RPK stirs civic movement Down Under

Friends of Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are facilitating RPK’s visit, which opens with a public lecture at the Australian National University tomorrow. A fundraiser for the MCLM follows on Thursday. Similar engagements are scheduled for Sydney and Melbourne over the next three weeks.

K.C. Boey, The Malaysian Insider

Malaysians among “new migrants” in Australia are distinctive in not congregating in defined communities. They may gather in friendship societies and golf friendlies, but in each of the cities where Malaysians have found new homes, there isn’t a suburb that is identifiably Malaysian.

Malaysians go back a long way with Australia; through education, with Colombo Plan assistance that Australia offered, dating back before independence. And through education since the 1970s when the Whitlam government made education free in Australia at a time when places were competitive in Malaysia under the New Economic Policy. And even as Australian government policy changed, Malaysian parents paid for their children to study in Australia.

Malaysians, many confident professionals, are comfortable among people with whom they lived through their training and education. And even before that, in the shared legacy of British administration.

Malaysians in Australia feel secure in the institutions that afford them freedom of expression. Indeed, many contrast their acceptance in their host country with the rejection that they feel in their country of birth.

Many stayed. Many took up citizenship. Few are bitter towards the country of their forefathers. A common refrain is that they remain “inherently Malaysian”, with an “innate love” for the country in which they were born.

A common aspiration is to see in Malaysia a return to the spirit that Malaysia’s founding fathers intended it to be, a “land of milk and honey”, as one Malaysian Australian put to me, where every Malaysian was equal before the law, with equal access to opportunities.

Nostalgia takes them back to when Malay, Chinese, Indian and all shades in between played with abandonment, devoid of inhibition, each celebrating Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, Wesak and what have you in respective homes, parents taking everyone in as family.

Until of late, it had been a forlorn hope that anyone could do what little they wished so dearly to, to bring back the Malaysia of old. Other than wistful thinking.