Sweetie Helen Ang wrote Di mana bumi ku pijak in Malaysiakini.
The title of her article comes from the Malay proverb ‘Dimana bumi dipijak, disitu langit dijunjung’ which means literally ‘Where one stands on (the land), that's where one should hold up the sky (above)’.
What the proverb moralizes is that ‘Wherever we live, we must observe the local custom’ but I think it's a bit more than just that. The nearest equivalent in English would be ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.
Helen Ang is of course a Chinese Malaysian and she wrote the article, I dare say, for and at Chinese Malaysians.
Helen has this habit of socking it to you right in the guts, or between your eyes, whether you are a Chinese, Malay, Islamist, mainstream media and God knows who else. Sometimes (a wee too rarely in my opinion) she has even gave it to the people she sympathizes most with, the Israelis.
Many have been the times I have disagreed wit Helen, in varying degrees, but I have to say, Di mana bumi ku pijak is one of the best articles I have read for a long long while.
It's brilliant, reasonably comprehensive and most of all, honestly truthful - and suck it if you (a Chinese Malaysian) don't like it.
Her article pontificated (and I hope she’ll forgive me for allocating her such a verb - wakakaka) on the hullaballoo following Mukhriz Mahathir’s alleged call for vernacular schools to be closed or absorbed into mainstream (national) schools, so as to avoid polarization among school children and in that process, to strengthen Malaysian unity.
Mukhriz has denied he mentioned wanting to close vernacular schools, and the Education Minister has backed his denial, saying Mukhriz had been misquoted – see Malaysiakini Mukhriz was misquoted: Hisham
Sweetie Helen Ang started off by lambasting Mukhriz for wrongly identifying the source of polarization among kids. She suggested that the MP for Jerlun should visit national schools to see the obvious ethnic segregation already existing there.
Even his sister, sweetie Marina, had pulled her own children out of these schools for picking up some undesirable learnings (of an ethnocentric nature).
But having chided Mukhriz, Helen stated “Mukhriz may be guilty of posturing but he is nonetheless echoing a genuine sentiment and outlook of the Malay grassroots.”
Helen is also acutely aware of the feelings of Chinese Malaysians when she wrote “Chinese on the other hand will ‘riot’ if ever mother tongue instruction was to be withdrawn. An integrated system of education could have been implemented at an earlier point in time but this is water under the bridge; the boat has left the harbour and sailed too far to turn back now.”
I have written on this before, that education has been a central pillar of Chinese culture for thousands of years, so don't f* around with that as it's an immensely emotional issue for them.
However, at one time in the late 50’s, the Chinese medium schools were actually going out of ‘business’ when Chinese parents were abandoning them for English medium because of their children’s improved job prospect – bloody bread & butter issues.
But thanks to the successive (UMNO) Education Ministers mucking up the standards of our national schools that by comparison, the Chinese medium schools began to assume (relatively) the academic excellence of Oxbridge - wakakaka.
Yes, it was UMNO (the various Education Ministers and their silly nationalistic politics) which eroded the once-glorious standards of Malaysian national schools and by default injected new life into the then moribund vernacular schools.
As Helen wisely commented: "[The Chinese education] boat has left the harbour and sailed too far to turn back now.”
If I have time tomorrow, I’ll continue discussing what Helen wrote, very brilliantly in her Di mana bumi ku pijak, but suffice to say, it’s worth a subscription to Malaysiakini just to read it, especially if you are a Chinese Malaysian.
Ah Check, Ah Cheem, Ah Hneah, Ah Soe, bloody time to look in the mirror at your Malaysian(?) selves.