Our silence: An open letter to Malaysians

WHAT does it mean to be Malaysian? For CW Vong, it was growing up listening to tales of corruption and racism. But  does the recent rise of civil society movements signal times are changing – as are the people?

Photo: TV Smith

Dear Malaysians,

Recently, I watched some Bersih videos on YouTube. I have been avoiding watching them and reading articles related to the rally because such news often makes me feel depressed. Perhaps I should have stuck to my habits because I found myself extraordinarily shaken after watching these videos.

I did not go to the Bersih rally here in Melbourne. I have not, in any way, ever lent support to any political organisation in Malaysia, be it those currently in office or their opposition. Admittedly, I do not know if my name and identity card number has been used to vote without my knowledge – which is always a possibility in my country. Personally, I have never seen the inside of a voting booth. I have avoided matters of a political nature regarding my country my entire life.

‘Why?’ you ask. Because, truth be told, I have never believed that my country could change and that it was worth sticking out my neck for. Mr Anwar Ibrahim is only the most famous of many who have been through the ISA. I have kept silent. And so have many of you. So why should I be so emotionally charged after watching a demonstration video?


Malaysians, let me tell you my story. Your story might not be the same as mine – I do hope it is kinder – but this is what I learned about Malaysia as I grew up:

When I was about 11-years-old, I came back to Penang after my family had lived in Glasgow, Scotland, for four years. I came back with a strong Scottish accent, a smattering of our national language, Bahasa Melayu, and I was completely unable to speak Chinese, my own mother tongue.

Linguistically, life was a challenge. In Scotland, I had faced some racism in the form of a scuffle or two with children in the playground, since I was the only yellow dot in a sea of white. But otherwise, I had been left reasonably unscathed. The form of racism I met with in Malaysia was more insidious – and possibly more harmful.

As I attended primary school, my relatives were quick to warn me about the two other major races, the Indians and the Malays. Indians were labelled as “sneaky” and “untrustworthy”. Today, I still meet the odd Chinese uncle who will quote at me possibly the most racist quote I have ever come across: “If you meet an Indian and a snake on the road, you hit the Indian first.”’

Malays, on the other hand, were labelled as the lazy bunch. Stupid and lazy. My elders told me if ever a Malay achieved anything academically, he must have either Indian or Chinese blood mixed in him somewhere. How seriously was I to take these statements? I am still unsure. As a child from a Confucian culture, you were meant to nod and accept everything your seniors told you.

I wonder how the other two races view us Chinese. I had an Indian friend confess to me once that he and his mates would share stories with each other, howling in laughter, about the Chinese they had just cheated in some recent transaction. Was it some form of vengeance?

I also once read a poem, from one of our school textbooks no less, about a Malay grandfather telling his grandchildren about Hari Raya, the Muslim new year. In the poem, the grandfather makes mention of how they would go to town and buy fireworks from Chinese traders for exorbitant prices. But, he said, it was alright to be cheated by the Chinese just that one time a year, for the sake of Hari Raya.

How strange it was to continue the next few years making friends with these two other races. In fact, because I could not speak Chinese or any of its dialects, my best friends were often either Malay or Indian, with whom I could communicate in English without shame.

Photo: Tekkaus

Why didn’t my elders ever tell me that Indians were one of the most fun races ever to be around? That if you wanted to throw a good party, invite some Indians to run it and they will show you the real meaning of a good time? Why did they never tell me that Malays have one of the most welcoming, caring and comfortable cultures I would ever come across? That if a Malay becomes your friend, you are his brother? Why did they never tell me of the wisdom you could gain by fasting with a Muslim through the month of Ramadan?

At age twelve, real tragedy struck. I became subject to the racial preferential treatment that my government had been practicing for thirty years. I scored decently for my UPSR (the end of primary school exams) with 3As and a B but was denied entry into the most prestigious secondary school in my state, Penang Free School.

Meanwhile, some of my Malay classmates were entering this school with strings of Cs and Ds on their result cards. Looking back, I realise that at 12, I did not comprehend the gravity of the situation. Nor did I fully understand the frustration of my parents. Perhaps the silent racism of the generations before me was not entirely unvalidated. Perhaps the racial preference reinforced by the government had deeper ramifications than we think. How are we to measure these things?

