Ode to the Unsung Heroes of GE-14–People of Malaysia


May 23, 2018

Ode to the Unsung Heroes of GE-14–People of Malaysia

By James Unsworth

 

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Her Departure from Seri Perdana, the Official Residence of the Malaysian Prime Minister, in itself is cause for  celebration

Now that we have the title, Change Was the Victory, perhaps this can be the narrative. Like any good narrative, there will be complications, plot twists and the like, but if the product is truly one Malaysia, one equal Malaysia, then that would be quite the book.

Recently, we all bore witness to a truly momentous and historic event. The momentous occurrence, was the change itself, the change in government. It is not that a band of saviours sailed ashore and a bright destiny was, or even will be, realised, it was merely that change was seen to be possible. It was that hope returned.

The change was the victory. From now on, whoever holds the reins will know that should they govern poorly, they will lose their jobs. They will be kept honest.

It is not the next band of political leaders that needs celebrating therefore, this victory belongs to the people, as the people did not vote for particular individuals, they voted for change, they voted for hope.

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This ballad therefore is not dedicated to the big names of the new government, it is for the smaller, less heard, but nonetheless effective actors, the everyday man, the everyday woman, who long ago spoke of ‘Malaysians’, long before 1Malaysia, those who spoke of equality, justice and transparency and saw political change as the first step towards this.

This ballad is dedicated to the quiet warriors, the quiet heroes, who, in Malcolm Gladwell’s terminology, were “the few”, the few who became the many, the many who spoke together last week. This ballad is to people like my wife: Gayatri Unsworth.

Since before I knew my wife, she has spoken with a tone of confused frustration about a Malaysia, without “Malaysians”, where division is normal and unity is a dream.

I’ve heard the stories of her childhood, of Ahmad’s, Chin’s, Kumar’s and Jonathan’s, of an idyllic singular Malaysia. When she was a young journalism student, I read her articles, which accounted as such and in which she dreamed of a day where this might once again become reality.

When she was a young professional in Australia, I heard her broadcast this message in her weekly Malay Language programme on SBS Radio around the country, to the Malaysian diaspora.

Back in Malaysia, I heard her imbue this message in her teaching to university students, as she taught them journalism ethics. I have heard this message repeated and manifest in the actions of her many graduated students, who have since taken leading roles in the Malaysian and foreign media and other aspects of civic life.

I have read it in her alternate news media articles, like ‘Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka’, widely read before a previous election, in her FB posts, in her weekly column and even in her article published the night before this famous election. I have seen it in her work with charities and social enterprises and in the way she raises our children.

Most importantly, I have heard it in the way she has consistently and calmly (and sometimes not so calmly) held firm in innumerate conversations over the past two decades, with family, friends and strangers, even when they said, “don’t trouble”, “don’t risk”.

I am delighted for my wife and for this country, as every one of these individuals has changed their tune, over time, gradually, one by one. Every wave, began with a ripple.

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Tun Dr. Mahathir is back with his Fellow Malaysians to make history and drain the swamp in Putrajaya. Together, we can make a difference

My celebration this week is for Malaysia, a country I love and for Malaysians and my tribute is to those few, those quiet warriors, those quiet heroes who kept on, kept on, kept on, until all of a sudden it happened!

Is there still plenty to fix in Malaysia? Yes. I first came to Malaysia in 2001 and I have lived here full-time for the past 12 years, longer than I have lived in any other place and I have observed many things.

Will these things be fixed because there is a different group in charge? No, maybe some, but that is not the point. Change was the victory, but it is just the beginning, not the end, not the climax, not even the introduction, just the title of a new story: Change Was the Victory.

I love this country, I was married here, my children have been born and raised here, I have taught here, I have studied here, I have bought, lived in and then sold a house here.

I have traveled all over this beautiful land and lived in three states, as I followed the work, like so many. I have become “me” here. I have partaken in the culinary multiculturalism of open-house culture, I have cheered for Harimau Malaya in the stands, I have cried at Chong Wei’s loses and sung Negaraku with pride.

I have sat in the front row at a Zainal Abidin concert, rocked out at Rock the World (back in the day), been to more weddings than I can remember, each a different kind, sweat it out on the local badminton court each Monday night and craved a teh tarik or Milo ais straight after.

But, despite my BM, my palate for sambal, my pride, my history on the ground, my Malaysian cultural idiosyncrasies, I will always be a foreigner. Well, maybe not always, but certainly for a long time yet.

Before I might be accepted, Malaysians need to accept each other, they need to come to know each other, one bangsa, equal. This is the story that needs to next be written.

Now that we have the title, Change Was the Victory, perhaps this can be the narrative. Like any good narrative, there will be complications, plot twists and the like, but if the product is truly one Malaysia, one equal Malaysia, then that would be quite the book.

James is the Head of English at an esteemed private school in Malaysia.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.  http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

3 thoughts on “Ode to the Unsung Heroes of GE-14–People of Malaysia

  1. Your description of the country was the Malaya in which I was born, where my friends of all races mixed without fear, were like brothers to one another, joyfully celebrating each one’s Holy Days; and may I modestly add here that the Sultan of my state, non-federated, would have no other doctor during his last days but my father to care for him! Then as I grew up I saw the cracks appear; they widened; and the changes began setting in. They tore the fabric of the country apart. One of my dearest Malay friends, a High Court Judge, even advised me about returning home from my studies abroad. Were it not for the rot that came with the new breed of politicians and their narrow partisan views this beautiful country would have continued to progress to become like a Utopia in the Far East. My wife and I have been regular visitors to Malaysia and Singapore until about three years ago. We could see the rot destroying the body politic; the empirical evidence was everywhere and all our Malaysian friends saw it too but feared discussing it publicly. Now at eighty years, it is far too late for me to change my style of life but my earnest wish is that this dramatic turn in events and, hopefully, the lessons learnt will enable all Malaysians to have a brighter future. “tuum est et futurae” – The future is yours.

  2. //I love this country, I was married here, my children have been born and raised here, I have taught here, I have studied here, I have bought, lived in and then sold a house here.

    Unfortunately, your children could not choose to be Malaysians by constitution. They would still be pendatang, unless they are willing to drop your last name.

  3. Karm Arger,

    Some of us have ancestors that were here before Queen Victoria ascended the English throne. In fact when Najib’s Bugis warrior ancestors were still roaming the Sulu Sea and even before Mahathir’s grandfather was brought to Malaya by the British East India Company to teach English in the Kedah royal palace.

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