A Malaysian speaks up ...
by Hooi Chin Gian
I am a female Chinese Malaysian, living in the Washington DC area in the United States. I have read many of the letters that often talk about foreign countries when the writers have no real knowledge of actually living in those countries.
Many draw conclusions about what those countries are like after hearing from someone else or by reading and hearing about them in the media or after four years in a college town in those countries.
I finished STPM with outstanding results from the prestigious St George's Girls School in Penang. Did I get a university place from the Malaysian government? Nothing. With near perfect scores, I had nothing, while my Malay friends were getting offers to go overseas.
Even those with 2As got into university. I was so depressed. I was my parents' last hope for getting the family out of poverty and at 18, I thought I had failed my parents.
Today, I understand it was the Malaysian Government that had failed me and my family because of its discriminatory policies.
Fortunately, I did not give up and immediately did research at the Malaysian American Commission on Education Exchange (MACEE) to find a university in the US that would accept me and provide all the finances. My family and friends thought I was crazy, being the youngest of nine children of a very poor carpenter. Anything that required a fee was out of our reach.
Based on merit and my extracurricular activities of community service in secondary school, I received full tuition scholarship, work study, and grants to cover the four years at a highly competitive US university.
Often, I took 21 credits each semester, 15 credits each term while working 20 hours each week and maintaining a 3.5 CGPA. A couple of semesters, I also received division scholarships and worked as a TA (teaching assistant) on top of everything else.
For the work study, I worked as a custodian (yes, cleaning toilets), carpet layer, computer lab assistant, grounds keeping, librarian, painter, tour guide, etc. If you understand the US credit system, you will understand this is a heavy load.
Why did I do it? This is because I learnt as a young child from my parents that hard work is an opportunity, to give my best in everything, and to take pride in the work I do. I walked away with a double major and a minor with honours but most of all a great lesson in humility and a great respect for those who are forced to labour in so-called `blue collar' positions.
Those of you who think you know all about Australia, US, or the West, think again. Unless you have really lived in these countries, i.e. paid a mortgage, paid taxes, taken part in elections, you do not understand the level of commitment and hard work it takes to be successful in these countries, not just for immigrants but for people who have lived here for generations.
These people are where they are today because of hard work. (Of course, I am not saying everyone in the US is hardworking ... There is always the lazy lot that lives off of someone else's hard work. Fortunately, they are the minority.)
Every single person, anywhere, should have the opportunity to succeed if they want to put in the effort and be accountable for their own actions. In the end, they should be able to reap what they sow.
It is bearable that opportunities are limited depending on how well-off financially one's family is but when higher education opportunities are race-based, like it is in Malaysia, it is downright cruel for those who see education as the only way out of poverty.
If you want to say discrimination is here in the US, yes, of course it is. Can you name a country where it doesn't happen? But let me tell you one thing – if you go looking for it, you will find it.
But in Malaysia, you don't have to go look for it because it seeks you out, slaps you in your face every which way you turn, and is sanctioned by law!
Here in the US, my children have the same opportunity to go to school and learn just like their black, white, and immigrant friends. At school, they eat the same food, play the same games, are taught the same classes and when they are 18, they will still have the same opportunities. Would I want to bring my children back to Malaysia? So they can suffer the state-sanctioned discrimination as the non-malays have had for over 50 years?
The injustice the non-Malay have to suffer in frightening silence is the most damaging problem one has to face throughout one's life. You just have to look at the mighty govt structures which completely favours only one 'race', the UMNO Malay. The Chinese and Indians are treated no better than the illegal Indonesians. Racism and corruption are openly practised by the Malay politicians everywhere, Courts, schools/uni, police, govt offices, contracts, GLC, NEP, ISA, local govt.
It's so powerful and intimidating that you walk with fear and keep your mouth shut on anything and everything political. Religion is taboo unless you talk good about Islam.
As for being a slave in the foreign country, I am a happy 'slave' earning a good income as an IT project manager.
I work five days a week; can talk bad about the president when I want to; argue about politics, race and religion openly; gather with more than 50 friends and family when I want (no permit needed) and I don't worry about the police pulling me over because they say I ran the light when I didn't.
Have we seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet (Anwar Ibrahim)?
Or is it the head light of an oncoming Umno train ?
Lets hope its the former for the sake of all fair-minded Malaysians.
