Today I listened as my Convent cronies – the girls I grew up with in good old Seremban – candidly revealed their take on the current political issues of concern viz  the growing inter-racial distrust and suspicion that has the potential of magnifying into something more sinister. The Hulu Selangor election results clearly pointed to the poor Chinese support for the BN candidate, which in turn shows the diminishing Chinese support for the BN Government. 

Why are the Chinese turning away I asked my friends, despite the professed promises and generous gestures from the Prime Minister and his BN team?

Because there was trust among the cronies we could be open and direct. We were able to ask the probing questions and get the honest answers that the well-brought up Convent girls that we were expected from an enlightened education – an education that taught us to be honest, forthright and forthcoming. Now, as middle-aged women we have  nothing to lose but our own integrity and good name as the loyal and devoted wives , mothers and grandmothers that we have become. As Malaysian citizens who love our motherland we wish to contribute our best to an enduring legacy and heritage that our children and grandchildren can be proud of.

What I haven’t been able to get from my male Chinese friends I was able to persuade from my women friends. From the animated responses I’m able to surmise the Chinese in Malaysia feel that the socio-cultural discrimination against the non- Bumiputeras over the last three decades has reduced them to second class citizens. As a result of the Bumiputera bias in the NEP and related policies and programmes, a whole  generation of  Chinese (Indians and others) have matured with deep-seated resentment against the government biases, which sometimes translated into outright discrimination in education, business and job opportunities. 

The women related their experiences of discrimination and prejudice where they were made to feel small by the Malay government officers in authority. They spoke of the large number of applications for government jobs from the Chinese and Indians that never saw the light of day. They remember their friends and colleagues who were by-passed in the department  promotions to make way for the politically suitable Bumiputera aspirants. At social functions they were the minority in a room full of  Malay invitees who by virtue of  their numbers alone were often more confident and sometimes even arrogant. Having attended Chinese and Indian weddings and other occasions where they were very few Malay guests, I know the feeling of being at the opposite end of the soci0-cultural equilibrium.

It was then my turn to be prodded and asked why the Malays have become so socio-culturally distant! Naively I offered the suggestion that the renewed Islamic fervour that gripped the Malays from the 70s made them more conscious of their religious obligations, thus making haram and halal a greater reality. I confessed that while the Malays of my generation would eat in a non-Muslim home as long as they were assured that pork was not served, the majority of the present-day Malays will only do so if a Muslim caterer and Islam-friendly ingredients and utensils are used.

I was asked why the Chinese are facing discrimination in business and economic undertakings when they are in fact paying the most/ highest taxes. To this I cleverly argued that there can’t be real discrimination when they are paying all that tax. They must be involved in huge businesses as they have always been, and having a huge share of the economic cake as they always have. That they work very hard accounts for their great successes – something which the Malays realise and are trying hard to emulate.

To my suggestion that the Chinese are also racially- biased and will discriminate as hard if they are in power, there was no clear answer. I pressed the point that the Malays feel they are “stabbed in the back” by their Chinese business/ corporate rivals but was told that all is fair in love and business.

Malays stab Malays, Chinese stab Chinese, Indians stab Indians – then they stab one another in order to further their business interests. In love , apparently Soi Lek  was just unlucky as his MCA compatriots who were guilty of the same indiscretion did not get caught. He is respected for having worked effectively when he was the Minister of Health. The general feeling in the MCA circles is that he will do the same for the party.

All in all it was a joyous Convent reunion of 10 Chinese girls, one Punjabi and one Malay. In fact it was a microcosm of our schooldays in the 50s and 60s when there was a majority of Chinese students with a sprinkling of Indians and Malays. Then the Chinese were socio-culturally dominant at least in the bigger towns. The Malay and Indian students were mainly from/ in the backwaters.

Has the situation really changed I wonder!


2 Responses to “”

  1. 1 kalpana bhatnagar
    May 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Haleema,
    How true your article is.Wish we could turn back the clock to more trusting times!

  2. 2 ninitalk
    May 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Kalpana! Yes, we must nurture the friendship that we have with the old friends of our youth and the new ones that we make on life’s journey. In the end the most precious things in the world are the love, respect and trust we have from family and friends. All else comes to nought!

    We had a lovely time in Kuantan didn’t we, especially that wonderful spa experience!

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