My story ends well though, as years later I would have the grace of academia to win an ASEAN scholarship to Singapore and be blessed to have parents who could provide me with the finances to study in Melbourne, Australia. I feel pained for those forsaken by our country’s system – those who could have received the necessary tertiary education to bolster their careers and put them in a strong position to contribute to society.

I have stayed here in Australia almost ten years now and currently work in a suburb called St. Albans. St. Albans is an interesting suburb because of its muliculturalism. There are Sudanese, Vietnamese, Albanians, Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Indians, Slovakians, Romanians, Ukrainians and many others besides.

While it might be pushing it to say they live in completely harmony, there is at least an honesty in their dealings with each other. They like and dislike openly. Could we at home in Malaysia co-exist were we to be honest with each other? Or is silence the only way we are to survive, pleasantly singing Negaraku while black marking each other behind backs?

Multicultural Malaysia? Photo: Fendy Zaidan

I learned many things growing up that I was taught never to say aloud. As mentioned, I knew that to trust or befriend any Indian or Malay too closely was seen as a foolish act. It always made me laugh, though, that the Chinese trust each other only as far as they can throw a rock.

As a student, I knew that my government would give someone else better opportunities than I on the grounds of his skin colour. Out of hours, school teachers would whisper to me that they knew for a fact exam results were doctored according to race. After all, how did a weak, recalcitrant student who had been barely scraping passes through school suddenly produce an A in an official exam?

As a student, I was told that the education system was shoddy, which is why we practiced mathematics from Singaporean work books. Many people viewed teachers as stupid and incompetent. Being a teacher was the worst career you could choose according to anyone who was not a teacher, and only those who were incapable of anything else became teachers. This was strange to toggle in my head, having an auntie who is a teacher and pretty good at what she does.

As a teenager, the horizon darkened, as I was told that there were those who had scored straight A’s in their exams but denied entry into university because of racial quotas.

I learned that if you wanted to escape a traffic fine, you kept RM50 ready to pay the policeman a bribe. I learned that if you wanted to make sure you kept your shop lot safe from vandalism, it was a good idea that when your local police station called you up to contribute several thousand dollars for their annual dinner, you did not deny them. I learned that if you delivered the baby of a police officer, you did not charge them the surgery cost.

I learned that if you wanted to open a business you needed a Malay partner. I learned that the government was full of Malays and it was hinted that all they did all day sometimes was photocopy a few papers, and if they had to do any real work like serve you at a post office counter they would pull a long face. I learned at the post office a sign instructed you to wish the counter person good morning. But once I did wish them good morning, I was lucky to receive a grunt in response, reinforcing my low opinion of them.

I was taught that our highways were dangerous, heavily taxed and that all the bus and truck drivers were on drugs while driving. Most bus and truck drivers were Malay or Indian. I learned that you could get stolen goods that “fell” off the back of these trucks if you knew the right person. That person could be a doctor of a well established private hospital. That doctor was Chinese.

I learned that the states in the north were governed by Muslim fanatics and were being trained to get involved with the troubles of the Middle East. I knew that corruption happened and that we lost millions if not billions of dollars a year to it. I knew my country was held together by a strained tolerance and that our unity was a farce to cover up a precariously balanced economical functionality. I knew of friends and family who had suffered because of these things, unable to earn a living or cheated of money and recognition.

I was told the elections were a farce and I had many strange letters to unknown people coming into my mailbox during elections. These people were known as “phantom voters” and I suspect were already deceased. I knew that in my household, we did not bother to turn on my television to know the election results. I had learned that not only would my country not care for me, worse, it would put me down for the sake of some unknown person hoarding power and wealth somewhere up the political chain.

I knew myself and many others were fleeing the country because we were scared of these things and we wanted a better life elsewhere. I knew that my country and those not as fortunate as myself would suffer because I and others were leaving them behind, taking our talent and contribution with us.

Election posters in Little India, Malaysia. Photo: Oliver Laumann

I knew these things and I have kept silent all this while. So have many of you. Because how could these things change? How could we say anything and not receive repercussions? What and who did we owe to justify us making a stand and a sacrifice for these things? So best we let our country be.

Best we let it rot and die.

Our beautiful country of Malaysia.

