Thursday, December 04, 2008

Helen Ang's 'Di mana bumi ku pijak'

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.


  1. I believe Malaysians should take a cue from the Indonesians and truly embrace the national language. In Indonesia, land where there are 300 local language, almost all can fluently speak their national language.

    In Malaysia, unfortunately, the national language has become a language for only the Malays. Non Malays only speak Bahasa Malaysia to Malays but among themselves, they speak their own language.

    And the command of Bahasa Malaysia? Barely tolerable and in some cases, total gibberish.

    For Indonesians, wholesale embrace of the national language creates sense of unity. Ethnic differences become less visible which is reflected in the recent, historical legislation against racial discrimination.

    The adoption of an integrated school system where Bahasa Malaysia is the language of communication among students of all races provide a fresh start for Malaysians to embrace the national language.

    Fellow Malaysian Indians and Malaysian Chinese shouldn't be suspicious of the idea. Mandarin and Tamil can still be taught. Then other ethnic groups can join the classes as well. No harm learning the languages that are becoming more important on the world stage.

    Malaysians speaking the languages of the world to foreigners but among themselves, they speak Bahasa Malaysia, articulately and fluently.

    The sense of stronger unity and better understanding of the aspiration of all races provide a drive to tackle racial issues as Malaysians, not as Malays, Indians, Chinese or whatever.

  2. the alternative to the indon model is the swiss model, which DAP held through the 60s. If the swiss model was adhered to, Mandarin and Tamil would have been made official languages alongside Malay.

  3. My father believe in Muhibbah. He put me to Sekolah Kebangsaan.

    Now I no read Chinese. My Bahasa No Good. My English cannot use.

    No I just unemployed blogger....

  4. I hardly consider Indonesia as a model of integration.

    Several times in its bloody history, it has turned on its minorities in an orgy of killing.
    The 1965 massacre was rated one of the worst incidents of mass killing in the 20th century - about 1.1 Million deaths.

    Another bloodbath against minorities during the 1998 economic crisis.

    To think that most Indonesian Chinese are so assimilated, many can't even speak either Chinese dialect or Mandarin any more.

  5. If nobody (be it Chinese or Malay) is willing to change anything,JUST REMAIN STATUS QUO


    Because if you talk about Malaysian Malaysia but at the same time unwilling to accept suggestions for better racial unity, people can see THE HYPOCRISY RIGHT THROUGH

    Jangan pulak hak org lain kita sedap sedap pertikaikan...tapi bila acah sikit nak kacau hak sendiri, melompat lompat macam kera kena belacan!!!!

  6. justmy2SEN,

    You are getting ahead of yourself. Before we decide what we want to compromise, we have to agree on a common vision first. Then we can decide who has to give up what, and please don't think like a two year old child, the "I give 1 u give 1" mentality is a hindrance to national progress (unfortunately this is very common, it's not just amongst Malays, many non-Malays think like that too).

  7. int,

    You mean it is better to think like 1 year old child where "Malay gives in, Chinese takes all" instead of Malays gives and takes, and chinese vice versa

    It is beyond me how some people can scream and shout Malaysian Malaysia but against proposal of improvement state of race unity in this country

    For me it's easy, if Malay/Chinese are unwilling to change or give up, it is useless to even talk about Malaysian Malaysia...let us remain Status Quo

    ps: Can you elaborate on what are common vision? (jangan cakap kosong k)..if you can figure and explain on this out you're genius man..but if you can't expplain them, may i suggest to stop using words beyond your intelligence

  8. justmy2SEN,

    I understand less than the tip of the iceberg of this issue of inter-racial unity, but I know enough to understand that it can mean very different things to different people.

    To my knowledge, the racial unity vision argument erupted in recent years because of Dr. M's "Bangsa Malaysia" speech, where the Malaysian Malaysia crowd wanted a "salad bowl" approach, while Dr. M was in favor of the "melting pot" approach.

    The extreme example of "melting pot" approach is Ali Rustam's "easy" recipe for how all Malaysians can become Malays [1]:
    1) by embracing Islam and
    2) embracing Malay customs.
    Then set la, racial unity, because all united under one race! Hey, why not, Mahathir followed that plan himself and he got to become PM... no wonder Ali Rustam thought it's a great idea. And I suspect the poor fella probably has no idea why everyone was upset with him. I think he genuinely thought he was being a nice guy about it.


    The salad bowl approach emphasizes multiculturalism as opposed to assimilation. In the "extreme" case of the salad bowl approach, in the 60s Malaysia would have imitated the Swiss style and made Tamil and Mandarin national languages alongside Malay. Now that's clearly out of the question, so noone AT ALL is talking about it... unlike the melting pot extreme, which Ali Rustam mentioned a year ago.

    There has to be give and take, but give what and take what, and to what end? Giving up vernacular education seems to me to be going in the direction of Ali Rustam's vision, although in truth I think it will actually balkanize the education sector by accelerating the proliferation of international and private schools (I hear GIIS is doing good business with local students).

    You are right that people need to change, but you are wrong to INSIST that both sides be willing to give things up now before agreeing on what should be achieved in the first place. That's just a recipe for regret and anger and bitterness and greater conflict down the line.

    I think the article is spot on, once upon a time non-Malays WERE willing to accept an integrated education system, and even a more integrated cultural identity, because there was the sense that both sides wanted to go in the same direction, and that both had a lot to gain. I think that's missing now... both sides are more focussed on what they stand to lose.

  9. Attempting the "melting pot" approach is a recipe for failure, or worse, national disintigration in Malaysia.

    It worked, up to a point, with Chinese immigrants in Thailand, because Thai Buddhism coexists easily with the Taoism/Confucianism of the Chinese. Attempted Assimilation has failed, with disastrous and bloody results, in Southern Thailand with its Muslim minority.

    Indonesia's Chinese minority has been cowed by a massacre of more than 1 million people in 1965. Don't even think of that kind of assimilation.

    I would support a gradual integration of the national education system into One system.

    It would take a clear, mutually agreed plan, a lot of goodwill and confidence building measures on all sides - and the pace cannot be forced.

  10. How about give all and take none coz there's a saying it's always good to be on the giving side.

  11. Distilled water underneath turban speaking again

  12. "the alternative to the indon model is the swiss model, which DAP held through the 60s."

    the medium in DAP is English.

    instead of achieving the salad bowl that they championed, they found their melting pot the in English language.

    but with english there is no unity. how could it be? among the same race, Malaysians speak their own ethnic language. then they speak English to foreigners and other locals of differing race. everyday other races become the same as a foreigner.

  13. Di mana bumi ku pijak?

    You must be joking. It should be "Di mana bumiputera pijak aku"!

  14. "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."

    Malay rights are an emotional issue for Malays. So why is it
    ok to f* around with it?