I am sure many of you have read the news of the sacking of NTUC (National Trade Union Congress) assistant director of membership, Amy Cheong for posting racist comments regarding Malay weddings on her Facebook wall. The news was featured on the third page of The West.
A Malaysian-born Australian citizen, who worked in Singapore, has fled to Perth after the immediate backlash over her comments.
According to The Australian, the assistant director was finding it hard to stay asleep because of a wedding taking place at a ‘void deck’-an empty space for common use on the ground floor for residents living in apartment blocks. Annoyed, Amy posted on her Facebook wall:
“How many f…ing (sic) days do Malay weddings at void decks go for? Pay for a real wedding you a……, maybe then the divorce rate won’t be so high. How can society allow people to get married for 50 bucks?”
Following her comments, netizens were swift and unforgiving in voicing out their outrage and verbal abuse.
I agree that Amy’s comment is insensitive and offensive but having read the ‘opinions’ posted by fellow netizens and the sacking of her job, I find the whole situation is blown out of proportion.
Firstly, there are not only comments but also Facebook pages and groups from other social media outlets that support racism, xenophobia, sexism, rape, and other offensive materials. It is rather disturbing how these sort of pages exist but do not generate enough attention to make authorities take any legal actions.
For Amy, just one spur of the moment offensive comment has changed her life overnight.
Personally, what annoys me the most is to read self-righteous comments from netizens who condemn Amy’s remark by posting opinions, (which resemble more like verbal abuse) that are equally as ignorant and insensitive.
Not naming names here, one of the netizens posted saying that Amy has ‘betrayed’ Malaysia by working in Singapore. Another one posted in Malay, commenting that she eats too much pork, hence her mouth is full of feces. Since Malays are mainly of Muslim faith, the consumption of pork is not allowed.
It is rather amusing and frustrating at the same time to read comments from netizens who assume they have the moral high ground to judge a person’s mistake.
Amy’s remark might be sparked off by a sense of resentment that I believed has been subconsciously ingrained into many Malaysians who have experienced the consequences of racial-based politics and corruption. Therefore, I find it insulting when someone who has no idea how Malaysian politics is run is quick to judge.
Race-based politics is prevalent in Malaysia. After the racial clash between the Chinese and Malays in May 13 1969, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was formulated in 1971 with two objectives- to eradicate poverty irrespective to race and to eliminate association of race with job function. Although the policy ended officially in 1990, Malaysians often refer to the NEP in the present because many of the tangible economic benefits it offered the Malay and Indigenous communities, referred to as Bumiputra are ongoing.
Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, Tricia Yeoh wrote a very good article, analysing the consequences of racial-based politics in Malaysia. Not only race-based politics has created resentment and tensions among races but it has also created ongoing corruption among governments and policy makers and ruin the economic potential of the country.
In the article Yeoh wrote:
Effects on Economy
“This situation was rare vis-a-vis other countries in that race-based affirmative action was in favour of the majority ethnic group (as opposed to aiding the minority groups). This has been made worse by the fact that majority of the policymakers within public service comes from the same ethnic group as the policy’s beneficiaries themselves. Malays would then increasingly depend on the patronage of top-level political individuals able to influence decisions to award contracts and tenders and appoint top positions within Government-Linked Companies (GLCs), eventually creating distributional cartels amongst friends and loyal supporters of the system. Whilst there were definite non-Malays who benefited from economic policies, they have been only the select few and far between. Also, although indigenous people technically fit into the Bumiputera category, in reality they have received little in comparison – another example of system abuse.“
Yeoh went on to argue that race-based policies have affected ‘the erosion of quality’ where government appoints vice-chancellors and promote lecturers according to their race rather than their merits.
According to Philip Schellekens, a senior economist at the World Bank, Malaysia’s racial policies spurred a brain drain of largely Chinese and Indian minorities, and limited foreign investment.
In terms of education, Yeoh wrote:
‘Further, Bumiputera students sign up for pre-university matriculation courses (easier to pass) whereas non-Bumiputera students are obliged to take the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Penilaian Malaysia) at Form 6 (more difficult); entrance to universities is hence dual-tracked. Students unable to enter university based not on their inability but on their ethnicity would have harboured feelings of resentment towards those who did.’
This statement holds true because as I have heard stories from friends or my brother’s friends who scored very well for their entrance exams but failed to get into courses of their choices due to their ethnicities. It is even more heartbreaking for these students as some of them come from families that are not as well of so they could not afford to go study overseas.
In conclusion, yes, I agreed Amy’s comment is insensitive and distasteful and she should not have posted those words that have the potential to create more tensions among different races. And for the netizens who were quick to call a certain race for being prejudice or to condemn her by giving equally racial or bias opinions, do not assume yourselves to have the moral high ground. In terms of the tensions and resentment that still linger in Malaysia, it is the government and those who selfishly benefit from the system are to blame. Race should be left alone when it comes to politics.
Racial-based politics is self-destructive. Period.