Have you ever truly thought about how beautiful our country is? Have you felt the soft white sands of Langkawi and felt the breeze driving in from the Indian Ocean? Have you stood in a darkened room and heard the tropical storms thunder overhead and lash with ferocity as the clouds move in from the South China Sea? Have you ever pondered the silhouette of our mountain ranges and felt the call of the wild and ancient jungles thrum through the air? Have you felt the fragility of the species we hold in our hands, the tapir and the orang utan and the Sumatran tiger – creatures that, if we are not careful, will soon be fossils and pictures in children’s books? Do you comprehend the riches of the earth our country has been blessed with? Fertile land for farming, lush jungles for lumber, rubber and palm oil, and the black gold of the earth from our coasts.

Have you just stood in the middle of a sweaty, smoke filled hawker centre and marvelled at the banquet of smells and tastes before you? Such a fantastic palate, that I have never heard a single foreigner complain of it. Have you looked at the faces buzzing around you in our shopping malls, and known the immense weight of history and tradition we carry from the mighty civilisations that emerged from the holy Ganges River, the vast Yangtze River and the archipelago of Southeast Asia? Do you wonder at our wonderful tapestries, the gongs and chants from the temples, the smells of incense, the flash and colour of our parades, the solemn call of mosques in the evenings, hundreds of dances and song, more religious festivals than any country in the world, our languages and our rich historical inheritance?

As unpatriotic as any of us could be, how could we not love Malaysia?

The hawker centre at Gurney Drive in Penang, Malaysia. Photo: Sookie via flickr

The hawker centre at Gurney Drive in Penang, Malaysia. Photo: Sookie via flickr

When I watched the Bersih videos, it was not just the political movement that got me. I agree fully with the call for fair and clean elections. But what was overpowering, was seeing thousands of people, of every age, of every colour, from every segment of society, from all walks of life, come together and say, “We care. We will not let this country rot and die.”

I never believed I would see such a thing. I never believed my people, a people that did not trust each other and insulted each other in silence, could ever really unite. Yet here they were, standing together in the streets, getting beaten up and having water sprayed at them. Hurting. But united. So from their hope of a better future, from their faith in each other to stand as one over a country they love and their love for the land and its people, I too draw faith and hope and love.

Malaysians, our time is short. The world changes faster and faster everyday and as the old Chinese curse would have it, we live in interesting times. Today, Europe, that was once the mightiest power on earth, threatens to topple spectacularly. America, the world’s super power, is fearful of its own internal workings. And the Chinese dragon shifts restlessly from slumber. Our world has been globalising for decades now and that pace has simply accelerated. The world is tense and troublesome enough to navigate without our own internal strife.

Our economy has been sluggish and in recession for two decades now. While times were good, we could make up for the corruption of our country. But now there is no more leeway for such activities. Our corruption must stop. And let us not just point at our politicians, although they have much to answer for. Let us not just point at our policemen, as easy as they may be to target.

It was my silence that has brought us here. It was your silence too. It is our silence that has made this land groan under our feet. We are the cause Malaysia suffers. We are the reason our rich and poor divide widens. We are the reason we practice a civilised, governmentally endorsed racism. We are the reason our rainforests are dying and smog blankets our atmosphere. We are the reason so many of us do not return to our own country and instead hope to live in foreign lands.

Photo: Shock Tempo

Malaysians, can you change? It will be difficult and we are working against decades of culture and practice. There will be, and have already been, casualties in multiple arenas. There will be a price to pay for the way we have lived. May others, with more wisdom than I, find the way through to a better future.

But as long as we keep our silence, our country will suffer. May whatever powers that govern our universe have mercy upon us.

Yours sincerely,

Do you agree with Vong’s views? Share your thoughts below.

There are 61 comments

  1. Marcella Purnama

    what a thought-provoking post. As an Indonesian, I have never known that these issues really exist in Malaysia..

    1. Aakmal Yusop

      And we were quarreling over a few items of cultural sentiment a few years ago. But these does exist, and failing we may be, we won’t stop trying.

    2. Rosita Khan

      These issues have been here for more than two decades, but the ruling regime was clever to play the sentiment of supposedly truly- loyal -Malaysians-should-be while they plunder and plough their way through to siphon off the rich assets of Malaysia for themselves.

