The last witness of that day of British infamy, 77-year old Tham Yong, said of how the Malaysian My Lai occurred. Malaysiakini reported:
"The soldiers came in the evening as we were preparing our meal," said the elderly lady, who because of surgery for her throat cancer has to press closed a hole in her throat in order to speak.
"They rounded us all up and we were terrified," she said.
"Even though we said we were not communists and we had no weapons, they killed one of the young men in cold blood in front of my eyes because he had a permit to collect durians, written in Chinese."
"I think the British soldiers must have thought it was a communist document," she said.
"The soldiers then told him to run away but he didn't want to, but they pushed him and when he did run, they shot him from the back."
Tonight I am not going to blog on the well-known massacre, already acknowledged by some of the Scots Guards participants themselves and the British press, but ignored by the British (conservative government and subsequent) government, and sadly even by our own Malaysian government.
It’s that statement by Tham Yong about the British troops killing one of the young (unarmed) men in cold blood in front of her eyes just because the victim had a permit to collect durians, but fatally for him, written in Chinese.
She thought that the orang putih soldiers murdered him because they thought the durian picking permit being in Chinese must be a communist document.
... all because of a document in the Chinese language.
Guilty until proven until otherwise, that was, if he could even survive the on-the-spot execution a la American frontier style vigilante mob.
… which brings us back to my previous post A central pillar of Chinese culture.
Many, even Chinese, do not realize that the written word (books) was so sacred (to Chinese society) that the more conservative Chinese would never step over a book or allow a book to be so positioned that it’s at his/her foot. That would be totally disrespectful.
In the broader sense that respect has been and is about education and learning that Chinese hold in high esteem, where the poor could have, through meritous education and achievement, the chance of rising above his/her station, or as the poetic would say, rising like a lotus.
In my post A central pillar of Chinese culture I mentioned that: where their children's education are involved and the government is oppressive and hostile to vernacular education …, Chinese parents would be prepared to sacrifice much, including mortgaging their homes off to pay for their children's education abroad, by hook or crook.
.. and what do I mean 'by crook'? For a very sad example, please read what I wrote more than 3 years ago, The Lotus Will Not Bloom For One Man - that’s how far a Chinese would be prepared to go to support his children’s education.
I posted A central pillar of Chinese culture on Thursday; today in his Sunday column ‘On the Beat’ at the Star, Wong Chun Wai pointed out more or less the same thing as I did, in Children caught in the middle.
He confirmed my post, that once the Chinese Malaysians had preferred English medium education and the vernacular schools were then in peril of becoming extinct. But he was far more diplomatic than I had been in my post. He wrote:
Chinese schools then paled when compared to English schools. The Han Chiang High School in the 1970s had to depend on Thai and Indonesian students to survive and was almost on the verge of shutting down because of falling attendance.
Parents, especially Chinese, sent their children to English schools because they had good teachers and, of course, it helped that England was a powerhouse then. It had nothing to do with history or heritage.
But now, many English-educated Chinese parents are sending their children to Chinese primary schools because they want their children to acquire the ability to speak and write Chinese. They do this because of the emergence of China as the economic superpower.
… whereas I gave the reason for the resurrection of vernacular (Chinese) education as the disastrous (politicking) tampering by successive (UMNO) Education Ministers which saw the plummeting of standards in national type schools.
To Chinese parents then, the language of the learning/teaching itself was irrelevant. The Chinese just wanted and still want quality education for their children. The belief that Chinese Malaysians have been/are chauvinistic in supporting vernacular education is incorrect.
If so, why would most Chinese Malaysians in the 50s and 60s send their children to English medium schools?
But tonight’s post is not so much about education per se but about Bahasa Malaysia and its use.
It’s our national language. Let me rephrase that – it’s our language, the language of Malaysians.
The term 'national language' gives the impression we only use it for official purpose.
Look, we became a nation in 1957. Allowing for some teething problem in the endeavour to get all citizens to use Malay as their language, that would of course take several years, preparing books, lessons, adult classes/tuitions, curriculum, etc.
In this regard, the TAR government wisely instituted the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka as the engine to promote, publish, propagate, lead and regulate the use of Bahasa.
My uncle told me he enjoyed the dirt cheap (highly subsidized) books of such outstanding quality that he bought tons and tons of DBP publications. I benefitted quite a few from his generosity.
Let’s give that Bahasa-isation process, say, 25 years. So we could argue that by 1983, we would already have a mature and rich Bahasa system. Then 11 years after that, by 1994, school children finishing school should be able to speak Bahasa to the same degree of fluency that my father, uncles and their peers could in English.
It’s now 15 years after – let me ask, how many Chinese and Indian Malaysians born, say, since 1976 and completed schooling in 1994 or later, used Bahasa fluently, widely, regularly and in private conversations among their (non-Malay) selves?
Being fluent in Bahasa is not good enough. Do you use it like your dad or mum would use English, almost as second nature?
Whether English is important is a separate issue which I will blog in another post.
This is about Bahasa Malaysia or as Anwar Ibrahim insisted on calling it when he was Education Minister, Bahasa Melayu, or if you wish, just our Bahasa.
The Malay lingo!
This is not about asking you to give up English, Chinese, Tamil, Punjabi, or/and whatever mother-tongue. This is about you using your language, our language, the language of our nation, society, community - Bahasa!
Apart from UMNO, PAS and PKR (the Malay or principally Malay parties), how many political parties conduct their meetings, congress, get-togethers in Bahasa?
I am addressing this to the Chinese and Indians (and any other non-Malay Malaysians), that if we are Malaysians, at least those born since (as an arbitary figure) 1976, then we must be
Food for thoughts.