The recent “Tsunami Cina” and “Apa lagi Cina mau?” rhetoric has deeply saddened my heart. I have never in my life seen the Malay race as a race so segregated from my own daily life, and for the first time and on such an official basis, I am dejected by my own fellow citizens – no more and no less, by the highest ranking people governing the nation.
I live among many Malays who are peaceful and are, like my own family, trying to earn a livelihood and raise their children in the most honest way they know how. They are very religious people who consistently perform their daily solat at the surau just across my house, and for that, they have my utter admiration.
Pakcik carrying me
When I was young, some of the people who had most deeply impacted my life were Malay Muslims. As a child of four or five years old, there was an elderly man (I knew him only as Pakcik) who used to send my mother to school and fetch her back in his trishaw. And because he adored me so much, from the time he dropped my mother off at school until her dismissal when he picked her up, he would fetch me all around town in his trishaw together with his other passengers. I can and will never forget the cuddles and hugs he gave me every day. He would often also take me home to his house because his elderly wife too adored me. They were very poor, but whenever I went to their dilapidated house, a cup of hot kopi O always came out from the kitchen with a few pieces of square-shaped biscuits. Makcik would dip these biscuits into the kopi O piece by piece and feed them to me. Pakcik obviously had very little money, but he often bought me little toys and tit-bits.
Since I was too young to be accepted into a proper kindergarten at that time, Pakcik enrolled me into Tadika Islam which was willing to take me in, and my parents never minded it at all. I earned a nickname for myself there from both teachers and students who were ignorant – Cina Babi. Yes, that was what they called me every day. But when Pakcik realised that, he got very angry and protective over me. There are the good Malays, and there are the bad Malays. The same goes for Chinese. And Indians. And all humanity of all races.
I have always admired the Malay culture. There is a special unspoken tenderness in the way Malay families relate with one another that I would love for our Chinese families to have. I have always loved how children are taught to respect and honour their parents with great gentleness. The way children offer the salam to their parents, and especially when they seek forgiveness from their parents during Hari Raya, never fails to make me tear. Since young, I have also always loved the baju Melayu and have found as many opportunities as I could to wear it. I have often stood at the entrance of the suraus watching my friends say their prayers.
When I was in the secondary school, I was again very attached to a Malay family. This was a family which had rather high political links but were very down to earth and humane as people. The way their house was always open to visitors, and their concern for the poor among them regardless of their race and religion, left a permanent and indelible impression on me. Because I felt so at home there, I often spent days and nights over at their house enjoying their hospitality and friendship. I was so close to them it hardly occurred to me that they were... Malay. Sure, we were so different in our cultures, but this harmonious co-existence was precisely what I enjoyed so much.
I am today a minister of the Catholic Church. Much of what I have learned from the teachings of my Church, I had learned much earlier on in life from my Muslim neighbours. I have a great love and devotion for my parents because of how I observe the way the elderly are treated by my Malay acquaintances. I preach a life of openness and charity because I saw Malay homes being open to unknown hungry visitors to walk in to eat off their dining tables.
Of course, there are racialistic Malays. There are also racialistic Chinese and racialistic Indians. The worst of our races and religions practice a form of bigotry that even their mothers would be ashamed of. And unfortunately, many of them have risen to positions of political power they do not deserve.
So “apa lagi Cina mau?” What does a Chinese like me want? I want back my Malaysia you every so often threaten to rob from me. If the Chinese have voted against you, it is not because we are Chinese. It is also not because you are Malay. If we voted against you, it is precisely because you have shown yourself to be capable of such bigoted rhetoric. And your post-election reaction, in spewing such hideous words, merely reinforces that we have voted correctly.