Maybe you have heard this story. But I’ll tell it to you anyway. Because it’s a great story. And “great” is just one of the many words which can be used to describe what happened.
A gentleman by the name of Imraz Ikhbal recently went to Kuchai Entrepreneurs Park located in Kuchai Lama, obviously, to buy mandarin oranges. The exorbitant prices shocked him.
When Imraz asked about the pricing, the trader confessed he had to hike the price because he had to pay off big money to DBKL officers so that they would not disturb his business.
Imraz was angry, not at the trader but at the DBKL officers for “bullying a poor man wanting to earn some money.”
He took to recording an audio clip of his expose on DBKL enforcement officers demanding bribes from traders who had breached licensing regulations.
The trader Imraz met was said to have run two stalls but only had license for one. Hence easy target for officers out to take advantage of the situation.
Imraz’s audio clip went viral. It caught the attention of many.
Audio clip apart, he also lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and met the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur as DBKL comes under the mayor’s purview.
Long story short, DBKL has launched an internal investigation into the allegation of corruption among its officers.
I say this story is great because we have a gentleman who is very brave to act instead of just talking about hating corrupt practices; and we have a Malay gentleman speaking out, or should I say fighting, for a poor Chinese trader, especially so against a backdrop of divisive politics in the country.
That warms the heart at the very least, I would say.
Here’s another heart-warming story about a lion dance troupe from Sekolah Kebangsaan Jerong in Marang, Terengganu.
All its seven members are Malay. Isn’t that nice?
In fact, there are many more descriptive words which can be used, but I’ll stick to “nice” with an eye on the Chinese New Year which is just around the corner.
Now onto a report by The Straits Times of Singapore.
While visiting a religious school in Kelantan, the paper saw female students in baju kurung and Muslim veils learning to read and speak Mandarin and write in Chinese.
Kelantan has a population of 1.6 million, 95% of them Malays. Therefore, Kelantan is the “most Malay state” in Malaysia but according to The Straits Times, the state has the highest number of Malays studying the Chinese language!
In fact, the paper said Kelantan has proportionately more Malays studying Chinese than elsewhere in the country.
Now don’t the great and nice stories above make one proud to be Malaysian? I for one say yes.
And I was in cloud nine, so to speak. But I came crashing down to earth soon enough because of reports of the opposition (some of them anyway) ridiculing the government for saying stabilizing the prices of pork would be discussed at one cabinet meeting held recently in view of the coming Chinese New Year.
The government was accused of prioritizing pork prices instead of solving the shortage of eggs – “suggesting” that the government was favoring the Chinese (who consumed pork) over the rakyat (read “Malays”) who consume eggs. Many eggs and cheaper eggs.
I understand (but do not agree to) such a stance, or narrative. It’s all about politics and fishing for votes. What more with six state elections are to be called soon. I am not naïve that such a tactic would not be used.
This is yet another form of divisive politics. Already ugly netizens are echoing what was said. Not only ridiculing but also coming up with nasty and hurtful remarks.
Then there was the “shortage” of tickets for the AFF semifinal match between Malaysia and Thailand at Stadium Bukit Jalil a few weeks ago.
Some 21,000 tickets were said to have been “written off” to make way for the construction of a stage for the Jay Chou World Tour Concert to be held at the same venue a couple of days later.
There was an outcry, including from people who have no love for the government. The message, subtle or hidden it may be, was nevertheless clear.
Football, they said, is a favorite game of the rakyat (again read “Malays”); the singer is from Taiwan (Chinese) and the sports minister is from DAP.
Again, I understood but did not agree why such things were uttered or rather implied or insinuated. Six state elections are coming, remember?
Again, it was about politics albeit divisive and dirty. And as was with the case of pork prices, a fierce onslaught was carried out on social media by the so-called netizens.
I agree with FMT columnist Shankar R. Santhiram whose January 12 article was rightly titled “It’s terrifying to think how racist Malaysians can be.”
He wrote that the football match itself highlighted “the most undesirable and sickening undercurrents afflicting the very fabric of our society. Toxicity and unbridled racism reared their ugly head.”
And it’s depressing as well to read an article run by The Malay Mail a few days ago highlighting a report by regional think tank Asia Center which suggested that hate speech and ultra-nationalist groups are gaining significant influence in the Malaysian online space recently promoting their agenda that resolves around the “3R” or race, religion and royalty.
Then there was the antic of PAS’ Muhammad Fawwaz Muhammad Jan at a shopping mall in Penang.
Yes, he was the ustaz who wrested the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat from Nurul Izzah Anwar at GE15.
We know what he did. Confronting the management of the mall demanding a beer promotion event held for CNY must be “covered up” as “beer and alcohol sales must not be done openly.”
Question to ask. Are we, moderate and peace-loving Malaysians in a dark tunnel? If so, is there light at the end of it?
I would say yes!
But first, we must reject hatemongers and people who claim to be “ultra-nationalist.” We must not let them win.
Then, look back at the great and nice stories stated earlier in this article. There are more of such stories. I am sure of it.
Yes, there is still hope.
Xin Nian Kuai Le! May the Rabbit bring everything good for all of us.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)