      We are still not late to save our beloved country. Please come back and cast your vote correctly when the time comes…that is the least you can do…

  2. Joyce Ho

    “Today, Europe, that was once the mightiest power on earth, threatens to topple spectacularly. America, the world’s super power, is fearful of its own internal workings. And the Chinese dragon shifts restlessly from slumber”

    LOVE IT.

    Really good read, Vong. It was very heartfelt.

  3. Watching

    Nicely put.
    As another Malaysian who grew up hearing the same stories, facing the same problems, ignoring the blatant issues, sweeping the injustice and government consented racism under the rug because we were told to, standing and watching as our country burns to the ground.. I hope that disgraceful period will come to pass and a new era dawns from the next general election. It will not happen in a blink of an eye, but at least it’s a good start.

    The people control the government.

  4. Christy

    Vong, thank you so much for writing this article! As a Malaysian myself, I felt so deeply when I read what you wrote. Everything you wrote is so true..

  5. Ng Oon-Yow

    Dear Vong,

    Thank you for this. Thank you for so eloquently stating what’s been on the hearts of many many Malaysians for so long.

    God bless you, brother.

  6. Syukri

    nice post.i agree with most of it especially the part where we are living in a society where we smile in front of each other but talk behind each other’s back. to much ignorance in our society nowdays.i hope u can come back to malaysia and continue the changes happening in our beloved country

  7. Stefanpang

    Interesting article. How I wish more of my friends could be enlightened as you were.

    I have to mention two things though:
    – Hari Raya is not the Muslim / Malay new year
    – “May you live in interesting times” is not an actual “old Chinese saying” and is believed to have been concocted in the West.

  8. Ling

    So what do we do next? Your experience is typical of many of us who have migrated to Australia. Do we pack our bags, go back to Malaysia – make a difference,walk the talk? Or do we continue to live in comfort and safety in St Albans or Glen Waverley, watching with interest, writing thought provoking articles and not much else?
    I reckon for us who have made that choice to give up our citizenship or live for long periods of time outside Malaysia – we give up the right to make any suggestions as to how Msians should change. It is the Msians in Malaysia that will make that decision. I believe many of them have moved on from that type of racism and have embraced what it truly means to be Malaysian. Of course there are many who still hold on to racist views. Given the thousands that turned up for the Bersih rallies across Malaysia – change is in the air.

    1. Mng

      There must be a reason why you give up on M-citizenship. I am sure you were much more appreciated in your current place. I respect that and will never condemned it. I understand the feeling of being unappreciated by Malaysia. However, its heartbroken to read that you think you have lost the right to make any suggestions as to how Malaysian should change. I honestly think you have every right to get involved in whats happening back in Malaysia because you can never erased the past. It doesn’t matter where you are now, you have LIVED in Malaysia before. Its the understanding of the situation and the experience, whether it is pleasant or not, that gave you the right.

  9. TJB

    Hmmmm sounds like Vong wants Malaysia to change, decrying that people move away, but I dont see him moving back to the country he claims to love so much.

    Sitting in Australia and encouraging people back home is all very good but doesnt make a strong recommendation for change.

  10. Doreen Chew

    Dear Vong,

    Thank you for for even taking the courage to pen your thoughts down. I am glad we have someone like you, who uses your mind to the fullest & put it into words.

    May your words be the source of encouragement to many who are still in Malaysia. I believe that all of us have different strengths and you have indeed uses yours to its fullest potential.

    To those who are called to write, please write effortlessly.
    To those who are called to lead the nation back home, please do so, effortlessly.

    You have done us proud, Vong and for this, thank you for writing this article.
    I believe eyes will be “opened” and many voices that have been silenced will begin to rise up and speak forth what they believe is the truth!

    Thank you!!!!

  11. Ross Stephenson

    They say ‘silence is golden’ … after reading your article here… i realize just how valuable your silence has been to us all. An excellent piece reminding us Malaysians just how much more AWESOME we are when we are together. Thank you so much for writing this.
    May God bless you ^^

  12. friedduck

    Vong, this is incredible. I can taste, hear, smell and see the Malaysia i love in every sentence – so clearly and artfully described. Dare I say you have encapsulated the beauty of our nation on so many different levels, and sounded a clarion call that will resonate with and strengthen the healing that has already begun.. in one neat little article. no small feat.

