Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ungrateful ‘Orang Asing’

What has become of our Malaysian society that some of these ‘orang asing’ cannot seem to be grateful for the goodwill of the Umnoputeras anymore. Why does the Malaysian Indian Business president, P. Sivakumar, not follow in the footsteps of such ‘orang asing’ as Samy Vellu of the MIC and other obvious ‘orang asing’ in the MCA, Gerakan, and the PPP and be more submissive, meek, and obedient? Instead, he has to make a fuss about being called ‘orang asing’ by ‘a high-ranking official’ of a ‘government-linked bank.’

Very surprising that Malaysians would get upset about something like that. In fact, another thing that surprised me about this episode is that Samy Vellu’s ‘MIC communication team’ has not come out to condemn Sivakumar for being so arrogant and ungrateful as to make a big fuss about this issue. I would have thought surely, the ‘MIC communication team’ would be out by now forcefully defending these kinds of ‘high-ranking’ officials who continue to insist on invoking such naturally appropriate and unproblematic jargon. After all, surely Samy Vellu’s MIC and its other race-based compatriots, which have for decades been essentially, as some would say, ‘bum-lickers’ of their political master, would be offended that any non-bumiputra would be upset about being referred to as ‘orang asing.’

How dare Sivakumar ask for an apology about being called an ‘orang asing.’ Does he not realise that the MIC and other race-based cronies of UMNO have for years been enabling and reinforcing a culture of ‘tiered citizenship’? Yes, this is essentially the system – much like that of South Africa’s former apartheid system - where some citizens, due to their ‘race’ are legally more privileged than others. This is what the MIC, MCA, Gerakan, and PPP subscribed to and have supported with great vigour. This tradition has given us a culture where Umnoputeras freely and sometimes belligerently divide Malaysians into two distinct classes – those who are privileged and those who are not. But you know this already.

To quote Sivakumar himself, ‘Let us not make a mountain out of a molehill.’ This is precisely my point. And I suspect that Samy Vellu’s ‘MIC communication team’ would also concur. Of course, it’s not pertinent that ‘high-ranking officials’ who utter such terms about their fellow citizens know all too well that the ‘non-bumiputeras’ are anything but ‘orang asing.’ After all the flare up about references to the ethnic Chinese as ‘pendatang,’ surely these so-called ‘high-ranking officials’ cannot be having their head in the sand not to really appreciate the charged nature of such divisive terms. Indeed, this kind of language is no different than the deliberate and calculated use of terms like ‘keling,’ or ‘balik Cina,’ which have been strategically invoked to ‘celebrate’ and ‘acknowledge’ the hospitality and generosity of UMNO, which the other race-based parties of BN so wilfully celebrate and appreciate.

Any wonder also that whenever there have been high-profile episodes of the denigration and degradation – tacitly or blatantly – of ‘orang asing,’ the prime minister ‘for all Malaysians’ has been, for all practical purposes, ineffectual in enabling the country to transcend such pathetically parochial discourse. Is it any wonder then, that other ‘high-ranking’ officials (bureaucrats or politicians) find it unproblematic – indeed, legitimate – to invoke such rhetoric?

Understandably, then rather than expect entities such as the MIC to vociferously condemn such discourse, I for one often expect them to revert to their normal posture. [I think you can visualise what that is.] Accordingly, I am surprised that the ‘MIC communication team’ has not come out to ask Sivakumar to retract his disapproval of the ‘high-ranking’ bank official’s use of the term ‘orang asing.’ Sivakumar must realise that his non-marginalised ‘orang asing’ should all be grateful for being offered the right to citizenship, and he and other ‘orang asing’ will persistently be designated as less than full-fledged citizens.

Come on, all you ‘orang asing,’ let us get with the program; recognise the kindness and patronising arrogance when you’re referred to derogatorily and with contempt. Follow in the footsteps of our esteemed ‘leaders’ from the MIC, Gerakan, and PPP, and ‘celebrate’ such insults. Stop being so ungrateful, lah!

G. Krishnan