Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Personal Malaysian Tale

...I had overcome multiple hurdles in life and passed an examination deemed to be very difficult by international standards. I was not about to blow it all away by angering the UMNO government...

A Personal Malaysian Tale

This is a letter written by a very dear friend of mine, Hoe. It is a very poignant piece of writing penned at a time when all seemed lost and futile after an apparently victorious battle against the odds of life. It must be read in the context at the time and circumstances when it was first written, which was somewhere in mid-June 2006, right after the results of student intake into the local universities.

Fellow Malaysians and the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, spare me some of your invaluable time as I narrate my personal Malaysian tale.

I am a 23-year-old Chinese Malaysian male born in a family of five in a northern state of Peninsular Malaysia. My father is a humble shop assistant who earns a small monthly salary. My mother is a housewife who very rarely leaves home as she has to care for my youngest sibling with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My other sibling is currently studying Upper Six in a national-type school. She teaches Mandarin and Art tuitions to help the family make ends meet despite her examinations being less than 4 months away.

To begin with, I am not the brightest spark one can find around the neighbourhood. All my life, as far as I can recall, I have been a below average student who scores just above the passing mark. My best achievement was in Form One when I did somehow attain the first position in the second weakest class of my school. It was not something to boast about but I was proud that my bid for self-improvement did somewhat pay off. After my SPM examination, in which I passed with 5 credits, I opted for the STPM. Although I was well-informed that the STPM was and still is, very challenging, I had no other option as my family did not have sufficient financial resources to support my further studies in private institutions. Throughout the 2 years of STPM, I toiled as I could, failing my school-level exams time and again, yet each time returning a little more determined to pass the next one. Still, when the real examination came and went, I inevitably failed the STPM examination, having attained only a pass in the General Paper.

As I have mentioned, I am not the brightest spark around and I humbly accepted the results I was dealt.

I watched as my peers entered university to become engineers, computer scientists and doctors. While they were there, I took up multiple jobs to help supplement my family’s income. Two years later, still determined to attain a degree, I did the unthinkable and registered myself once again for the STPM. I gave it my best shot, burning the midnight oil as I am fully aware that only diligence and sheer hard work would be my ticket into university. When my second STPM results were finally released, I passed with decent, though not impressive grades in all subjects, even attaining a commendable Band 5 in my Malaysian University English Test (MUET).

Nevertheless, my application for a place in a local university was still denied, and I am fairly confident that it was not because I made the wrong choice of courses. Disappointed but not disheartened, I file an appeal as encouraged so in the local media, and I patiently waited and hoped that my final shot at university would be granted. The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) had an ‘appeals bureau’ and like most other non-confronting Chinese Malaysians, I opted to go through the MCA channels instead of the opposition parties. After all, I had overcome multiple hurdles in life and passed an examination deemed to be very difficult by international standards. I was not about to blow it all away by angering the UMNO government.

At this juncture, I suppose that my fellow Malaysians would not be surprised to find out that even my final appeal for any damn course in any local university was flatly rejected. After 6 years since my Form 5, having given my all, I have nothing to show. Zilch!

I would have quietly and humbly accepted this fact had I not read in a local daily quoting the Minister of Higher Education Mohd Shafie Salleh as stating that the government is committed to providing places for 120,000 “intelligent and qualified” bumiputera students who recently failed to secure placements in local universities, even to the extent of creating additional places for these students.

Such racism. Such favoritism. Such discrimination.

My simple word to Mr Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad is this, that:
• We, the non-bumiputras, the third-class citizens of Malaysia are humans too,
• We too, may come from socially-disadvantaged and financially-constrained backgrounds,
• We too, have broken families and handicapped siblings who are fully dependent on us to provide for them financially and emotionally for the rest of their lives,
• We too, harbour hopes and dreams for ourselves and our loved ones,
• And personally, I am sickened by your administration’s indecent policies of racism, discrimination, and social injustice,
• And that I will succeed in life without your corrupted handouts, for I have the inherent qualities to be successful.

Thank you for your attention.

Insignificant Malaysian


Kong said...

With that type of an attitude, no matter what he does in future, he will succeed. He did not wallow in self pity but instead pick himself up and forge ahead and along the way, become more mature and competent. How can he not succeed in future in whatever he does?

On the other hand, is it any surprise that many of the other "120,000 intelligent and qualified bumiputera students" probably wouldn't on the global scenes?

Alan said...

This is the reality of Malaysia. There ain't no meritocracy in anything. There is only UMNOcracy (so-called meritocracy by UMNO's assinine standard).

Sadly, I was also a victim of this race-based meritocracy a decade ago, but was finally offered a place in a not so well-known local university as a consolation prize for aceing the STPM exam, only to be looked down upon by my fellow peers who were luckier to get into a more well-known, "prestigious" university. What the heck!!

The bottom line is, aceing the exam doesn't put you in a better position than those who perform any worse. Above all, it doesn't guarantee you anything, at least in Malaysia.

Don't wallow in self-pity. The pasture is always greener on the other side of the fence. Go seek it!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I really like your articles. Just wondering, which country are you working in at the moment? I'm a med student and I'm also looking for a route out of poor old malaysia!

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I find your articles really interesting. I'm just wondering which country are you working in at the moment? I'm a med student and I too am looking for an escape route from poor old malaysia!

Product of the System said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm still here in Malaysia.
Still repaying my debts to the rakyat.

liang said...

Hey, love your posts! i'm a 4th year usm med student, hope i can be as good a doctor as you when grad haha!

Fully agree there's no meritocracy in m'sia. Admitting non-bumis in to matriculation has made STPM almost irrelevant. Can hardly get into any decent course unless you score almost perfect score.

And there's hardly any bright bumis in my course, and i always wonder what are all these people doing here depriving much more deserving people of their chances.

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