We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony?

May 17, 2016

We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony.

Message to Nazri Aziz, Azalina Othman Said, Hadi Awang,  Harussani Zakaria, Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, and Keruak et.el

Shaun Liew


West and East Malaysians have been bickering through social media, face-to-face conversations, and so on. But if they want the same thing, why are they fighting with each other?

Some needs and desires are universal: no matter who we are, there are things we all need. Food, when we’re hungry. Accountability, when promises are broken. Rest, when we are overworked. Honour, when we work. Love, when we are not loved. And fairness, when there is none.

West and East Malaysians want the same thing. Equity, when there is discrimination. Malays, to tolerate non-Malays, and vice versa. Sarawakians and Sabahans, to live as well as Peninsulars, and vice versa. Non-Bumiputeras, to be recognised as equals like the Bumiputeras, by the federal government. And for East Malaysians, to be recognised by the federal government, as deserving of development and the good life, like West Malaysians. Why then are we in each other’s way?

Sarawakians have given power to those which the West have tried to rid of. Peninsulars think this ridiculous: why give power to the same government, when to them, nothing has been done?

Because Sarawakians have seen change, enough change, to vote for the same government. Peninsulars do not understand what these changes mean to Sarawakians; they ridicule them instead. Sarawakians understandably feel unjustified; but they too do not understand what their actions mean for Peninsulars.

Peninsulars want a fair and accountable government, just like Sarawakians. But they have not seen once since independence. They want Barisan Nasional out, while Sarawakians are keeping them in.


The West vs East bickering is simplistic, and should go past the way we label each other. This is inherent even in casual jokes.

“You live on trees right? Or are there buildings there? I’m sorry you must have never heard of the word ‘buildings’.”

“It’s all your fault lah, the West Malaysians!”

If the East continues to blame the West for underdevelopment, if the West continues to blame the East for being foolish enough to vote Barisan Nasional, then there is no room for productive debate or mutual understanding.

If we continue to discriminate, all debates will halt at the labels we have ― that he knows Maths well because he’s Chinese, or she received a scholarship offer because she’s Malay. We would fail to understand anything correctly ― that he’s good in Math because he worked hard after his parents emphasised how mathematical ability is easily transferred. Or that she received a scholarship offer because the government would like to uplift Malays by rationing scholarship offers based on race, in addition to her undeniably determined attitude.

This, we cannot understand if we are simplistic because our problems are not. Like underdevelopment and poverty, a problem for both Peninsular and East Malaysia. It’s mostly a problem in the rural areas, but even in the urban areas there are urban squatters, foreign workers, and those just hovering above the poverty line ― all of them labelled by the majority of society as unproductive, lazy and undetermined. It’s also mostly a Malay and indigenous problem, with pockets of Chinese and Indians.

Both West and East Malaysians are guilty of simplifying the truth ― and we need to look deeper. If Sabah and Sarawak voted for the opposition, does that mean BN’s reign is over? No. Because in Peninsula itself there are still many poor states, Malay-dominated with pockets of poor Chinese and Indians, who would vote for UMNO. And they vote for Muslim parties too, because Islam is part of many Malays’ identity.

Apply this to our society’s main problems: economic status associated with race. If Malays are poor and the Chinese are rich, I should give advantages to Malays, right? Then how far can a race-based policy that favours Bumiputera groups go? Would rich Malays benefit more than the majority of Malays? Would politicians grant certain groups special rights in order to trade benefits with each other, but not give them to the greater good?

This is why the solutions we need are even more complicated ― and they require debate beyond labels. This is also why involvement in policymaking is so important: we need to help each other, sure! But we need to do it in a way that’s best for everyone, and not just a few insiders.

The anger of West and East Malaysians after the Sarawak state elections ― in the form of cheap insults and deliberate stereotyping ― is sorely misdirected. We need to delve into the specifics and ask questions that we don’t usually tolerate ― and tolerate them with grace.

If basic infrastructure is what the East are lacking, ask why the West has so much of it. If racial and religious tolerance is what Peninsulars are lacking compared to Sarawakians, ask who is stoking intolerance, fear, and supremacism. If Chinese students feel they need to work much harder than Malays to get into local universities, ask who decides this allocation and why. If Sarawakians want Sarawak for themselves, ask who took their rights and natural resources away in the first place.

No matter how many questions there are, and no matter how specific they get, we all still want the same thing. Fairness, democracy, accountability, transparency, a fulfilling life. But we can’t understand this unless we go past labels to explore the deepest, most serious problems of our time. Beyond labels, we can see that we are all the same, that we desire to be equal, that we wish to be respected, as the complicated, diverse individuals we are, shaped by the complicated, diverse questions we wish to answer.

The cheap insults and simplified excuses must end now. We must delve into the specifics, the complicated, the uneasy. Then we can go forward. We all want the same thing anyway.

* This article was written by an Associate Editor from CEKU, the editorial arm of the United Kingdom and Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC).


11 thoughts on “We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony?

