Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I took my family out to the Zoo Negara; our National Zoo, which it isn’t at all but that, is another story. It was a Sunday and it was crowded. Malaysians all out to enjoy a day out with friends and family at one of the cheapest and most enjoyable public facilities in the city of Kuala Lumpur. And what a fine example of Malaysia was there at the Zoo that Sunday. At the ticket lines there were Malaysians of all races queuing in an orderly manner. Smiling. Friendly. Happy. Being a Sunday there were busloads of school children with their chaperoning teachers and parents. All dressed in their crisp, colorful school uniforms. From the expectant looks on their faces and their barely conceal-able enthusiasm I deduced that they were out-of-towners on a visit to the capital city. When we were lining up to enter the turnstiles we were joined by other equally enthused Malaysians. Inside the zoo we walked in the company of tudung clad school children. Indian Malaysians clad in sarees in all the vibrant colors of the rainbow. Whole Chinese communities chattering away in almost all the dialects of the Chinese language. It was like a reenactment of the Tower of Babel but with a healthy dose of friendly diversity. When we stopped for a picnic lunch. We had sandwiches and sausages and salads next to a table where a Malay family was enjoying their picnic lunch of curries and nasi and ayam goreng and petai. When we rode the zoo tram a tudung-ed Malay lady and her little boy offered my 6-year-old daughter, Laura a chocolate cookie which she accepted with a polite “Terima kasih” and a smile of friendship. Totally unprompted. When we left the zoo for home I had this warm, gushy feeling. It’s good being Malaysian and living in this multi-racial, multi-cultural paradise. Sigh. We are SO lucky.

This feeling of almost euphoria lasted for almost an hour. We got home. Showered. Looked at the photos we took at the zoo. The smiles. The colors. The togetherness.

I sat down to read the Sunday newspapers. Then…POOF! Reality kicked in.

There on page 2 of The New Sunday Times the headline, “Najib wants Koh to prove he is CM for all races”. Apparently, the Penang Chief Minister had been criticized for allegedly not doing enough for the Malays. Our Deputy Prime Minister in an apparently display of true Malaysian spirit had come out and openly played a racist card by making the call to a Chief Minister of a state! Strangely enough nobody seems to have identified exactly what “not doing enough” for a particular community means. The message that comes across is just that a Chinese chief minister isn’t doing enough for the Malays in his state. Phwa! Sure goes a long way in promoting racial harmony and tolerance, right? If someone had actually come forward and said that this kampung needed a school or a hospital or a new road or a new bridge or clean running water or something and that the state government should look into it right away and make sure that what is planned is carried out – GREAT! Get it done. But no. It’s always Malays, Chinese, Indians lain-lain. It is always the politicians sowing seeds of misunderstanding, distrust. It is never a case of “Hey we are all in the same coalition government. We try our best to do what is best for ALL Malaysians.” Instead it is the same song and dance. We are fighting for the Malays. You are favoring Chinese. Indians.

Tell us la. What is the problem? In detail. And if it is true that a community is being treated unfairly all the electorate, Malays, Chinese, Indians and lain lain will make sure the CM or whoever is responsible answer for it.

But to me what is actually happening just sounds like “Hey, we are politicians and we are fighting for ourselves to stay in power so that we can milk this country for what it’s worth.” Keranamu Malaysia? KeranaKU, Malaysia seems more appropriate.

I know. Maybe I am just being naive. But I think that on the ground or what is popularly referred to as grass root levels Malaysians are a happy lot. Sharing. Caring. Able to discuss and resolve issues peacefully among themselves. Add keris-waving, shoe leather-loving politicians into the mix…Malays, Chinese, Indians, Lain-lain.


On the same page of The New Sunday Times just above the DPM story is a quote by our Prime Minister which, depending on how you want to take it, provides a ray of hope or is just another pile of bovine manure.

“Keep your promises to people, PM tells reps.” Pak Lah was ordering assemblymen to be committed in serving the people. A commitment which surely must include preserving racial and cultural harmony, right?

Funnily, this order from the PM was read out by his deputy! And in the presence of the Chief Minister of Penang!

But then, these days we rarely take utterances by our Pak Lah seriously anymore. Or do we?