A Plea to End Malaysia's Racial Politics

With less than 24 hours to go before polling for Malaysia’s 13th general election, I would like to share my story with you.

Being a Malaysian of Chinese descent, I am obligated to perform the customary rites by visiting my ancestral graves during the Ching Ming Festival (Ancestor Day), which I did last month in Kuala Lumpur. I managed to perform the usual “visits” to my grandfather, great grandfather and great great grand father at their respective graves in several parts of Kuala Lumpur.

However, this time, my 11 year old daughter asked me why we have so many “families” here in Malaysia and yet we are treated differently in our ancestral land. In other words, why are we not bumiputra? I was dumbfounded. Here I am, standing in the middle of thousands of Malaysian-Chinese graves, and I could not answer a simple question from my innocent daughter. Being the first generation in our family of post-Merdeka Malaysia, my parents sent me to government schools so I could command the national language of Bahasa Melayu. I embraced and read Bahasa Melayu as my first language, speaking Mandarin at home, Cantonese with some friends and Hakka with my neighbors and relatives; English came later. In primary school we were already 1Malaysia as my Indian friends would share and sometimes swap their putu mayam (a Tamil dish made from rice flour) for my lunch pack, which usually had my mother's famous fried rice. We would sometimes have a lunch party when our Malay friends managed to convince their mothers to pack the leftover rendang from the previous night’s dinner. I was 11 years old then, and all my Indian, Malay and Chinese friends were only concerned with whether it would rain later and if we could go out and play.

As I struggled to find the “right” answer for my daughter, I finally decided to tell her the truth. Yes, this is our ancestral land, Bahasa Melayu is our first language, our ancestors are buried in this land, we are Malaysian. The only reason that we are treated differently is because the current government has created this situation. However, tomorrow is an election and we will change and correct this mistake, we will stand as 1 nation, 1 nationality and 1 family. I shall visit my ancestors next year with my children and proudly tell them, “We have done it and we have buried the ghost of racial politics. May you rest in peace.”

Please consider this when you cover the election and its aftermath. Our own mainstream media is not allowed to cover the story freely and fairly.

John Fong

Bangsa Malaysia