By SG Ang
Earlier this week, Cardiff City Football Club played Manchester City Football Club in the early stages of the new Barclay’s Premier League season. A diehard local Manchester City fan watched the game with great interest that night from his home in Petaling Jaya.
The next day, the Man City fan who has been following the club for 30 years told his wife that he was pleased that Cardiff City had defeated his beloved club.
The wife was horrified. “Why?” she asked.
“Well, they (Cardiff City) are technically a Malaysian team. The team is wearing a kit that says ‘Visit Malaysia’ and the football club is majority-owned by a Malaysian. I feel proud for them,” explained the husband, “and the strong Malaysia branding broadcasted throughout the world.”
And a former colleague, too, felt that sense of national pride for the Malaysian-owned Welsh team, at least going by his post on Facebook: Malaysia 3, Manchester City 2.
Being in Malaysia has many advantages. Let’s look at the obvious ones that many of us take for granted. First, there is the food. With its multiracial population comes the multi-ethnic cuisine and fusion food. We can have nasi lemak for breakfast, banana leaf rice for lunch, chee cheong fun for dinner and roti canai for supper.
Then there are the smiles. People smile at other people in this country. Yes, it is a unique feature. In many parts of the world, you are lucky if passers-by even look at your face. Here, strangers will smile at you if you look and acknowledge their presence.
And the festivals are aplenty. We look forward to all our numerous festivals – and the public holidays that come with them – as we have grown to accept them as part of our make-up, uniting the various races as Malaysians.
Food, festivals and smiles aside, Malaysia is currently undergoing challenging times as we approach the 56th anniversary of our Merdeka (independence) and the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia. The political climate, race relations and the economic situation in the country have left Malaysia and her people feeling exposed and vulnerable.
The recently concluded general election saw a clear divide form between the rural and urban population. This divide has galvanised some politicians and media to use matters of race, religion, class and economic standing as a way to rile up the people. It is now commonplace in the Malaysian political sphere to hear incendiary comments that pit one race against the other, or to magnify small incidents to gigantic proportions. The “halus” or soft old ways of Malaysians have been discarded as politicians seek to outdo each other with provocative tirades. And they seem to be unconcerned over the damage they are inflicting on the fabric of Malaysian society.
Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah said it well when he recently noted that, in a country whose citizens comprised different faiths, it was important that meticulous and cautious approaches are adopted when issuing statements and responding to matters that touched on religion.
“Each statement and action made must be based on national consideration and not be influenced by emotions,” said Raja Nazrin during his royal address at the opening of the 13th Perak State Assembly.
Another emotionally charged issue is the high crime rate. Let’s face it: crime, be it snatch theft, armed robbery, or even murder, is no longer a matter of perception. The multiple shooting cases, including the high profile murder of a prominent ex-banker, and the attempted assassination of the MyWatch chairman, have left even ordinary Malaysians fearing for their safety. Children are rarely left alone to play in parks, women aren’t safe on the roads and men fear being in the wrong place at the wrong time in case they end up being shot dead.
Meanwhile, the economy is not looking too good either, with the ringgit sliding in recent months as we brace for what some economists are claiming could be a rerun of the 1997 Asian crisis with investor sentiment being fragile at the moment (as with most emerging markets).
Unite to survive
It is during times like these that the people look to our leaders to provide much needed solutions that would prevent us from going the way of other countries blighted by economic collapse and political instability.
Now more than ever we need ordinary Malaysians and our elected representatives to embrace the spirit of 1Malaysia to ensure our nation survives and emerges triumphant in the face of the many challenges it is currently facing.
To do this, our leaders must acknowledge that Malaysia is no longer a country merely made of Ali, Ah Kow and Samy who populated the textbooks back in the 60s and 70s.
Malaysia is now truly a racial and cultural melting pot. Interracial marriages – not just between the major ethnic groups in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, but also with foreigners – are no longer uncommon. This diversity is now reflected in our children and our homes, particularly during festivals as extended family members gather together.
As race and ethnic boundaries blur, the idea of a Malaysian being solely identified as being of a particular race seems outmoded. It’s time to take the next step forward and cast such thinking aside, to show that we are – and mature enough to whatever comes our way.
Happy Birthday Malaysia.