April 2, 2010


. CYBERJAYA, Malaysia / My Sin Chew Daily / Opinion / April 2, 2010 By Tay Tian Yan / Translated by Dominic Loh/ Sin Chew Daily Good Heavens! We're back to half a century ago, arguing the same old question: Who am I? Professor Wang Gungwu long time ago already started exploring the identity issue of people living on this land. He felt that in view of the rapid changes in the international environment as well as in the Malaysian politics, in the end we should all call ourselves nothing but Malaysians. After the Independence, the answer has become clear: I am Chinese; you are Malay, but we are all Malaysians. No one would question such a standard reply. The question that follows: Are you first a Chinese/Malay, or a Malaysian? This is a question of sequence, and a mysterious question of reasoning. It is made on the presumption that if you think of yourself being a Chinese/Malay first, then you will naturally make your own community's interests your priority target, followed by those of the nation on a whole. If you think of yourself as a Malaysian first, then you are supposed to prioritise the interests of the nation before those of your own community. Let's play an ancient logic game. One day, you see two people falling into the river. Both of them are Malaysians, one from your own community while the other not. A person with a strong affinity to his own ethnic group will tend to save the one belonging to this own race. And a person that sees himself more of a Malaysian will take into consideration other factors. He may pull up the one nearest to the shore first, or the one in a more precarious situation, from the safety point of view. He may also pull up a child, a woman or an old man first, if he is to act like a gentleman. Putting the common values of humanity in priority and personal prejudices or differences in second place will render our moves more human and rationalised. From the perspectives of modern economics, placing the overall interests on a higher footing will better meet the requirements for a progressive society. Having said that, human reasoning to a very large extent is often sidetracked by our own emotions. Resemblance in skin colour, language, religion and culture will more often than not hold a community together. It doesn't therefore come as a surprise that Muhyiddin Yassin said he was first a Malay, second a Malaysian. Of course, he also argued that being a Malay didn't imply that he was not a Malaysian. From emotional aspects, this should have come out from the DPM's heart indeed, but in the public sector, such priority could be reduced to a logical blunder, misguiding the public that community interests should be placed ahead of national interests. This is particularly apt when public affairs are involved. As a public servant, a senior government office holder should dedicate himself to the service of the nation, and should always place national interests in the first place, far above the narrower ethnic interests. It is not a bad thing to be one with your own community, but such a feeling should be expanded to also include the acceptance of the interests and needs of other communities. This is where the future hope of Malaysia lies, and our leaders have the obligation to take the lead in this direction. Then the answer to the question "Who am I?" should not have come any more explicit. [rc] Copyright © 2010 MCIL Multimedia Sdn Bhd