Sunday, August 27, 2006

Zainah Anwar loves Malaysia.

This is an interesting article written by Zainah Anwar about her love for Malaysia.
Sounds like she came from well to do family, with people fussing and at their beck and call to provide goods and services. Yes services. In Malaysia as everywhere else, services come at a cost, money.
Which comes to my writing here, just like everywhere alse, if you belong to the moneyed class, and lives in a poor country, you will have it easy.

Let me write something about Malaysians.
They are well mannered, until they get behind the wheels of a car, where they become bully on the road, and honk at you for being careful and drive at 20kmh in a kampung road, because you are mindful of the chickens crossing the road.
Even if they live in cities, most still have kampung mentality of throwing rubbish everywhere, and expect Bandaraya workers to clean up after them.
If you belong to the moneyed class, or have money and connection things will be easy. Business opportunities and jobs abound. In Malaysia, its not what you know that counts, its who do you know. I suppose its the same as everywhere else. But its the 'take care of own people' and 'help your family and friends' mentality as per normal Chinese practice that is the problem.
Corruption, which is an extension of 'friend help friend' and 'taking care of each other' is abound. Of course if you look well connected and intelligent or look Western, everyone will serve you without qualms. The cops and government officers would even try asking for bribes. But if you look like an Indonesian or Bangladeshi illegal immigrant, Chinese or Indian, just brace yourselves.
The level of customer service and efficiency in government department, well you can say its slow and full of unnecessary red tape. The people are nice, just that the front line officers are not given authority, which make everything slow. As if computers doesnt exist.

So what if you are normal people, working at a factory earning minimum wage, 48 hours a week for RM600 a month or thereabout? Would things be as rosy and glowing as Zainah Anwar said?
My point here is that Zainah Anwar belong to the moneyed and well connected class. People 'ampu' her because she got money and connection. A huge chunk of Malaysian doesnt belong to that class, most people are having difficulty putting food on the table.

But hey, Its okay.. or is it?

Zainah Anwar on Friday: How much I love thee, Malaysia
25 Aug 2006
Zainah Anwar

TO mark our 49th year of Independence, let me share how much I love being Malaysian and living in Malaysia.

I love that as we chase wealth and success, family still matters. We still take care of our ageing parents, and we grit our teeth and bear with annoying and selfish relatives for the sake of family peace. My American friends are shocked that I have warned my nieces and nephews that if they do not take care of me in my old age, I would make their lives miserable. For me, it is a measure of love; but for my friends, an imposition that they could never utter.

I love that I can still ask friends and neighbours to take care of my cat, my house and my plants whenever I travel; that they are there for me just as I am there for them, in spite of our busy lives. You just make the time, no matter how hard.

I love that my electrician, my plumber and my handyman will come to my house at a moment’s notice. Not only that, while they are at the house, I can ask them to help move my heavy potted plants, cut branches off my overgrown ficus tree, and pick up the dead rat that my cat brought in.

I love that my mechanic comes to my house to collect my car for service or repairs and returns it washed and waxed. Even after 12 years, I still do not know where his workshop is. But Philip is only a phone call away.

My European and American friends cannot believe the level of service we enjoy in Malaysia, and for only a fraction of the price they would have to pay in their own countries.

Of course, the food, the glorious food. Sumptuous, in abundance, cheap and available at any time, day or night.

Where else do you find people who, while eating breakfast, plan what they will have for lunch, at lunch plan for tea, and at tea plan for dinner; people who would drive for miles to eat the best briyani, the best egg noodles with freshwater prawns, the best durian kampung.

I love that my assurances to friends that their daughters would find a niche under the Malaysian sun after many years abroad have always proven right. They have managed to balance work and pleasure, and find a circle of like-minded friends with similar interests, values, pastimes… and can gripe about living in Malaysia, but loving it still.

I value the thriving arts scene, where people like Jit Murad, Harith Iskandar, Jo Kukathas and the Instant Cafe Theatre, Yasmin Ahmad and U-Wei Haji Shaari break new ground in stand-up comedy and movie-making, that I can show off to my visiting friends who enjoy them as much as I do.

And the spaces and opportunities — mostly privately run with love and dedication — that have grown for young artistes to experiment, whether in film, music, dance, theatre or art.

I am proud of the country’s public health service where within every five miles, there is a clinic which provides excellent primary health care. How proud I was, while visiting a rural health clinic outside Kota Baru with a team of South Asian women health activists, the two nurses in attendance could not remember when the last maternal death had occurred.

It was that long ago that they had to flip through their register books, and still could not find a case. The visitors were stunned as the high maternal mortality rates in their countries meant a death would have occurred just the day or the week before.

They were even more impressed when the nurses told them that they made home visits to make sure mother and baby were doing well if the mother failed to make an appointment for post-natal care.

While much of what goes on in Malaysian politics pains me, I treasure that our political leaders, past and present, have found it in their wisdom to develop and sustain an inter-ethnic power-sharing system that has kept the peace and maintained growth and development.

In spite of everything, we have actually been blessed with prime ministers and political leaders who have built on and not destroyed what we have. I pray every day that this wisdom prevails.

I love that I live in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and went to a school where I made friends with students of all races. My life is that much richer for this. I love that we celebrate all religious and cultural holidays of the major ethnic groups in the country.

This is much more than you can say for other ethnically diverse countries, be it in the East or West, where groups think nothing of organising conferences during Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Chinese New Year or Deepavali. It is with pride and a tinge of righteousness that I reject such invitations because of the disrespect they display towards billions of citizens of the world.

Would you have organised the conference over Christmas, I would ask as politely as possible.

I am proud that as a Malaysian Muslim feminist, I see no contradiction between my religion and my feminism; and that my fellow Malaysian feminists of other faiths see no problems joining hands in a common struggle for justice with a group like Sisters in Islam.

My Muslim friends from the Middle East and other South Asian countries are puzzled at how we can work together and even socialise together, when in their countries rights-based groups don’t engage with religion at all, let alone join hands with groups that work within the religious framework.

But I tell them it is Malaysia’s history of openness, celebration of diversity and recognition and respect for differences that enable us to live and work together. There were times when I was criticised by Muslim feminists from other countries. They believed Islam, like all religions, was inherently unjust and patriarchal. For every alternative interpretation we can offer, the mullah can offer 100 others. So why bother, they say, as it would only strengthen the hand of the mullah and give legitimacy to religion in the public sphere?

I am proud that it is my Malaysian friends of other faiths who have defended and promoted the work of Sisters in Islam to Muslims from other Muslim countries, that it is possible to find justice and liberation within Islam.

I am proud that in my travels to developing countries, whether in Southeast Asia, Africa or the Middle East, people I have met were keen to know more about Malaysia and how we did it — the political peace and stability, the growth and development, the affirmative action policy, the low poverty rate, the First-World facilities, the independent foreign policy, the existence of a group like Sisters in Islam.

And oh, I so love the Tourism Malaysia advertising campaign slogan of "Malaysia Truly Asia".

I love it when I check into a hotel in some god-forsaken part of the world and the receptionist welcomes me by singing "Malaysia, Truly Asia..." And with glee I watch other countries’ tourism advertising and their forgettable slogans of recycled cliches. I am so pleased and proud that we got it right.

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