The need for a marriage counsellor

Raja Petra Kamarudin

What Malaysians do not seem to grasp is that, before any disease can be cured, the disease must first be identified. If the doctor does not know what is wrong with you, how can he cure you? He may think, like what happened to my late father, that you are suffering from indigestion and he would then dispense anti-acid tablets for it. Then, when you suffer a heart attack, another doctor says it was not indigestion you were suffering all this while but mild heart attacks. Of course, by then, it is too late because the mild heart attacks have now developed into a massive heart attack and one more life is lost.

Malaysia too suffers from a disease. And this disease is racial polarisation and religious intolerance. And what are the symptoms of this disease? The constant bickering and misunderstanding as demonstrated in the blogs in this site.

But the constant bickering and misunderstanding are only the symptom to the disease that we are suffering from. We need to know what really ails us so that we can find the cure. And what ails us is deep suspicion and great dissatisfaction that lurks in the hearts of Malaysians.

Malays are not happy with the Chinese. Chinese feel the same way about the Malays. Muslims do not trust or tolerate non-Muslims. Non-Muslims fear the Muslims. The divide exists and is growing by the day. The more the government tries, the more it fails, and the gap just gets wider and wider.

911, the New Economic Policy, the Bumiputera quota system, the Chinese schools/mother tongue education issue, the arrests of Muslims at a disco, the Muslim ‘dress code’, May 13, Umno’s Ketuanan Melayu, DAP’s ‘no to Islamic State’, Nik Aziz’s many of-the-cuff comments, Pak Lah’s Islam Hadhari, PAS’ Islamic State, the restrictions on non-Muslim places of worship, the non-halal sausages, and many, many more do not help either. They just make the divide worse.

Our disease is not a physical disease — so no amount of pills would help. It is a mental problem. It is all about what troubles our mind. We must therefore allow what is in our mind to surface to be able to cure it. We must allow the many ghosts that reside in our thoughts to be exorcised. Malaysians need to lie on a couch and pour out their feelings. Only then will the problem go away.

When a marriage is failing we need to visit a marriage counsellor. All the marriage counsellor does is to get the two parties to air their grievances. The counsellor does not dispense drugs or medication. He/she just makes us talk. And the two parties talk. They tell each other why they are dissatisfied with each other.

Hopefully, by bringing it all out into the open, the couple will kiss and make up and realise how petty the whole thing was. Maybe, once both parties realise what the other was not happy about, they will become more understanding, tolerant and considerate towards each other. If there was love in the beginning, strong enough to result in marriage, then there may be hope that love can once again bloom.

Malaysians, once upon a time, loved each other. The love was strong enough for all to unite in pursuit of independence. Along the way, the love somehow changed to mistrust, dissatisfaction and even hatred.

Why? Whose fault is it? What can we do to change this? What do we need to do to bring Malaysians back to what it was in the 1950s and 1960s?

I do not have the answers, but we can certainly try to find them. And the first step to finding the cure would be to talk about it. Talk could be in the form of debate. You give your views and I give mine. But we must first be open to hearing the other person’s grievance first, how bitter it may be. Insults, though, would only make the bitterness increase.

Malays should be open to hearing the Chinese side of the story. And the Chinese in turn must reciprocate. Both sides need to be receptive, honest, open and tolerant of the opposite view.

Let me take one example that divides us, the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Before 1970, the Malays owned only 1% of Malaysia’s economic cake, the Chinese 30%, and the rest were foreign-owned. The NEP was supposed to give the Malays a 30% share of this cake within 20 years when, by 1990, the NEP would end.

By 1990, the Malays managed only 3%. Another 17% was owned by trust agencies such as MARA, PERNAS, ASN, SEDC, and so on, which gave the impression that the Malays now owned 20%. But it was not 20%. It was only 3%, as trust agencies are owned by the nation, not by the Malays as individuals.

In the meantime, the Chinese share of the economic cake increased to 60%. And note that this 60% was of an enlarged cake, not the small cake 20 years before that. Therefore, 60% in 1990 would have been something like 300% in 1970.

Who benefited from the NEP, the Malays or Chinese? By right, the Malays should be angry about the NEP, not the Chinese. The Chinese should be happy.

Of course I am talking about only one aspect of the NEP, as the NEP is more than just corporate wealth and share of the economic cake.

Okay, let us talk about education then, another of the NEP’s objectives. The NEP has produced close to 100,000 unemployed graduates (the government says 60,000 and some say 80,000). Do you know that Malay unemployed graduates outnumber Chinese by far? Yes, no doubt the NEP has helped Malays obtain a university education. But it is the Chinese that get the jobs in multi-national and non-Malay owned companies. What good is your piece of paper then if it cannot help put food on the table? Has the NEP helped the Malays live better lives other than help him read, write and speak well?

The NEP has not, as many believe, given Malays the edge over non-Malays. In fact, the non-Malays are now better off because of it. The Malays have become dependent on the NEP and therefore have become weak. The non-Malays have learned to survive without the help of any NEP and in spite of the perceived handicap they have had to survive under. When GLOBALISATION hits us soon, the Malays will be swept aside like they were hit by a Tsunami. The non-Malays, who have learnt to survive under the handicap of the NEP, would be able to ride out globalisation with little or no damage.

The NEP would, in the end, kill the Malays and allow the non-Malays to forge ahead.

If we can discuss and debate the issue of the NEP rationally, and if the Chinese can see that the NEP has actually been good for them and bad for the Malays, this issue would be a non-issue. The Chinese may in fact now fight for the continuation of the NEP, realising that they are better off with it. But if the non-Malays shout, “Serves you right, now you can die under the NEP”, this would only cause more hatred.

Just take a drive along Bukit Bintang, Pudu, Cheras, Kepong, Jinjang, Damansara Utama, Damansara Jaya, Subang, Sunway, USJ, Bangsar, Brickfields — in fact, drive all over Kuala Lumpur and Selangor — and tell me what you see. How many Malay-owned shops can you find?

Walk through all the swank shopping complexes in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, or any of the other states all over Malaysia. How many Malay-owned shops can you find?

If you want to find Malay-owned shops you need to go to the SEDC and MARA complexes and see them selling songkok, herbal medicine, and the other low end products. And if the government did not build these cheap, low end, and sometimes smelly, shopping complexes, Malay-owned shops would be non-existent.

The Chinese must be made to realise that in spite of the NEP and Bumiputra quota system, the Chinese still get to eat the meat while the Malays enjoy only the bones.

I understand that the NEP is but one issue and there are many more. The point is, even a sensitive issue like the NEP can be discussed. Today, the Malays defend the NEP while the non-Malays oppose it. However, if you can think rationally rather than emotionally, we will end up with the Malays now opposing the NEP while the Chinese will fight for its continuation.