Thursday, February 05, 2009


Aku suka membaca sejarah lepas kerana ia sesuatu yang berulang-ulang dan mempunyai patternnya tersendiri tidak kira sama ada ianya berkaitan politik, ekonomi dan sosial. Sesuatu peristiwa yang hampir serupa akan datang kembali dalam zaman yang berbeza dengan situasi yang sedikit berbeza. Anak Si Hamid ada menulis dalam blognya cerita yang aku ingin 'copy' ke dalam blog ini. Tak perlu ulas panjang tapi kita mungkin ada persepsi dan pandangan sendiri mengenai sejarah sosio politik negara kita yang kita sayangi. Ini sebahagian dari catatan Anak Si Hamid yang aku cedok sebagai ingatan untuk diri sendiri:
... I was at the University of Singapore from 1964-1967, studying Geography and Political Science. Some people prefer to use the word 'read' instead of 'study' - which I regard as pompous and snooty. It reminded me of a colleague at Yusof Ishak Secondary School who 'read' English at University but refused to teach Shakespeare's "As You Like It" because she did not study the play at University! But that's a digression.Myself and about 5 or 6 other Singapore Malay undergrads were given a Special Malay Bursary of about $1,000 a year as a scheme to help and encourage Malays into higher education. We were thankful for that help although it was minimal compared to what Malays from Malaysia were given.Each time the note pinned to the Notice Board at the entrance to the Union House informed us to get our Bursary from the Bursar's Office, we would find written on the notice nasty remarks like "why give money to stupid Malays?" or "why so special?" or other vulgar words in Malay, English and Hokkien - all very multi-racial. This was during a very difficult and critical part of Malaysia's and Singapore's relationship. On 9 July 1963, Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia - acceptable to Singapore because of the economic, employment and security benefits that membership would bring. But that also brought along with it racial and political tensions and the Chinese in Singapore were particularly against the affirmative policies towards the Malays and especially Article 153. Their rallying cry was "Malaysian Malaysia" - a term/demand that the Malays were very suspicious of.We, the Singapore Malay undergrads, sensed this undercurrent of hostility and resentment. All this because of the $1,000 Bursary. We got into the University on exactly the same credentials as the non- Malays, no favours in that direction. We were not the offsprings of well-heeled professionals or taukehs, mostly lower to upper working class families. Admittedly there were no unpleasant face-to-face encounters. But the bigoted racist remarks about Malays, Malay rights, the Sultans, etc. which were scribbled in the Library's history and politics textbooks left me gobsmacked and confused. There weren't enough Malays in the University to 'counter' this 'vandalism' of the text and the context - so we just sat tight and took the brunt.On one of my trips home from the hostel (Eusoff College), I asked my father why? How do I live with Article 153? He told me to read the History books, to study the statistics of the unequal distribution of wealth and income in the country, the big gap, economic and educational between the rural Malays and the urban non-Malays; why the Malays challenged the Malayan Union of 1946, and what are the Malays doing fighting the Communist guerillas in the jungle? Of course all these issues were not the concerns of my A-Level History and Economics.And when I glibly remarked - but the Malays are lazy and backward! All those scribbles in the Library's books had an effect. His jaw almost dropped and he calmly said, "It took the West, including Britain, 500 years to move from feudalism to the present modern age. The Malays had less than 100 years and the British did not have to cope with a large immigrant population of Indians and Chinese as well as a Colonial power that was only concerned with filling up the coffers of their Treasury." It was my turn to gulp. I have never been as proud of my father as that time when he put me down and put me in my place. He had no tertiary education, only the knowledge and wisdom of a man who thinks. A sound education does not necessarily make a thinking man/woman.The campus itself was buzzing with all kinds of talks and lectures by prominent politicians from both sides of the Causeway. There was generally an air of apathy even among the miserably few Malays. In fact, I felt that the Peninsular Malays tend to look down or look askance at us Singapore Malays - like the country mice who were poor and pathetically unsophisticated. I felt so disenchanted with University and thought of applying for a NZ Scholarship to study Physiotherapy!One evening, I can't remember when exactly, but before 9.8.1965 when Singapore was 'expelled' from Malaysia, I attended a lecture by Dr Mahathir Mohamed, of course he wasn't the PM then. Came one question from the floor by a Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty, now a prominent Ambassador for Singapore. He queried the rights and privileges of the Malays as enshrined in the Constitution and sort of recommending an alternative as espoused in the 'Malaysian Malaysia' mantra.Dr Mahathir looked at him and said. " You know what is the problem with you Chinese? You cannot accept the Malays running the Government because you are so used to seeing them as your drivers and gardeners." That was that. The Lecture Hall was hushed.The next day, I put on my beigeish-yellow cotton Esbyline Baju Kurung, which I had 'borrowed' from my sister and walked to my lectures with my head held high. My Baju Kurung is my heritage, it was not to enclose me but to set me free, not as a proud Malay, but one at ease and comfortable with my Malay ways and purpose - Malay warts and all. Over 40 years on, the racial and racist problems are still simmering, but we are getting there. After all, it took the West 500 years.
Thank you, Anak Si Hamid.