  13. reader

    Watching the Bersih rally videos overseas and saw how Malaysia’s diversity is amplified makes me realize that Malaysia has the potential to be this great nation. Malaysia is blessed to have ties with the 2 most populous countries; China and India. Malaysia is where Asia’s most influential cultures meet.

    If Turkey is the bridge between Europe and Asia, then Malaysia could be Asia’s bridge between the Eastern world and the Muslim world. Malaysia could be this great nation that could be the central hub for the overseas Chinese and Indians, two of the world’s most populous countries with the largest diasporas with a thriving Chinese and Indian culture outside of Greater China and India.

    And yet, our leaders have squandered our resources and settled for mediocricy. We criticise our country because we CARE, because we know our country could be better than it is now. 🙁

  14. Antares Maitreya

    Good to read this heartfelt plea from one who has long grown a root elsewhere but whose heart still feels for his homeland. Vong, we are changing from within – all of us, not only Malaysians – because the entire planet, nay, the whole solar system, is undergoing amazing upgrades in frequency, in response to cosmic events beyond the ken of a vast majority of earthbound humans. However, our cohabitants from the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms know something massive is upon us – and some respond by becoming apparently extinct, while others adapt swiftly. Don’t worry on our account, please. I am among those who could have left but didn’t – mainly because I became a parent very young, and that makes it harder to uproot and go somewhere else. I have absolutely no regrets. I feel my physical presence in Malaysia has been helpful in some mysterious way. It is my conviction that as each of us evolves into expanded consciousness it changes our energy fields and that significantly influences everything around us. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights, Vong.

    There is one small issue I wish to take up with you. You wrote: “Do you comprehend the riches of the earth our country has been blessed with? Fertile land for farming, lush jungles for lumber, rubber and palm oil, and the black gold of the earth from our coasts.”

    No issue with “fertile land for farming”… but I winced when I read “lush jungles for lumber”… that really hurt, I almost said “Ouch!” Lush jungles, my friend, do not exist for us to plunder. They provide us with boundless oxygen, fruits, medicines, roots – and, yes, we can harvest whatever we require from the jungle but not on an industrial scale! That irreversibly destroys the ecosystem and leads, ultimately, to moral cancer (increasing stress-related sickness, crime, corruption, the works). It would take too much time and effort to explain what I’m saying to somebody left-brained. Either you are able to intuit the truth of what I’m saying, or your ego will prompt you to immediately attempt to rebut me with a whole lot of ifs and buts,

    Rubber and palm oil were introduced as monocultures during an era when humans were unaware of the negative consequences of tampering with natural biodiversity. They have enriched many colonial families and local ones one – but we have to wean ourselves from such absurd notions of “economic growth” as measured in cold-blooded balance sheets, productivity graphs and pie charts.

    As for the “black gold of the earth from our coasts”… that’s a very myopic view of wealth increment, and it is my considered opinion that as we deplete our petroleum reserves, we shall suffer the nasty consequences of more and more severe earthquakes, tsunamis, and climatic changes. Why? Because the tectonic plates, deprived of lubricant, behave like land vehicles without shock absorbers on uneven terrain.

    Thanks again for your open letter – but do give my feedback some serious consideration, and think about the big picture, always!

  15. Quah Ji Chian

    Vong, nice, but you still live in the comforts of st Albans, don’t you? You still enjoy beers with your colleagues every Friday arvo, don’t you? Of course it is easy to comment from over the comforts back there. You wouldn’t do it and be silent otherwise being over here. Action speaks far louder than words. Come back and make a change. You can’t do it from there. Are you willing though to give up your multiple comforts and securities being there! If so, are you not just another terrible hypocrite. Thanks, but no thanks, cos we all know your writing through and through. Come back, and make a change, I say. I have done it, so can you.

  16. humpy

    An excellent article. I too am a transplant.. and living in Melbourne..slightly east of where Bong lives. My parents were teachers.. the old school type- trained by the British.. Over the years they have seemed the education standards dropped because of “equality”. I too scored very well in my DROp and

  17. Arcadius Situn

    I stopped reading after the 7th “I”.

