August 9, 2007
My article in the Star
A young Malaysian believes in a Malaysia that smiles with her heart.
By TRICIA YEOH
ON Merdeka Day, one is witness to a fanfare of celebrations, semangat muhibbah and flag-flying. This year is no different, and I stand by my fellow patriots in giving full allegiance to this nation we call “home”, because really, this is a home like no other.
Every year, there will be images of ladies impeccably clad in their respective traditional outfits, singing their lungs out to patriotic songs, on television.
|Tricia Yeoh: ‘I, like many Malaysians of my generation, naturally trust our leaders to look out for us.’|
What perturbs me, however, is that some of these choir singers wear plastic smiles, seemingly disconnected from the songs they sing. Since I first noticed this, I’ve seen many false expressions of unity in the country.
These days I’m in search of something more meaningful.
I, like many Malaysians of my generation, naturally trust our leaders to look out for us.
I am therefore troubled when I hear remarks by a Parliamentarian, no less, that people of my particular skin colour should leave the country and go back to where we belong. Had it not occurred to my dear statesman that this country truly is where we belong and to which we firmly pledge our allegiance?
Establishing the fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial society should be sufficient to convince us that the country must serve all and all alike.
The stinging realisation of practices that discriminate one particular group over another has hit home. Thousands of Malaysians have chosen to migrate, preferring countries that recognise meritocracy first.
I have chosen to work in the area of public policy in Malaysia. I believe that working in the area of public policy gives me a tremendous opportunity to influence change in society on a macro level. I am willing to grasp at straws for the sake of a better tomorrow, even if it takes several generations.
In my work, I have had the opportunity to interact with people of all races, religions, geographical regions and backgrounds. These encounters help to shape public policies on socio-economic issues.
I believe that we must agree upon a culture of inclusiveness and appreciate people for who they are without necessarily placing them in little compartments in our heads.
Only then can we appreciate policies that aim to achieve a greater good for collective gain.
It is also necessary to move beyond artificial displays of unity. People should be given equal treatment, as it is crucial in ensuring that they feel accepted and united.
It is only upon dealing with the two fundamental notions of non-discrimination and equality, that we can begin to grapple with issues such as corruption, inefficiency, unemployment, lack of safety and security, pollution, and other socio-economic problems.
Public policy reform through research, analysis, dialogue and constructive criticism is a long and laborious process, but one that I feel is worth doing.
I believe in a day when this nation will move beyond petty racism and discriminatory practices. I believe in a day when race and religion are not wrongly used as political tools for power gain.
I believe in a Malaysia that celebrates cultural diversity beyond rigid identities of categories, and one that practises genuine unity because it desires to.
I believe in a Malaysia that smiles with its heart. No more lip service, no more plastic smiles, please.
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