  1. For Malaysians to live together in unity and harmony will need effort from all races and not just from one or two races and total stoppage of running down each other especially when except for the ‘ORANG ASLI’ all the others are immigrants or descendants of immigrants with only difference being when the original or current immigrants arrived.
    Immigrants in US-Aust-NZ-Canada-etc are united to some extent and thus their economies and people prosper. The same can be said for our Southern neighbor Singapore which is almost all comprised of immigrants who work together and function with principle of merit-integrity and fraud-corruption being minimal as enforcement of laws is effective and penalties deterrent. Hope some of Singapore’s values/practices can be adopted as MALAYSIA HAS BEEN AND CAN BE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY and not bring divisive religious/racial values.

  2. As long as we have religious bigots and politicians in UMNO who deranged mentally and corrupt, our country will be divided along lines of religion and race. That is the unfortunate truth. I can keep promoting harmony and unity until the cows come. Nothing will happen because the politicians are breeding hatred, stereotypes and prejudices in our schools. –Din Merican

  3. Actually the premise is incorrect. Truth is the West Malaysian that are in power do not want the same thing as the rest of us. Those are the West Malaysian Sarawakians are in cahoots with rather than those that want the same thing. Yes. It’s West Malaysian who’s own earlier short sightedness created the delima in the first place and perhaps it’s their Karma, Sarawakian behaved the same wrong now.

    But if the West Malaysian who want to change correct their mistake, find it near impossible, what then? Sarawakian demanding these West Malaysian do the near impossible more reasonable than getting angry at Sarawakians? Sarawakians deserved to be scolded but it is their legal right to be wrong, not their moral or civil right.

  4. This kid can yodel all he wants. He’s got a long way to go.
    One things for sure – given an option, he won’t return to his ‘Tribal Homeland’.

    As i said, Sarawak is Sarawak. Like that oso don’t understand.

    What’s the point of all these pointless eructance (Farting)? People will say what they want to say. That’s the whole point of being different, ain’t it? To Hate is much easier than to Love. The energy expended is more purposeful and directed.

    Btw there seems to be a lot of shouting in CAPS, hereabouts nowadays. What happened to the good ole genteel ways of persuasion instead of frustration?

  5. I don’t think people should mocked for speaking against the bile emanating from West Malaysians. Neither do I think the mockery, insults , racial taunts and other such apparatchiks utterances should be placed in the “difference” category or celebrated as such.

    I have read and heard these wankers call Indians : “pariahs”, “snakes” “easily bought with mutton and beer”, – this last one from a corrupt mandarin of the DAP .

    Malays : lazy, not a true Muslim, stupid, racists, dumb ,and host of banal insults used against anyone not voting Oppo or that political party.

    I guess that’s just the way of the world now.

  6. What’s wrong with bickering? Siblings bicker all the times. The East Coast and the West Coast in the United States always bicker even over sports, that the East Coast sports reporters and writers control all the voice when the West Coast actually have better and stronger teams. All the bickerings do not prevent us from thinking as Americans, and living in unity and harmony. There is no correlation.
    Good for America because you are the so-called exceptional people in an indispensable nation Then you screw up stable nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, and Libya. You destabilised Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Then you bicker again while thousands upon thousands die. Stop bickering and start behaving with some consistent principles to guide your relations with the rest of the world. –Din Merican

  7. “All the bickerings do not prevent us from thinking as Americans, and living in unity and harmony.”

    This is a joke, right ?

  8. Din: Aren’t you confusing the issues here? Bickering is about arguing on petty and trivial matters. I never condone the imperialistic, hegemonic, and often evil America foreign policies. As a matter of fact, I have always spoken out against the American foreign policy, beginning with my college years chanting “hell no, we won’t go” against the Vietnam War.

    I am afraid we disagree, that is fine. Isnt what is happening in the primaries not trivia? I expect more mature discourse from the citadel of democracy. If all you can come up with are Hillary and Trump, something is wrong with your system. American politicians have to set a better example not bicker over petty stuff. Right now it is fourth rate stuff.It also reflects the quality of the media like CNN. What you are guys, telling the world? I am not all confused. –Din Merican

  9. Din: I concur there are a lot of political bickerings among politicians, which the people dislike. Read my original post again. I was referring to the title of the article to say there is no correlation between bickering and thinking as Malaysian. And Conrad, I was speaking in relative term. Do not interpret it as absolute unity and harmony. Look around the world, Americans are comparatively living harmoniously and united. Of course we have our shares of problems. Plenty.

  10. Aisay, you fellas still at it ah? Bickering over bickering..?

    If you may permit, me my favorite “Utilitarian Pragmatic” quote?
    “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.”

    In essential things – Unity; in doubtful things – Liberty (or freedom); in everything – Compassion.

    This applies to all human endeavours of this profane world, as much as it applies to doctrinal disputes. After all, it was spoken by a twice anathematized (heretic – according to both the Catholic and Anglican Church) irascible archbishop of Split in 1617..

    That is what true democracy, should look like, and a nation (not to mention organized religion) built on it’s foundations would be strong and self assured. The USof A allows such a discourse, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s messy, irascible, avaricious and downright rude. Haha..

    In case anyone of you still insist on ‘pursuing happiness’ – just remember, the happiness is in the pursuit and the goal will never be fully realized. The end point is that you meet your maker All Alone or alternatively you dissipate into nothingness..

  11. “Look around the world, Americans are comparatively living harmoniously and united.”

    So are Malaysians, but that’s not exactly what we are talking about here , right ?

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