    Yeaaa, yet another “my story” article covered with propoganda talks of great prerequisites to action when all you was talking about is your sad story of racial alienation and bragging what’s already great in Malaysia.

    Just another loner begging for attention. You guys want action taken go to the friggin march yourselves.

    ps: Where are the kadazan dusun murut in this equation? You guys want our palm oils, petrolium and gold? at least stick one of our kids in the picture maybe we might just crack a smile.

    1. R.

      ^ Arcadius Situn, you’re an idiot. I NEVER do this, but I have to say it. Plain and simple. This was obviously a story of personal experience and insight. So that others in similar situations may find it easier to relate on a deeper, more meaningful level. Did you expect him to write a completely objective academic style paper? Because if you think that that would reach the masses, then you are clearly delusional.

      The “my story”s you refer to are of individuals who have went through the same things as most of us have. Who are you to call their expression a beg for attention? Please take your jaded attitude elsewhere. As we are trying to stand in solidarity, both in actions and in words, we do not need the incompetent likes of you.

  18. zarina

    i’m from peninsula, had the chance to live in sabah a couple of times. after blending in never felt the barrier at all when i was there. when 1 malaysia was launched, it made me laughed.

  19. Malaysia's Outcast

    This is indeed a thought provoking article. If we really wanna change, then we shouldn’t only change the government, we must change the way we lived, the way we see others. I’ve been brought up in a typical Chinese family where the Indian Uncle will catch you if you are naughty(poor him, I never met that Indian Uncle before). Thought I was raised in this kinda environment, I grew up rather neutral for I believe there’s still hope for this country(Thought I’m racist in a way, the kinda joke-racist which I’m sarcastic but I don’t hold a prejudice against others, it’s complicated). I love this land, just that I don’t really like how the government is running. God save Malaysia.

  20. Amy

    Thank you for your heartfelt piece. Don’t stop there. You can write to your embassy telling them what you disagree with and you want changed. Start a signature campaign to ask for your right to vote while living abroad. Find every way you can to show the world what is going on and to harness pressure to put on the Malaysian government for change.

    You can donate and even start campaigns in your own country. Opposition candidates in Sabah and Sarawak seriously need funds to be able to rent boats, pay for petrol to cover their constituencies during elections, but also to service them once they win elections. Prying these two states from BN’s grip will be key to making a change in Malaysia. Get your people together where you are to raise money and fund them. In Sabah and Sarawak it only takes RM 50 to buy a radio so that more people can have access to unbiased news so that they will be more aware of the issues affecting them before they vote! Radio Free Sarawak is doing a great job helping people in those states become more aware of how they have been swindled and cheated by the current regime. Support it from where you are. Your money has more power and can do more than the money we have here.

    1. Lynn Cheang

      Thank you Amy for your constructive suggestions to Vong and others living overseas with stirred up Malaysian feelings and want to do something to help Malaysia from where they are. Thank you too for highlighting Radio Free Sarawak and the need to help Sabah and Sarawak break away from BN’s grip. As a Sarawakian, that means so much to me personally.

  21. abc

    I suggest caution regarding the East Malaysia issue as there is already some backlash and pushback against the opposition.

    The reality is, the opposition is only in East Malaysia now because they see the Sabahans and Sarawakians as tools they can use to win the election.

    While BN – for all the corruption and exploitation they have wrought – have been there for the last 50 years – and along with the bad, have also brought all the good – the infrastructure, healthcare, education. Yes, it was technically accomplished with their own tax incomes: but it was associated with BN, because that was the face of the government.

    I suggest caution because the language people use is very telling. “Prying these states from BN’s grip” indeed, it sounds like East Malaysians who are voting BN are seen as pawns or a natural resource to be stolen from under BN’s watch and used for the Oppositions gain, as if they had no free will.

    East Malaysia has bankrolled much of the Peninsula’s prosperity via oil and gas revenues – today they account for 2/3 of Malaysias crude oil production, yet they are among the poorest of all states. If Sabah and Sarawak had been allowed to keep 100% of oil and gas revenues instead of just a 5% royalty, they would be as rich as Brunei or Singapore – they have similar oil and gas production per capita.

