Defining Patriotism

By The Malaysian Insider

Malaysia took home 40 medals from the Asian Games 2010 that ended yesterday. We achieved our target of nine gold medals.

The gold rush began with Chai Fong Ying in the women’s Taijiquan/Taijijian all-round event on November 15. Apart from the significance and euphoria of winning the gold, the first gold for Malaysia, Fong Ying’s victory was bittersweet.

Her parents hid the fact that her grandfather had died just before her event. They wanted her to focus and win an Asian Games medal. More than that, to make sure the Jalur Gemilang flutters high in the wind and the NegaraKu is heard throughout the stadium.

Are they not patriotic? Or can only those who take up arms for the nation-state be considered patriots?

Many have written about patriotism in the past several weeks after Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi suggested that the non-Malays’ “low spirit of patriotism” was a key reason for their low presence in the military, apart from an aversion for discipline.

In a written reply on November 9 to Setiu MP Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee, Ahmad Zahid revealed that non-Malays made up only 1.2 per cent of 2008/2009 recruitment. Bumiputeras made up 98.2 per cent.

Since then, many have written about the contributions of non-Malays to the armed services, in the fight against communists and in the defence of the country.

Yet, patriotism is beyond the arena of war. Go through to the list of Malaysian medal winners for the Asian Games 2010. They come from all races. They are the products of their own blood, sweat, and tears as much as they are of their parents and the country. They are Malaysians.

They, as other Malaysians, are as patriotic in the sports arena as they would be in the military.

So, one doesn’t question the patriotism of gold medallists such as Fong Ying, Adrian Ang and Alex Liew (bowling – men’s doubles), Azizulhasni Awang (keirin), Mohamed Azlan Iskandar (squash), Alex Liew (bowling – all events), Datuk Nicol Ann David, Low Wee Wern, Delia Arnold and Sharon Wee (women’s squash), Ku Jin Keat (karate) and Puvaneswaran Ramasamy (karate).

Let’s not frame patriotism within the confines of just one official view or say that those who fought under the banner of the Malaysian People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) are not patriotic because they are communists.