10:24am 13/05/2020
Of pendatang then, of pendatang now

By Mohsin Abdullah

I've always said to my non-Malay friends not to join in whenever some groups of Malays go on a foreigner- or illegal immigrant-bashing campaign.

By not "joining in" I meant not making all sorts of remarks on social media and what not. It doesn't matter if you see the campaigns "justified".

Why? Because the very some people carrying out such campaigns would not blink an eye to call you "pendatang". Despite 63 years of Merdeka and that you, your parents, their parents as well were all born and bred in Malaysia and are therefore Malaysians.

It's not that you can't make your stand or give your views on illegal immigrants. True, they pose problems to the country. I am just saying, look before you leap and be wary of some Malay groups embarking on such campaigns. I emphasize the word "some".

Recently, there was this Rohingya-bashing blitz and quite a substantial number of Malays were taken in by the anti Rohingya rhetoric. Of course, there were many Malays who were against the hate speeches and defended the Rohingyas.

I wrote about this for The Edge a couple of weeks back, not to say who's right or wrong. Neither was my article about whether the Rohingyas should be allowed to continue to stay in this country or that they must be turned away. Everybody has their own take on this issue and many have already made it known.

Hence, my article outlined how easy it was for the anti-Rohingya campaign to be politically exploited, like when say if Rohingya can make demand it's time now for the Malays to make demands also.

Apparently there were postings on social media of "demands" purportedly made by the Rohingyas that they be given Malaysian citizenship and so on.

The Rohingya community claimed the so-called "demands" were fake news, but that didn't stop some people from coming up with counter demands which they want presented to the prime minister, no less.

One person making such counter demands was a lawyer infamous for his anti-Chinese New Year decorations at a school in Puchong earlier this year. Need I say more?

Therefore, I said in my article the campaign must be stopped fast before things get out of hand.

A week or so ago, I came across a report in MalaysiaKini quoting former federal minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim saying lessons should be learnt from the country's past experience of accepting "other races" when dealing with Rohingya refugees.

Rais, who is now Negeri Sembilan Bersatu chief, said, "When their numbers are small right now, the Rohingyas are gentle that they wouldn't even kill an ant. But when their numbers are in the hundreds of thousands, they will maul us."

And there's more to what he said.

Rais went on to say, "It ended the same way with other races when they came during the British era in the 1920s. Let us learn from the history of siding with outsiders."

He did not name any particular race or community, but as I see it, the "other races" and "outsiders" he mentioned could very well be a reference to the Chinese and Indians who came to Malaya during the British rule.

And if I got it right, his message or rather "advice" was meant for the Malays.

There are questions to be asked, like what were the lessons ought to be learned from accepting the "other races"? Was it a mistake to take them in, so to speak? Did the "outsiders" grew to be into hundred and thousands that they had mauled "us"? By "us", did he mean people of his own "bangsa"?

I think the underlying message is clear. Is Rais, the seasoned politician that he is, playing the racial card to get Malay support, and using the Rohingya issue as "cover"?

A veteran journalist friend of mine who had covered Rais and followed his political career for years is sad as well as baffled as to what Rais had said.

According to him, as a former senior minister who served under Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak in one post or another, Rais has a moral responsibility to explain his remarks.

"Otherwise he risks being seen as just another politician fanning racial sentiment using it to win Malay support for himself and the people he serves," said the journalist.

We know there are many such "populist' politicians in our midst now whom we can do without.

Said the journalist, "One would like to think Rais is better than such politicians and that he should know Malaysia's history better than most people."

Well.. moving on. Today, 51 year ago, we as a nation were saddened and shocked by the May 13, 1969 bloodshed.

Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy. Our gratitude and appreciation are for all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion, who have worked very hard to pull us out of the dark episode and put us back on the right track.

As we look back on the tragedy of May 13, I can only say some things have changed since, some sadly, have not.

May God bless Malaysia!

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)



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