The dream of a Malaysian 'race' in the future is nowhere in sight with the present BN govt.
Where is Negara-Ku???
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Posted by McGarmott
Stumbled upon the following lamentations. Note that this letter has nothing to offer to you if you're one of the majority of Malaysians who agree that our system has been jerry-rigged, and then showcased to the public with a most misleading packaging (possibly deserving of the Cannes Lions awards for advertising). It's probably intended for those people who unquestionably agree with the entirety of the current administration's policies and politics. (Though the third last paragraph was a bit of a 'huh?')
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Posted by McGarmott
Written by Jason Robert Brown, "The Last 5 Years" is an American musical drama about a couple, who could be any couple in the world, who have a first date, fall in love, get married, get jaded, and then break apart. What's interesting is how the writer chose to present the story: using parallel but directionally-opposite timelines, which a friend who saw the play with me said reminded her of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.
All in all it was an enjoyable play, definitely worth a watch.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011 at 12:28 am | Posted by McGarmott
I missed this film when it played in cinemas here in Malaysia – slightly surprising it did, by the way, considering it is an under-the-radar movie even in the States with serious political and nearly-current affairs content (meaning difficult-to-penetrate dialogue that is full of specific jargon and references) that would've glazed over the mushy brains of most Malaysians ... except for the fact that the movie opens in Kuala Lumpur. Obviously that's reason enough. Except Malaysians probably didn't bother to come out to watch the movie either, coz it's only in the newspaper reviews that you find out this little fact. And how many people read those? (If you do, please don't anymore.)
For the fact is, this is an IMPORTANT film. With caps.
What is it about? The film explains it all, so I shan't tell you. If you're a learned Malaysian, you would at least have heard the names, had a very vague idea of this scandal, and didn't much care about it. Well I'm speaking for myself anyway. Otherwise, the name Valerie Plame will light up as much of a lightbulb on your head as the name Altantuya would beyond Malaysia.
And if you're anything like me, you'd be angry.
Angry at the injustices committed, with such wide-ranging repercussions involving the life and death of innocents. Heartbreakingly so.
At one point in the film, the film conjures up the polarisation between the conservatives and the liberals when an irate reporter messes up a lunch meeting of one of the protagonists by calling him names, and I feel like I would love to see the conservative media with all their stupidity and obsequiousness put away for the sake of humanity.
Meanwhile, there are some important (that is, righteous) speeches buried within the film. One of them:
The responsibility of a country is not in the hands of a privileged few. We are strong and we are free from tyranny, as long as each one of us remembers his or her duty as a citizen, whether it's to report a pothole at the top of your street, or lies in the State of the Union address. Speak out! Ask those questions! Demand that truth!
This is where we live. And if we do our job, this is where our children will live.
And may you think of your own country when you read that.
One more point to mention. The film was directed by Doug Liman, who directed the first of the Bourne films, and this is interesting because Paul Greengrass, who directed the next two Bourne films, came up with Green Zone last year, which shares a similar theme about exposing US government wrongdoing in setting up the case for war, the difference of course being that one is set in the battlefield and the other in home ground. Both also share the same composer, John Powell, though his music is a bit more low-key in Fair Game.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Posted by McGarmott
Bored. Not taking it seriously. Tweeting all night throughout the show. Stoner-look. Seemingly looking over your shoulder and not paying attention.
Some of the descriptive phrases used in mention of James Franco's hosting style at this year's Academy Awards ceremony. It was a fairly disappointing night, not just because the choice of award winners sucked (I'm looking at you, Best Animated Feature, Best Picture, Best Original Song, Best Director ...), but also because the choice of programmes seemed to have indicated that the choice of hiring Franco and Hathaway in order to stoke the interest of the younger generation for the Oscars had merely been a pretense. Why else have them if you're gonna spend the whole time harkening back to the so-called glorious black and white, golden classic film era, talking about the history of sound and music in cinema, bringing up Bob Hope, then calling up Billy Crystal (love havin' ya Billy, btw)?
And then there's Franco. It looked as if he really wasn't enjoying much being there, and pundits were calling it out majorly.
And then it occurred to me. Perhaps someone has written this already in some newspaper or blog somewhere – in fact, someone must have.
Franco was being young and hip. By choosing to reveal the younger generation's uncensored attitudes and feelings towards Oscar shows nowadays.
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