I was born in Malaysia in a time where the country was held ransom by the bumiputera policy that discriminated against Chinese, Indians and other non-bumi races.
Since their schooling days, my parents faced racial discrimination from quotas which gave all bumis scholarships to study in university regardless of grades (and 1 scholarship for the non-bumis to fight over). My father taught in a local school for 3 years, being passed over for a pay raise or promotion that was given to any new bumis.
My uncles and aunts ran small businesses which had to hire at least a bumi to stay on the “safe” side of the law of the local government. Protection money was considered “insurance” against weird reasons for authorities to revoke their business licence. 30% of their profits were paid to the government officials to tax businesses so that the Malaysian welfare policies could continue (or who knows, to pay for the latest high-class watch on some official’s wrist).
The merging of Singapore with Malaysia was regarded by my Malaysian relatives as a consequence of the British pulling out. Better to stick together than leave our Singaporean relatives alone.
But Lee Kuan Yew’s push for a multi-racial Malaysia and fairness for his constituents (who paid tax to Malaysian coffers but would not be defended by Malaysian defence forces) didn’t sit well with the UMNO and the sultans who came to power promising the bumis that the bumis always came first.
So Singapore was left alone to fend for itself. No one knew how things would turn out, will Malaysia eventually relax its bumi policy and give non-bumis a fair chance at opportunities? Will Singapore be acquired by Indonesia or remain a poorer cousin of Malaysia?
In Malaysia, we witnessed Singapore’s rise due to its emphasis on meritocracy, business-friendly and anti-corruption stance. Some of us dismissed Singapore as a fluke, you guys just got lucky. Some were secretly jealous, others felt Singapore was arrogant. But no one could refute the fact that Singapore gave all Singaporeans more opportunities than Malaysia would give all Malaysians.
My parents found jobs in Singapore 30 years ago in booming sectors where the Singapore education system hadn’t yet developed fully to produce local graduates, which eventually happened over the years.
Our relatives in Malaysia tell us, stay in Singapore, don’t go back home to Malaysia.
It isn’t safe to live in our hometown anymore. My aunt fell into a week-long coma after a motorcyclist snatched her handbag. My grandmother’s house was burgled. Another aunt was tied up at knifepoint in her own living room, with a plastic bag over her head. My uncle’s family was ambushed by a pack of burglars but he managed to fight them off, sustaining slash wounds in the process.
My cousin, with straight As, couldn’t get into a state university (that wasn’t even the top 5 universities of Malaysia). My Christian friends can’t use the word “Allah” in church after decades of doing so. Churches and temples are often targets of vandalism and arson. Housing is cheap, cars are cheap, but many of the younger generation are heading out of Malaysia, migrating to Singapore, Australia, Canada, UK, USA.
I feel sad when I see these things happening, that we are driven out of our own country and not welcomed back at all. Malaysian politicians want a Malay Malaysia, so they are happy to get rid of the non-bumis. My young nephews and nieces will continue to suffer from such racial policies.
The Bersih movement aims to expose the corruption of not only our Prime Minister, but the whole system. Once you allow corruption to set into Singapore, it is hard to rid yourself of the leeches who promise welfare to the poor but secretly pocket money meant for them.
So I am happy Singapore separated from Malaysia and got to do its own thing. Singaporeans can excel according to their worth, and not according to their racial background.
To my Singaporean friends, open your eyes and look around you. If you were born in another country into a low income family, how certain are you that you can climb to where you are today?
Yes Singapore has problems, and they must be solved by politicians who really do the work, and not sit around making noises like some Malaysian politicians do. You have the right to vote in a fair election, we have blackouts and fires.
Learn from our mistakes, don’t believe in those who say the sweet things and give handouts to win votes, but support those who do the actual work for the people.
– contributed by Five Stars and A Moon reader Jermaine Chua