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Totally hopeless now?

By Ho Lee Peing

A deep sense of despair by my colleague Michel Chng sparked tremendous reverberations in the Malaysian society soon after the article was published. Many of my friends have since forwarded the article to me, and this shows that the article has really struck a chord with countless of readers.

In addition, there are also many others who have expressed their sense of helplessness and frustration to me, and asked me what they should do next.

Should we leave this land out of sheer despair? A senior related his mixed feelings over the phone in a down-crested tone, as he began to fight the inner struggle and hesitated whether to leave this country for good in search of a greener pasture elsewhere. I can fully understand how he felt. If not because he had such a strong passion for this country, he would not have given in to such profound disappointment.

The curtain has fallen on the Malay Dignity Congress for some time now, but the ripples caused by it fail to dissipate. I continue to take in negative sentiments from all sides, and have repeatedly asked myself whether there is really still hope for this country.

Just as I was fumbling through my befuddled thoughts in an attempt to organise a clearer picture for myself, the advice from a senior instantly popped up in my mind, his words reverberating in my ears.

He has four very brilliant children, all educated overseas. When everyone thought these four children would opt to stay overseas after their graduation, he unhesitantly asked them to come back before they were to embark on their professional journeys.

One of his daughters was an outstanding medical student in the UK who was awarded a highly attractive 7-year contract by a hospital upon completing her housemanship. Under such circumstances, any father would let the daughter decide on her own accord, but not this senior of mine.

He firmly demanded his daughter to return to Malaysia, and this prompted her to burst into tears.

As an outsider, there is no way for me to understand why this father has acted so “cruelly”.

What puzzles me more is that this senior of mine is very much concerned about the country's development, and is well aware of the many problems of this country. I thought he should have felt completely disenchanted with this country that he would tell his children to remain overseas.

“Firstly, please don't tell our children there is no hope for Malaysia. Secondly, don't tell the children they have the freedom to do what they want upon their graduation. Of course, a precondition is that the courses they pursue must be able get them a job here.”

I joked that he wanted to keep his children by his side through his old age, but that was not his purpose.

“Can you find a place better than Malaysia?” he asked.

Racial problems do occur in every country in this world, and it is not easy to start a career in an alien country unless you are contented with a nine-to-five job.

“Malaysia is a land of opportunities. Not a bad place to start your own business or career!”

But then what about the hostile environment for Chinese Malaysians?

“All this will be over one day!” His optimistic outlook once again amazed me.

He said majority of Malays here are still kind-hearted, and there are plenty of open-minded Malays in the middle class. We should not focus on the tiny black dot on a piece of white paper and overlook the large swathe of white beyond the speck.

When I told him I felt disturbed by the “appeals” proposed at the congress, he told me not to bother too much about them although he cautioned against possible legislation of the appeals to become laws.

“This place is still a paradise, in particular Sarawak.”

I recall the scene of a dozen of Muslim friends sitting solemnly inside the church, raising their hands and murmuring in prayer when the pastor was reading the eulogy at a funeral mass two months ago. They were not put off by the cross standing loftily in the middle of the altar as they followed the rest of the pack to pay their last respects to their deceased colleague. They felt the same sorrow as the deceased family as interreligious partition melted away instantaneously.

The Malay Dignity Congress has been an initiative of the leaders of four local public universities, who have demonstrated their exclusionary racist mentality to the fullest. They are not fit to head their respective institutions. They could only represent themselves at the congress and were not qualified to speak on behalf of the majority.

The nonsense uttered by our politicians and happily echoed by the black sheep in the academia serves to remind us that as co-authors of the Malaysian destiny, we cannot afford to become pessimistic, less so despair.

(Ho Lee Peing is Sin Chew Daily Deputy Executive Editor, East Malaysia.)

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