steadyaku47 comment : First posted on Lim Kit Siang blog on 1st September 2009
By Hussein Hamid
You will never know what it is like to be discriminated against because you are rich or poor or because of your colour, race or religion until you have experience it your self. I was in London in the 60’s and London then still had pockets of areas where you would be treated differently because you are Asian. You will be waiting to be served at these places and you will be ignored until the ‘white’ have been served first. You would go look at a flat that you saw advertised in the local papers and be told that “it is taken”. Invariably we Asians found ourselves living in houses where there were other Asian tenants.
We Asian in turn used to mock the blacks and called them “Gagak” or crows and the whites we sometimes called them “Babi”. In one memorable episode me and some friends were on the London bus and we were referring to the gentleman in a bowler hat sitting behind us as “Babi this and Babi that”…Then as his stop came he stood up behind us with his briefcase and umbrella and politely told us “ Tolong beri laluan ini Babi nak jalan”. He must have been one of those colonial masters that came to administer Malaysia.
My unpleasant experiences in London with discrimination, however slight, made me realize that it was unpleasant to be discriminated against – for any reason. Coming back to KL around the early 70’s brought me head on with the ‘bumiputra’ and NEP situation that gave so much hope and expectations of good things to come for us Malays, regardless of our standing in life. My memories of these times are a bit hazy but one experience can capture the essence of those times. At the apex of my time doing “Project Acquisition” I had two penthouses costing me RM30 thousand a month, two Generals and back up staff under my payroll. A Filipino maid to cook and take care of the two penthouses. To get to see me you would have to go through the two Generals and assorted staff and it would cost you at least RM$100,000 to get to the top penthouse where I was staying to talk ‘business’ with me. I am relating this with no intention to glorify what I was doing – only what was possible in those times if you dare to take the risk and if you had the right connections and was savvy enough to use them to your advantaged. This alone can be another story for me to tell !!
Now back to discrimination.
In Australia ‘equal opportunity’ is not just a buzz word. We have the Equal Opportunity Commission.
What the Commission do:
The Equal Opportunity Commission has two major roles. The first is to encourage recognition and an understanding of the principles of equal opportunity. Laws alone do not end intolerance, prejudice and discrimination in our community – so education is a vital part of the Commission’s function.
The second is to provide a means of redress to individuals who allege unlawful discrimination.
When I apply for a job in Australia there is no place in the application form for me to tell them my race, my religion and even my gender. I do not have to tell them my age – nothing that will allow them to know that I am any different from any of the other applicants – except that I am qualified to do the job I applied for. Can you have any idea what it does to me – to know that I will be assessed only on my ability to do the job? It liberates my soul and it goes a long way towards making me have affection for this country that I now live in.
Equal Opportunity for all in Malaysia does not mean that the Malays will not be able to work in Chinese companies because it can be used as an excuse by the Chinese to hire only their own race. It does not mean that Indians cannot find work in the Civil Service because their mastery of Bahasa is not as good as the Malays, or that the Chinese young will not be able to get into the Institutions of Higher learning because their Bahasa is not good enough – all these things might happen – but more important is that we will all have to raise our game to the level needed to live in a country where Equal Opportunity is a given right to everyone. When that is in place then time will find us all living together with great affection for this country of ours call Malaysia.