I am always been proud to be a Malaysian, but unlike Kadir Jasin I don’t need to apologise for this.
However, like Pak Kadir, I too am embarrassed when some Malaysians showed their tidakapathy (attitude of not being bothered) towards or, worse, involvement in corruption, bigotry, intolerance and a reluctance to accept responsibility for their personal deeds and achievements (or lack of both).
I’m very sure of myself as a Malaysian, which has been why I have a very keen interest in knowing where the current political polemics and posturing will take our nation to. I hope every citizen of this God-blessed country, regardless of his/her ethnic origin, personal names, religious beliefs, political affiliation, social background and education will be equally proud to be Malaysians and hold dear the future of our Motherland.
And on names, quite frankly, is your pride as a Malaysian dependent on whether your name is Parameswara, Ningkan, Kitingan, Dompok, Nadim, Kadir, Maniam, Yasmin, Kaur, Rodriguez, or Swee Lan?
Admittedly some have felt, and justifiably too, they have been marginalised on the basis of their names because these draw attention to their ethnic origin (or skin colour), and religious beliefs.
Since they have been thus identified by and consequentially sidelined because of these very characteristics, can you blame them for querying whether it would be better to drop from forms and identity cards all these discriminatory socio-religio-ethnic differences?
These unnecessary divisive discriminatory distinctions are not only disadvantageous to some but creepy too, making one wonder whether they’re a modern form of wearing the yellow Star of David.
Of course those marginalised appreciate that some who have benefitted solely by virtue of the mentioned differences would naturally want the distinction between ethnic-religious groups to continue as official indicators in forms and identity cards.
The consolation of the marginalised is that at least their identity cards do not describe their religious dietary constraint, like Hindus or some Buddhist denominations not eating beef.
Meals in the military
Talking about beef, it seems not so long ago when two of my uncles served in the armed forces during the Emergency.
Both were devout adherents of the Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, where like Hindus they did not partake of beef. They recall during their times in the military they were often served with just that, beef curry or beef stewed in sweet soya sauce. This happened despite their official notification of their religious diet to the military administrators. But did they make a song and dance about this faux pas? No, they just requested for an omelette in lieu.It was the commonsense Malaysian thing to do.
Were they mad that they were given beef, a religiously taboo-ed item, as part of their mess food or even missing some [protein] items with their field rations and thus having to rely on the contingency of salted fish and sambal udang kering which most servicemen carried?
They realized in the military, defending Malaysia against the insurgents in the jungles involved a cast of thousands with numerous simultaneous field activities, thus mistakes could and did occur.
So heigh ho, they being the typical Malaysians just made the best out of a less-than-satisfactory situation. Nor did they feel any necessity to demand that their military identity cards or dog tags carry more prominent notice of their religion, race or the associated dietary taboos.
Neither did they demand that the military official forms be revised with the ‘Religion’ box be made more conspicuous. There were far more important issues like service numbers (identity minus any other discriminatory indicators), next of kin, blood group type and any particular medical condition for the administrator’s attention.
Today they feel their service and those of various ethnic groups in the Malaysian armed forces and police force have been worthwhile on hearing Prime Minister Najib Razak declaring: “In fostering a 1Malaysia government, it has been proposed that the mention of race on government forms be eliminated except for the purpose of census and statistics.???
Proud to serve country
Did and do my uncles love Malaysia any less because they are of Chinese descent? Have they been regretful of their personal sacrifices because they and their children are lesser citizens than those recent arrivals from neighbouring countries who were once our nation’s enemies?
Well, let's talk about some of their police and military compatriots, people to whom the nation owes incredible debts to such as police superintendent Paul Kiong, police deputy superintendent Sia Boon Chee and Capt. V. Mohana Chandran – recipients of Malaysia’s highest gallantry honour, the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) conferred by the Agong
Then there were those awarded the Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB) like the late lieutenants Choo Yoke Boo and Chang Tatt Min of the RMAF who both died in action, and 2nd Lt David Fu Chee Ming of the 4th battalion, Royal Rangers.
When a soldier, sailor or airman is wounded in the service of his country, regardless of his race, religion, culture, education or social origin, the colour of his blood he sheds is red. When he is killed, the colour of his bones is white.
He is proud to be a Malaysian who has served Malaysia, in some cases with the ultimate sacrifice. He did all these without first considering what was his race or religion, or whether he was a pribumi, which was why he unhesitatingly put his blood and body where his heart was –Tanah tumpahnya darahku!
And precisely because of this, while my uncles and their Indian friends in the Armed Forces have been proud and grateful they have inherited their rich legacies of thousands of years of culture and history, they are even more proud to be Malaysians, because they were born here as citizens. Malaysia is their Motherland.
They utilise the best moral lessons of their socio-cultural inheritance to enhance themselves and their children to be even better Malaysians and not as Chinese or Indians suffering from a bad case of hubristic snobbery or territorial intolerance.
They no longer feel the need to brandish their proud ethnic heritage as if these should like a special pass which entitles them and their heirs to privileges beyond those available to other fellow Malaysians.
If fate had decreed that my uncles were to perish in their battles against the terrorists, as did some of their compatriots, they would have been proud to go into the next world as Malaysians.
Having served their nation, my uncles would not have been unduly worried who or what would stumble across their corpses. For their Maker would know them by their deeds on earth and to their country, and not by the indicators in their identity cards or military dog tags.
Malaysia negaraku, tanah tumpahnya darahku!
Updated: This article was revised 8.26pm.