by Hussaini Abdul Karim
I am a Malay, raised in Singapore until I was 19 years old and still keeps returning to Singapore regularly and I saw many important events during that 19 year period; the merger with Malaysia, the confrontation, the separation, and the direct telecast on TV showing Mr Lee Kuan Yew crying after Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the separation, the racial riots that went on for almost aweek that erupted on 21 July 1964 on the occasion of the celebration of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) birthday; the last big flood in Singapore in the late 60's and the many non-stop campaigns by the PAP government since they took over in 1959, broadcast in Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English and participated in many of Singapore's youth building, education and development programmes and the national service, amongst others. I moved to Malaysia in 1971 and became a citizen of this country, by choice, due to events and circumstances that happened to me and in what I believe, where my future lies, in 1979. I am just like Malaysians who move to Australia and becomes an Australian citizen, Malaysians who move to the US and becomes a US citizen, Malaysians whomove to Singapore and becomes a Singapore citizen, Singaporeans who move to Malaysia and becomes a Malaysian citizen, etc. We all have our own special reasons and circumstances that led us to do so.
When I was born, Singapore being a country in the Straits Settlements together with Penang, Malacca and Dindings in Perak, I was, like many others born during my time, was a British subject. I then became a Singapore citizen after the City Council under David Marshall took over the administration of the state and in 1963, I became a Malaysian citizen when Singapore became part of Malaysia. When Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia, I became a Singapore citizen again and now, I am a Malaysian citizen.
As the Berita Harian editor Guntor Sadali said, "For Malays in Singapore,power is not about wielding the keris. For us, knowledge is ... THE realpower ... We do not believe in getting any special treatment, because itwould only reduce the value of our achievements and lower our dignity ...Dr Mahathir [Mohamad] and some Malay leaders across the Causeway do notlike the way we do things here and have therefore warned Malaysian Malays not to be like us. On our part, there is certainly no turning back. Meritocracy has proven to be a good and fair system. It pushes us to work hard and makes us proud of our achievements". These and all the rest that he said are all very true.
My mother, brothers and sisters who are still in Singapore are all very successful, so are many of my relatives who are still there. We work hard and we are Malays!They do not complain unnecessarily about the PAP government, then and now. Those who do not make it, including some of my Malay relatives (I also do have non-Malay relatives there) who are there, know that they deserve it and they cannot complain. Even if they do, no one would listen to them. In Singapore, there's no NGOs or political parties to help people fight or lobby for lost causes, they are just a waste of time and nobody is interested.
Malays in Singapore have since a long time ago assimilated into the general Singapore society very well and we do not care what race people are or what religion they belong to, even amongst Malays there who are not Muslims anymore or Malays who claim to be Muslims but do not practise the religion.There's never been a case like 'Lina Joy' in Singapore. This, to them, is a private matter between the individual and God. The 'Natrah' case, if some insist, was an ancient one, so to speak. As long as they are not troublemakers, they will be accepted by the society, regardless of race, language or religion.
The Muslims in Singapore are all very well, thank you and they do not need to be told what to do and what not to do by anyone, any organisation or any institution or even the government, and as a matter of fact, the government of Singapore listens to them. Muslims in Singapore comprise a multitude of races, not just Malays. Many, if not most, of the mosques and madrasahs in Singapore are self-financing though they do receive some grants from the government and they do receive a very good support from the government on education including studying Islam up to the highest level. Many of these institutions have now, however, been taken over by the government as they saw it fit to be absorbed into the national education system and the people are not complaining. Their relationship with people from other communities and people from other religions is excellent and they do mix and exchange ideas regularly. Mind you, being a very small country, Singapore has more religions than most country in the world, including some ancient religions. There are still the Parsis there who practise Zoroastrianism and there are also the Ba'hais, the Orthodox Jews, etc., etc.
Of course, there will always be some oddballs around like Mas Selamat, who wants to carry out their so-called 'Jihad' in Singapore. I and many ofthem in Singapore, the Muslims especially, believe that these people are misinformed and confused.
So, I believe, Singapore is doing the right things and they have set their priorities right. They do not waste their time on things that are non-productive or things that are non-relevant any more. And the big thing is, there's no corruption there. Singapore is, in many ways, more Islamic than Malaysia.
There's a lot that Malaysia can learn from Singapore.
Of course, I also saw and was privy to the transformation of many Malay people and the Malay kampungs in Singapore to become educated Singaporeans and kampungs became satellite townships, respectively, and that includes Geylang, Kg. Kembangan, Kaki Bukit Teluk Kurau, Kg. Amber, Kg Ambo Solo, Kg. Wak Tanjung, Paya Lebar, Tongkang Pechah, Jalan Kayu, Lor Buangkok, Bedok, Changi, Pasir Ris, Tempenis (Tampines), Kg. Tai Seng, Kg Jawa, Kg Pachitan, Kg. Tengah, Pasir Panjang, Kg. Ubi, Kg. Pisang, Kg. Kelapa, and many others.
