An open letter from a Malaysian to Singapore

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

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Adrianna Tan

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7 Comments

  • Good letter. The most important thing is we do not
    live in fear whether racial riots will break out again.
    I was quite fearful that the Low Yat situation could
    turn into full scale racial riots.
    Do not expect fair play from the Malay dominated law
    enforcement agencies to the non Malays

  • Hahaha thanks for admitting that malaysia still sucks for you guys even till today.If anything you should be thankful to Singapore for giving you and your family the opportunity to live and work here
    . Personally i would never regard you as Singaporean as i feel your kind will always be inferior to us.From your country bumpkin-like mannerisms to your petty comparisons about why our country are not as good as malaysia whenever you see fit.Hahaha jokes on you guys.

    • Disgraceful. Look into the mirror and let those comments fall back onto you. The Malaysians who survived the system with dignity are better than social pariahs such as yourself, who have nothing to show for but their misplaced sense of pride (read: arrogance).

    • Dear Calvin,

      A little background info. My Mum migrated from Malaysia to Singapore, where she met and married my father, to begin her roots and start life anew here in Singapore. Being Chinese, she and her side of the family tree definitely felt the effects of the bumi policies. So Calvin, yes my Mum is thankful she made that decision and she appreciates the opportunity to live and work here.

      Having said that, she is more Singaporean than you’d imagine. She cares about our fellowmen and is active in the community. Do not forget people of all races, religions and nationalities have come together to build this nation. They left their history to build a greater future for us. People born in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, UK, etc, were here long before you and I. We’re a nation mostly built on the back of immigrants. Unless you’re indigenous, take a look at your ancestors before you point fingers at “non-Singaporeans”.

      About “country bumpkin-like mannerisms”, looks like you forgot to take a look at yourself first. I’m embarrassed that as a fellow Singapore, you treat our Malaysian neighbors this way.

      P.S. Thank you to the author for the open letter.

    • Dumb-ass like him are the ones that make a country fail. Next they will ask for Bumiputra-like policy in Singapore. Luckily we do not have too many of those here.

  • @Calvin Just because you were born in the right place at the right time does not give you the right to judge, criticize, and belittle other people. You are a prime example of one of the ways that the Singapore education system has failed. Sure, we can produce bilingual straight A students. But our education system has failed the likes of you by failing to provide a TRUE education in morals, ethics, humility and all the other important values. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself first if you have the right to say what you said, and second even if you do, whether you SHOULD say it.

    @Jermaine thanks for the candid sharing, and I do hope that my fellow Singaporeans will vote wisely and be able to see through all the sweet talk and empty promises. However I believe Malaysia has also come a long way since the days where it was unsafe fot non-malays to leave the house after sundown. Although Malaysia is currently facing some big problems that have put it in the global spotlight, I believe that other than Singapore, Malaysia has been the most progressive and successful country in the region, especially economically. The grass is always greener on the other side. Compared to Singapore, malaysia might seem pretty bleak. However, we are to you what the Scandinavian countries are to us. All I am saying is that when we compare, we Will never be satisfied. What is more important is that we treasure what we have and do not take things for granted. There are many things in Malaysia that we Singaporeans wish we had (significantly lower cost of living, a long history that can give us a better sense of identity, even untouched beaches).

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