Hari Kebangsaan, we face a time of great uncertainty and disharmony. We, more than ever, confront each other based along racial lines. One day, I hope we will celebrate it as only one race. As Bangsa Malaysia.
Willam Cheah is a social activist
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