November 30, 2023

New Malaysia Times

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Stand up on Malay Dignity

There was a popular joke told by stand-up comedian Harith Iskander many years ago at a time when there were stickers on the back windscreen of police cars which carried the message “JANGAN RASUAH”.

Harith, who is considered the “Godfather” of the Malaysian stand-up scene, spoke of how at the zoo there are signs which is displayed on the outside of all the cages, stating “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS”. Obviously because the animals don’t know any better.

Well, Harith did not need to complete the joke to make his point, the people broke out in laughter fully understanding what he was getting at.

In the same vein, Harith took to social media today to poke fun at one of the speakers at the Kongres Maruah Melayu (Malay Dignity Congress) held in Shah Alam, Selangor, yesterday.

He was responding to a tweet quoting the speaker, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris’ physical education graduate Nurul Fatin Aqilah Rahim, who was one of those who spoke on the education cluster at the Congress.

According to Malaysia Gazette, Nurul Fatin had called for the eligibility for Malay students receiving scholarship be extended to even those who get “A, B, C and D” grades in their SPM examination, instead of only those getting “A+ and B+”.

This was, according to her, “…bagi memudahkan anak Melayu”.

In response, Harith said that had people like Nurul Fatin been around when he was in school, then he, being a “C and D” student, could have gotten a scholarship too.

“I might have got a biasiswa and not become a comedian. There’s never a time machine when you need one,” he wrote on Twitter.

Nurul Fatin had also called for the gradual abolition of vernacular schools, arguing that there must be no more vernacular schools in Malaysia by 2026.

“Vernacular schools do not promote unity as they use their respective mother tongue as the main language.

“Instead, the Vision School Policy (Dasar Sekolah Wawasan) should be enhanced in stages.

“The resolution for vernacular schools to be abolished in six years is fitting so that the language and curriculum can be standardised,” she was quoted as saying.

Education was one of the five areas on which the Malay Dignity Congress wanted the government to take action. The other areas were religion, economy, politics and culture.

Despite all the strongly-worded speeches during the gathering, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad cut them down to size by saying that Malays needed to realise that having the congress was not a platform for them to seek the government to assist them in gaining back their dignity, but to use it as a platform to push themselves to do better.

“Dignity can only be restored by our own selves. If we don’t do anything to fix the situation, nothing will change. This should be the message of today’s Malay Dignity Congress,” he was quoted as saying.

Which takes us back to the original joke by Harith Iskander.

The need to have a gathering, loudly proclaiming to the whole world that it is on Malay Dignity, with speeches making demands, seems to suggest the lack thereof, instead of an actual show of proud achievements and strength.

The Congress could have been better served with Malay speakers who had made a mark in various fields, including the arts and science, as well as in the corporate world. There are many who have showed the way for the rest of the population to learn from.

This was an opportunity lost to the politics of the day instead.