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SATURDAY METRO, 25 AUGUST 2007

COMMENT

M19

Unity in diversity
By NIKI CHEONG
niki@thestar.com.my
M NOT proud of it, but I almost
failed my SPM history. Suppose
you cant ask much from a student
who used to carry a highlighter into
the class because all his history
teacher did was tell the class which
paragraphs to underline and remember.
I suppose, on the surface, I never
thought that it was that important
for me to remember who Alfonso de
Albuquerque was, and which year he
came to Malacca. For me, I comforted
myself with the fact that I knew the
important dates Aug 31, 1957
(Malayas independence from the
British); Sept 16, 1963 (formation on
Malaysia); Aug 9, 1965 (Singapore
gained sovereignty) and May 13,
1969 (racial riots).
Yet, over the past couple of weeks,
I have felt moments of shame and
embarrassment over my lack of
knowledge of my country's history.
The most recent was just a few
nights ago when I watched Tunku
The Musical at the Kuala Lumpur
Performing Arts Centre. The entertaining musical was directed by Joe
Hasham and written by Lim Chuang
Yik and Teng Ky-Gan, and told the
story of a fictional man Syed, aide to
the Tunku, who manipulates the
chasm between the races for political
power and, through a reactive chain,
causes a string of events to happen
Singapores departure and May 13.
Im not going to talk about how
much I enjoyed the show, which I did
by the way, and which parts I didnt.

Being multi-racial gives the extra charm to our nation

Even before we were Malaysians,


we were people of different races
living together peacefully,
complementing each other with our
individual skills and knowledge

More than some of the scenes that I


had problems with, it was my ignorance about our history that irked me
more. After the show, I found myself
asking my father my walking encyclopaedia questions like, Did DAP
really win the elections? What happened then? Did people actually get
raped during the May 13 incident?
Were Lee Kuan Yews tears genuine?
A couple of weeks ago, we ran a
series of articles on the Rukunegara
in the paper. I was excited at the
prospect of exploring it more after
all, the only thing I knew about it was
how to recite the pledge by heart. I
did not know that it was only conceptualised following the 1969 incidents, or that the preamble was as

much part of the pledge as the five


famous tenets itself.
Most importantly, I discovered
that the fifth tenet Kesopanan dan
Kesusilaan (Good behaviour and
morality) was, to me, the most significant of the lot and it had nothing
to do with the 64 (or was it 100-odd)
moral values I memorised for five
years to get my C5 in SPM
Pendidikan Moral. For me, it was
about accepting differences, and
respecting diversity.
My greatest realisation this
month, was how many other young
people like me were knew little
about our country and its history.
Every scene in Tunku the Musical
was in black and white except for
the end when, five prime ministers

later, the entire cast appeared wearing clothes in different colours


singing about the one day when we
will become colour blind. Well, not
everyone will agree with me, but I
personally think that we've achieved
that many years ago.
I had just recently added to my
Facebook account, my oldest friend.
Sharizan, or Shane as we all call him
is Uncle Zainuls son, and I had many
childhood memories of being in his
house as kids playing Star Wars toys.
He was never my Malay friend. The
same way I learnt that you never
wear shoes into a Hindu kuil when I
attended Lingams wedding in Klang.
The diversity in my family itself
was a testament. Dad is a Baba from
Malacca while my mother is a
Cantonese Singaporean. Tai Che, the
eldest of my siblings, is married to
Mizuan, a Malay from Kuala Pilah,
and have two beautiful celup
(mixed) children (or Melachi, as I like
to tease them). Ee Che, my second
sister, is married to Rizal, whose

father is of Punjabi heritage, and


mother is Malay.
For these reasons, I disagree with
the notion that we are working
towards becoming a colour-blind
nation. I believe that day had arrived
a long time ago.
The beauty of our country, to me,
was that long before we became
Malaysia, we were all citizens of one
place, but each person added a different colour to the canvas that was our
culture. And today, even as citizens
of one country, we are still different
and that is the texture that makes
Malaysia such a wonderful place.
In context, 50 years is not a long
time for a country but we have come
so far since. I dont think many will
disagree that as a nation, weve done
pretty well. Our leaders had been
visionaries, so the path had already
been laid out for us. What is important however is the need to realise
that the only way is, well, to move
forward and not back.
Happy 50th Merdeka Day, folks.