Feeling like the least favourite child

I stumbled upon a beautiful article written by a Singaporean. I provide here one part of it:

Recently, I had a conversation with several colleagues about this essay. I told them I never thought of myself as being particularly patriotic. One Chinese colleague thought this was unfair. ‘But you got to enjoy free education,’ she said.

Sure, for the entire 365 days I spent in Primary 1 in 1989. But my parents paid for my school and university fees for the next 15 years I was studying.

It seems that many Singaporeans do not know that Malays have stopped getting free education since 1990. If I remember clearly, the news made front-page news at that time.

We went on to talk about the Singapore Government’s belief that Malays here would never point a missile at their fellow Muslim neighbours in a war.

I said if not for family ties, I would have no qualms about leaving the country. Someone then remarked that this is why Malays like myself are not trusted. But I answered that this lack of patriotism on my part comes from not being trusted, and for being treated like a potential traitor.

It is not just the NS issue. It is the frustration of explaining to non-Malays that I don’t get special privileges from the Government. It is having to deal with those who question my professionalism because of my religion. It is having people assume, day after day, that you are lowly educated, lazy and poor. It is like being the least favourite child in a family. This child will try to win his parents’ love only for so long. After a while, he will just be engulfed by disappointment and bitterness.

I also believe that it is this ‘least favourite child’ mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Read the rest HERE.

Read and tell me it doesn’t resonate so clearly in Malaysia. Read and tell me that being a Malay in Singapore is not the same like being a non-Malay in Malaysia. Read and tell me that we don’t all feel the same sometimes.

My immediate family, meaning my parents and my siblings, are all here with me in New Zealand. My mother and father both have friends who were already permanent residents here when we first arrived. They came 5, 10 years ago. We came 2 years ago. My dad was struggling to make ends meet.

During the March elections this year, the Opposition won big. Pulled the rug right from beneath BN’s feet.

My parents’ friends were elated. Their first reaction was “Now we can go back to Malaysia!”

I didn’t understand why. Neither did my dad. But they obviously have some lost love with BN.

“They’re so unfair. We work and work and work, and what do we get? The Malays don’t do work, they just sit there and goyang kaki, and what do they get? Like that then we work so hard for what? Everything also quota. Want to send my children to uni also got quota. Their children need to take care, our children no need meh?”

You’d think that these uncles and aunties would probably have a hard time mixing with Malays. No, they actually have regular dinners and gatherings amongst the few Malaysian couples. One is a Malay-Muslim couple. Another is a vegetarian auntie. And they still manage to sit together at the same table, and share the same food.

So now, I don’t think they have an issue with the people. They have an issue with the Barisan Nasional government that they feel did not treat them fairly.

To put in other words, they felt like step-children of Malaysia. That’s why they left.

I reiterate one sentence taken from the article that simply bounced out of the screen:

I also believe that it is this ‘least favourite child’ mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Apply that to the Malaysian context.

I wish it were as simple as saying that by replacing the word “Malay” to “non-Malay”, the whole sentence would apply in Malaysia. Alas, nothing’s ever that simple.

Yes, non-Malays do tend to feel left out. That’s why we have non-Malays defending whatever little there is left for them to defend. They defend the vernacular schools. They defend the construction of churches and temples. They defend their crematoriums and burial grounds. They defend their companies. They defend every ounce of their Chinese- or Indian-ness.

Thing is, in feeling like the “least favourite child” and being so defensive, it has made the Malays defensive. They look at their neighbour where the Malays are the step-children, and they swear upon whatever that they will not let Malays in Malaysia end up like those in Singapore.

In the end, and what we can mostly see today, we have people saying things like “Mempertahankan hak Melayu”, or “Jangan rampas hak kami”, and things like that.

I defend what I think is rightfully mine, and you defend what you think is rightfully yours. And we say, so shamelessly, that we live together in peace and harmony.

Clenched fists only hold what was initially in the palm. They will never get anything more. The more tightly the fist is clenced, like sand, the more will drizzle away.

Only an open palm is able to receive. But upon opening the palm, one must be ready to share what they already have.


2 Comments on “Feeling like the least favourite child”

  1. Patricia says:

    I never felt like the least favoured child here. My parents did. But somehow it didn’t rub off on me.

    I worked hard from day 1 in school and made it to a local uni. And from there, I served the Army (as did my husband), taught in UKM and then went into the private sector.

    Where the govt was mostly-Malay, the private sector was mostly-Chinese. I am mostly Indian. (If we must talk race here. Cos I think we must, cos for most of us, govt = Malay.) So, in both places, I was the ‘other’ colour, so to speak. But I did ok.

    I think that the BN was voted in so easily pre-2008 becos of folks like me. And I don’t think I number in the minority.

    For whatever their policies, NEP whatever, there was a way for us to live, and earn a living, and do our own thing. And the NEP, in essence, was a good thing (it was the implementation that sucked bigtime).


    Things are different for my children. School mostly sucked. And we had to put them in pte colleges so that they could go overseas to study. For me, that was their ticket to ‘choice’: work abroad, or come home. THEY choose.

    From where I stand right now, I see that things have changed. Too much, from what me and my husband knew as kids.

    Don’t tell us we’re unpatriotic. Don’t tell us, yah lah you rich you can send your children abroad. We’re not. We’re struggling right now.

    All this anak bangsa malaysia talk riles me. As I told Haris, I couldn’t be more Malaysian even if I tried. But after a while, you just get tired.

    I’m one year older than this country. I hope she does better in the next fifty years than she is doing now.


  2. bow says:

    Minority citizen in Malaysia is not even look upon like a child but an alien or illegal immigrant by the umno dominance BN, see all their policy of racial discrimination at play.

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