Steven Schlossstein lamented in his book, Asia’s little dragons; ‘of all the government leaders that I interviewed in the 3 counties in this study, the politicians and bureaucrats of Malaysia proved to be the most obstinate and evasive.’
Recently I had a long conversation with a senior government officer. At one point, he looked at me as if I was an ungrateful soul who never appreciate anything done by the government. He argued in an angry voice, ‘look here, Malaysia is a much better country to live in than Africa or India, you should appreciate that you’re here.’
He continued, ‘You should be happy that we have no war or hunger here, you shouldn’t complain.’
What disturbed me most was that he was very sure of what he was saying and did not have any qualms about saying it. I stood there in silence because I felt sorry and sad to hear a senior officer saying this, discriminating the people of these two continents without a speck of evidence or sympathy.
Then suddenly my mind raced back to the time when I was in Canada. During one sociology class there, I overheard a conversation between two Africans, one from Chad and another from Uganda. ‘I wouldn’t go to Asia for a million dollars, I would rather stay in Africa then to suffer hunger and war in Asia,’ said one.
‘They even live in trees in Sarawak,’ added the other. ‘Thank God! we are Africans,’ they both said.
This conversation struck me as unusual. I had never heard this kind of logic before although it is a usual staple in barisan-nasional Malaysia. I wanted to get up and walk over to them to set them right, but I stood still. I guessed I couldn’t blame them because I was sure that they were fed with the same arguments as we were by our notorious main stream media.