Can we ‘pendatang’ be part of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’?

The textbook definition of a family is ‘a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.’ In my family, although I am the eldest, my parents have made it abundantly clear that they have no favourite. My younger brother is an equal and important part of our unit.

(FMT) – For as long as I remember, Malaysia and our politicians have been so fond of coining slogans to encourage the nation. As soon as someone rises to the top job, and regardless of their ability or capacity, they will definitely conjure up a slogan that is supposed to motivate us.

Our erstwhile two-time prime minister came to power with all guns blazing in the early ‘80s and immediately launched the ‘Bersih, Cekap, Amanah’ – ‘Clean, Efficient, Trustworthy’ slogan.

He also had a few more slogans up his sleeves over the years. Similarly, everyone who came after him, created new and fresh catchphrases to excite the citizens.

The latest in the line of inspiring sayings by our leaders is the fizzy and sparkling ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ – ‘Malaysian Family’ moniker. And, of course, it comes with the requisite accompanying logo and theme song. Remember, jingles or ditties are vital to capture the imagination of Malaysians.

At first glance, this slogan is a really important one.

It alludes to the fact that we are a multiracial and many-faceted nation. We have folks who come from diverse backgrounds. Our citizenry comprises people who have different faiths, and cultures. And, this slogan tells us that at the end of the day, only if we can come together as a loving, cohesive and cogent family, will we survive as a nation.

Truer words have not been uttered by any Malaysian leader.

Unity in diversity is our ultimate strength. Our differences can make us strong and solid, if we work as a family, with common goals and a shared vision.

The ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ slogan, in my mind, is by far the most appropriate one for our times.

But slogans pose a problem, if they are not backed-up by action. And, therein lies our dilemma. As a ‘70s child, the slogan I remember best is ‘Bersih, Cekap, Amanah’ – ‘Clean, Efficient, Trustworthy’.

Now, let’s be truthful about this slogan. Are we clean, efficient and trustworthy, as a nation?

The only ‘bersih’ that comes to my mind is the ‘Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ that became a major sensation, and an agent for change in our country. If we were a ‘clean’ country, there would have been no need for a mass movement to demand for clean and fair elections.

Much has been written and commented about skilled Malaysians leaving the country. Sometimes it is the ‘pull’ factor. Better pay and better prospects encourage our people to leave for better jobs elsewhere.

But most of the time, it is the ‘push’ factor. Non-Malay Malaysians especially get treated more fairly and with merit in foreign lands. Here, they will have to deal with our omnipresent and ludicrous quota system or the innocuous sounding ‘affirmative action’ policies.

So where are the ‘cekap’ people? Somewhere else, I presume.

And as far as ‘amanah’ is concerned, there is zero trustworthiness in the governance of our nation. If there was, would we be in the throes of the biggest corruption and kleptocracy scandal the world has ever seen? Look at the abundance of pending court cases involving numerous people who hold or have held positions of power. It seems that integrity in the Malaysian context is a vague and misunderstood concept.

If a seminal slogan like ‘Bersih, Cekap, Amanah’ failed so miserably, what chance does ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ have?

But before I am accused once again of being a negative naysayer who simply paints Malaysia in a bad light, we should examine the veracity of this slogan.

The textbook definition of a family is ‘a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.’ In my family, although I am the eldest, my parents have made it abundantly clear that they have no favourite. My younger brother is an equal and important part of our unit.

How about the Malaysian family or ‘keluarga’? Are all Malaysians equal, or are some Malaysians more ‘equal’ than others?

In our country, for government projects worth millions and billions, there is a practice of direct negotiations. And without a transparent tender process, we know what happens. Some members of our ‘keluarga’ get more benefits than others.

Government-linked companies or GLCs capture nearly all of our infrastructure and growth-based projects. We keep appointing politicians to become their chairpersons. And that too, politicians of a certain race, only. When we start getting qualified people to lead these companies, irrespective of race or ethnicity, then we become a real ‘keluarga’.

Non-Malay Malaysians are tacitly labelled as ‘pendatang’ – foreigners or immigrants. This is regardless of being third or fourth generation Malaysians. They are precluded from privileges afforded to the majority race. They are subjected to absurd and arbitrary quota systems. They fall prey to affirmative action policies that are instituted and maintained by the government.

The Malaysian department of statistics states that as of 2021, we have approximately 30 million citizens. Of this, 30% are non-Malay. This means roughly nine million Malaysians do not enjoy the same privileges as the majority 21 million. We are one of the few countries in the world practicing affirmative action for the majority race.

How can Malaysia be a real ‘keluarga’ or family, if this is our reality?

Malaysian-born Penny Wong is now Australia’s powerful foreign minister. She was once their finance minister. If she chose to remain in Malaysia with her father, what would our ‘keluarga’ Malaysia have given her here, aside from quota systems and being at the wrong end of affirmative action policies? Could she have risen to such exalted positions?

In Australia, she could become their prime minister. Here, it would be a delusional fantasy.

So, whilst the ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ idea is a very good one, our politicians should actually initiate steps for an inclusive society, where all Malaysians are treated equally, like family. This isn’t happening, is it?

Let’s get real, this is just another empty slogan, like all the previous ones.