I am Malaysian

AS citizens of Malaysia we have all the reason to be proud of ourselves given what transpired post-GE14. It is perhaps not too early to claim some credit for ourselves. Even May 13 went by unnoticed. To the younger generation, it was just another day of no historic significance. For the older ones, it seemed to be overtaken by the "jaw-dropping" GE14 result which quickly "unified" Malaysia as a nation. It was almost spontaneous without manufactured slogans to make it happen. This must have come from our hearts that bind us for the love of our only country.

A clear indication of this came from a press conference where the new finance minister said: "I don't consider myself as Chinese. I am Malaysian." His reply was followed by loud applause. It was in response to a question from the press deliberately framed to project the "racial" dimension. Fortunately, this was wisely handled to drive the all-important "Malaysian" message home.

It was also timely considering a race-based coalition was "devastated" in the election. In particular, the Chinese-based component party that contested 39 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats could only secure one and two seats respectively, compared to winning 31 parliamentary seats in GE11.

To nail the coffin, its president lost the seat he held for many years and the party only had slim majorities in the few seats it won.

Interestingly enough members of the party preferred to be called "Malaysian Chinese" as reflected in the name of the association. Not even "Chinese Malaysians" – if at all ethnicity is considered relevant as in the case of African-American for US citizens of African descent (like Barack Obama). Otherwise they are happy to be just Americans. So why not just Malaysians for us?

This is what makes the statement "I am Malaysian" such a great departure, given that his party is now part of the new ruling coalition. It was a resounding "vote" for Bangsa Malaysia as per Challenge 1 of Wawasan 2020.

It is also imperative to send a clear and strong signal to some embassies and their governments that allegedly claimed to be "defenders" of overseas Chinese despite that the latter are now loyal citizens of another sovereign nation. This claim was heard not too long ago leading to a "diplomatic spat" because it was deemed as "interference" in the internal affairs of Malaysia.

This should not be allowed to happen again bearing in mind that investment and interest from China is pouring in to a tune that has caused unnecessary "anxiety" among most Malaysians. Add this to the insistence of playing a "defender's" role, it raises more questions than answers that are bound to ruffle local sensitivities, scenarios and practices (think Africa).

As it stands, the first branch campus from China located near Nilai stood like a sore thumb with only Chinese and English words chiselled on its foundation stone with not a single word of Bahasa Malaysia. So too for many of that country's factories in Malaysia. Similarly during official events involving top officials from both countries; the launch of the ECRL project is a notable example where our national language was not used. This would not happen in China. So why did it happen here?

The implication of such a move is a grave one. Not respecting our national language (what more not speaking it well) is tantamount to negating the existence of our nationality as Malaysians. And that is also the main reason why many still cling to their ethnicity rather than being full-blooded Malaysians. This is not limited to just uneducated elderly people (this is understandable) but surprisingly use of the language is also a problem for many corporate leaders who cannot string a single decent sentence in good BM. It is shameful. This means "I am Malaysian" is void to the extent that the previous prime minister had to address some of them in English or broken BM in their ethnic dialect after 60 years of Merdeka.

For this reason alone "I am Malaysian" is a vital force that must be seriously maximised to strongly mould it to create a sole identity for Bangsa Malaysia in shaping the "new" Malaysia. At once subordinating the ethnic tendencies, including state-based "bangsa" that some "clans" are dubiously popularising. If not this will only dilute or confuse the situation further, including the use of superfluous logos and taglines (think sehati sejiwa, 1Malaysia, etc) which are utterly superficial and a waste of resources as glaringly evident from the election result for the losing coalition.

Hence, it cannot be overemphasised that "I am Malaysian" was a key take home message when a "fresh" government was voted in decisively. It was done on the basis of "Harapan" and NOT based on political parties, what else racial and chauvinistic ones in whatever form. It is time to bury the latter once and for all as a form of toxic thinking. Yes, we are proudly Malaysians. Are you?

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com