Way back in 2007 I could not help noticing an unassuming mat salleh in our midst lending support to our various civil society activities. It became inevitable that Frenchman Eric and Malaysian Elaine would invariably be a member of the Special Bunch. Both took time off to enthusiastically campaign for PAS in Kuala Trengganu during its by-election. Eric was assigned back to Paris but both are back in Malaysia to celebrate Eric’s birthday today. Eric was generous in his comments in my blog and it is fortunate that I archived one of his postings. Typical of him he gave us Malaysians a gentle nudge when what we deserve was a good kick in the butt:
As a foreign investor in this country, it puzzles me to no end that Malaysians would fight all-day-long about their ethnicity, religion or the colour of their belly-button.
Foreign investors are not coming here for cheap labour anymore, Vietnam, and further ashore China, are far cheaper and better (little labour department there). The local market is a laugh, small in number and means, Indonesia or even Thailand are way more enticing if you look at quantity. Don't try to bluff me about common law and judiciary, unwritten rules and unpredictable judiciary rule Malaysia far out compared to Singapore. Don't even speak about >infrastructure, try taking a Malaysian taxi from KLCC to Bukit Bintang wearing a tie and sporting a laptop and you'll understand why foreign investors do not need a second trip to Malaysia. Nope, >none of these count favourably.
The very reason Malaysia (still) ends up with large semi-conductor factories, regional shared services and other multinational service >centres is, precisely, the ethnic diversity. I recently had a tax issue in Indonesia. Some obscure rules I could not even start to fathom blocked the conclusion of the yearly audit. Who sorted it out? Our Malaysian accountant who speaks fluent bahasa flew down and got rid of the fuss in a couple of days. Had it been me, I might be in a Jakarta jail or even dead by now. I am now sourcing materials from China, needless to say I speak and write no Chinese, like most mat salleh, guess who helps me here? A Malaysian. I increasingly require Indian expertise in IT, law and finance. Needless to say, I can never hope to get through the thick accent and neither can my suppliers decipher anything I have to say. Guess who's doing the legwork? A Malaysian. Again. Surprised?
It does not stop there. I can consider myself lucky if my visiting clients from continental Europe can mutter 2 or 3 comprehensible sentences of English. Guess what they tell me once they get back
home? They love the way Malaysians speak English. It being a second language here, Malaysians go the extra mile to make themselves understood to Italian or French speakers who would have come back
from the UK or the US not having understood a thing!
Now rather than capitalise on this, Malaysians prefer to rant about ethnicity day in day out. Good for foreign devils, Malaysians seem bent on keeping us in business. Expensive (and sometimes useless)
expats are still needed in this country because Malaysians would rather have a costly foreigner on top than a plain co-national, due to wrong skin colour, religion or whatever. Thanks to the absurd
(and it pains me to stay polite) local university selection and incredible limitations, expats will be needed forever here. Contrast this with India or China. With their efficient if tough university systems. Chinese and Indian (current or former) nationals are actually taking over many Western companies' executive positions. Meanwhile Malaysian foreign graduates are happy taking up the jobs Westerners won't do at any price (e.g. dreary auditing jobs, low-pay F&B, etc.).
Proposals like DN knights' Satu Sekolah are a gunshot in Malaysia's foot. The day Malaysians shun their diversity under the guise of assimilation, Malaysia will have made sure it become Singapore's official dumping site. For Pete's sake, even the French, who used to champion assimilation all the way, are now teaching Arabic to second-generation French kids, because even they realise the potential loss.
What will make Malaysians feel like a common bangsa again? Shall we petition the British to come back so that Malaysians return to the united days of Hartal and AMCJA-PUTERA's people constitution?
Perhaps the Japanese would want to have a second shot? Or maybe the Dutch or the Portuguese?
If I were to be cynical, and I can tell you a number of my foreign clients are, I should tell you all to go on fighting one another for the crumbs. Please do tell each other "this ethnic community is lazy, that one is a bunch of avid crooks, that other one is just a bunch of miscreants", while foreigners can go on happily signing juicy deals with BN's cronies, hire the best talent for dirt cheap, rape nature (logging, gold mining anyone?), etc. but I won't. Why? I may be a silly idealist, but I still love this country, because I believe you guys can finally overcome your divisions and make this country a model for all to admire. Now, will you prove me right?
Joyeux anniversaire mon cher ami