The transformation of some Chinese kampungs needed more work and at times, the government resorted to arson and professional arsonists to move the people. That was very sad indeed. Nevertheless, the government made sure that all facilities were ready and operable before carrying out such drastic actions. So, things progressed quite smoothly. After everybody moved to their individual well equipped SIT flats, later taken over by HDB, no one complained.The government also made sure that complete infrastructure were thoroughly planned, designed, constructed and completed before the displaced people moved in.
Can our country Malaysia emulate that?
I remember Bukit Ho Swee was the first Chinese settlement to be developed after Singapore's biggest fire (organised arson?) and after that there were many campaigns about fire prevention broadcast on TV, radio, schools, public places, homes, etc. I was then still in primary school. There were many fires that followed in rapid succession but though property and belongings were damaged or lost, no life was ever lost. Lee Kuan Yew did what he had to do. I thought that was classic Singapore.
In the early 60's , just before and soon after the separation, Singapore's Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had several debates that were telecast live and his opponents included fellow PAP stalwarts,opposition political party leaders, local and foreign journalists, writers, political anaylsts, heads of the various communities, student leaders, etc. One of the debates that I remember very well was the one he had with the late Sheikh Abdullah Basmeh, Islamic scholar, journalist, author, teacher, state elder, politician and Malay/Islam community leader. He was a very strong and staunch supporter of Tunku's UMNO and the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore in it. I watched the telecast together with my Malay, Chinese and Indian neighbours as well as their school going children. LKY was practically running rings around the Sheikh and we could sense that the Sheikh was uncomfortable and jittery and was 'hot around the collar' throughout the whole 1 hr debate and we also knew that LKY was not convinced with most, if not all, of the answers the Sheikh gave hims. We were all very happy with the PM's skill and ability to play with words. Mind you, my Chinese, Indian and Malay relatives (cousins) and friends and me were only about 9 or 10 years old then!
One of the questions LKY asked the Sheikh that I still can remember word for word until today was, "Apa itu Sheikh?" Again, his (the Sheikh's) answer to the question was not good enough and we all were laughing throughout the debate and the loudest laughter was when that question was asked. The next day at school, everyone were talking about that debate held the night before and the question if you wish to ask someone a red-herring question was, "Apa itu Sheikh?" followed by a roar of laughter by the person who asked and the person being asked accompanied by laughters of all the people nearby.
I wonder what it would be like if that were to happen here in this country?
Another landmark incident was when the government, in the early 80's, decided to change the name of the new township Bt. Panjang (it lies somewhere between Woodlands and Bt. Timah) to Zheng Dong, during the peak of the first of many speak Mandarin campaigns held there without consulting the people and Bukit Panjang has always been a predominantly Chinese area. There was a huge hue and cry about the decision and people from all communities, in particular the Chinese, who were complaining daily about it to the PM, ministers, MPs, town councils, TV, radio, newspapers including the vernacular newspapers, schools, colleges, universities, etc. The government quickly backtracked and retained the original name, Bukit Pamjang, to everyone's relief and satisfaction.
Here, in our country, every community wants to have names of roads, among others, changed and to be named after their own leaders, regardless of the sentiments. What lah my fellow Malaysians!
Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not achieve what he wanted to achieve in and for Singapore overnight. He took almost thirty years to do that!
Soon after the separation from Malaysia on 9th August 1965 before the introduction of National Service, the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, introduced 'The Pledge' to be said by all all primary and secondary schools for both the morning and afternoon sessions which read as follows:
"We,the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people,regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation".
This was done to instill loyalty, discipline and unity in all the young people of Singapore, both boys and girls regardless of race, language or religion to ensure that thestate's desire to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for the small nation.
See here for more: http://hak55.blogspot.com/
Primary and secondary school students then were almost all from the baby boomers generation and they were the people who would become future leaders, politicians, and top civil servants in Singapore and you all can see for yourself the results now. His son, BG Lee Hsien Loong, the current Prime Minister of Singapore, was one of them and also are the many ministers and state minsters and top civil servants serving the country now. Granted, many of them come from Malaysia including the former and the current Chief Justice.
Of course, there were many other very successful campaigns and development programmes involving youths of all races that took place there even until today.
For starters, how about if the Malaysian PM makes all primary and secondary school students take a similar pledge now. Any comments?
On infrastructure, Singapore did not need to build a SMART Tunnel like Malaysia as part of their flood mitigation programme. They deepened, widened and increased the number of drains throughout the country and built huge, very deep and very wide canals at strategic areas which are very much cheaper than what we spent on our drains in Malaysia. For safety, especially for very young children, since some drains are as deep as six feet, all drains around markets, shopping centres, residential areas, etc. are fitted with steel grill covers and nobody steals them. Of course, the key thing is proper care and maintenance and these are done religiously.
Notice that when you travel on the MRT, buses and /or taxis, there are terminals and stops located at places very convenient for the commuters. One walks only 100 or at the most 300 steps to where you want to go after alighting from the MRT trains and buses and there you are, the places you want to go are all nearby. One need not walk 200 metres or more, for example, from the bus stop to the market, like what is very common here. And when you take taxis anywhere in Singapore, you do not haggle over prices.
What am I now? I am a Malaysian.
Malaysians: Can we do the same things here?