    If the flow of cash to West Malaysia were to stop suddenly, the ramfications would be severe and unpleasant. There is no possible plan that even the opposition have that can restore 50-60 billion ringgit a year back to East Malaysia. They must laugh at the accusations of corruption against BN – small change indeed compared to the wealth extraction that is going on, and will continue to go on regardless of who is in government. From their perspective, East Malaysia has been used as a source of wealth for the last 30 years, and now the Opposition show up and want to use them as a source of votes too.

  22. Patricia Dev

    Dear Vong, thank you for such a provoking , heartfelt article.
    Many Malaysians who prefer to turn a deaf ear to the happenings in the country needed this .Don’t stop here.

  23. JS Lee

    Is this letter to Malaysian or to yourself or others like you who went abroad. I’m not sure if you migrated or just working in Aus.

    If you have migrated and has no intention to come back, just shut up. You are no longer Malaysian. YES, Malaysia became like what it is now is because of ppl like you as you already admitted it.

    This letter is not to Malaysian, but to “ex” Malaysian who have migrated overseas. You guys are greedy and cowards! If you are true Malaysian, come back here and face whatever difficulties together with other Malaysians.

  24. Sergeant

    Well done Vong, this article is really heartfelt and fantabulous.
    As a Malaysian, we shall not allowed what happened to be happened once again. It’s time for us to step forward and start making changes, for the future of our country and children.

  25. Jeffrey Khoong

    Thank you Vong, believe most unspoken in our hearts are now spoken. This is indeed our country today – treading towards bankruptcy and move backward in time. An awakening call for each of us to do something. Change is vital and for those of us who still love our country Malaysia, it’s time to be ‘unsilent’ ourselves.

    Do something. For those who have spare cash, contribute. For those who are still a Malaysia citizen, come out and vote for the party you think will turn our country around. Or at least share Vong’s article with your friends.

    I live in Australia but have just registered and will be going back to KL to vote. That’s my commitment. To all my fellow Malaysian residing overseas, please consider turning up to cast your vote in the next GE and take this opportunity to return to your favorite places be it for ‘makan’ or walking down memory lanes.
    Let’s do our part.

  26. Bullshitter

    Consider watching “Touch” (TV shows from USA) to ponder in the big picture (i.e. oceanic view) of the path that may possibly provide the “key” or “hint” or “feel” that lead to where you are now.

  27. Darth Vader

    Another Loner,hypocrite and coward self claim Malaysian.Come back here and march side by side with me and the others!! you can’t even speak Bahasa and claim you love your country so much.Go and drink your Aussie beers on friday night and we will do everything for you here and give you credits on your write up.You make me wanna ouke MATE.!!

    1. Jedi Knight

      Your statement is full of presumptions and unless you know the writer personally, how do you know he drinks Aussie beer? And how sure are you that he is not fluent in Bahasa?
      Janganlah berkelakuan seperti katak di bawah tempurung.

  28. David Kang

    thank you and well done, Vong. I don’t blame you. Our parents and grandparents time lived in a post colonial world. We young people did not experienced it at all. They teach us all this ‘racist’ things just because they love us very much. Racism in our country caused us to be divided.

    thank God that as a varsity student in Melbourne, you have your own opinion and thinking about our country. Really, Malaysia is changing since Bersih 3.0 in 28 April 2012. Malaysians walked out from the ghost of May 13 1969. Hope to see your posts in the future.

    God bless you in your studies and your life.

  29. Adrian Lim

    Some fine points but also some sweeping generalisations and statements that seem completely out of the blue such as:

    ‘Admittedly, I do not know if my name and identity card number has been used to vote without my knowledge – which is always a possibility in my country.’

    Phantom voters and buying votes is one thing but this seems to be a random guess made purely to be negative.

    ‘As mentioned, I knew that to trust or befriend any Indian or Malay too closely was seen as a foolish act. It always made me laugh, though, that the Chinese trust each other only as far as they can throw a rock.’

    This statement is baseless and ridiculous. Unlike Vong, I have actually lived in and contributed to this country, and I have not been silent as he has, deciding only to speak up when he sees hundreds of thousands of others do the same, and then suddenly exhort everyone else to as well. And throughout my life, I have never come across this ‘knowledge’ that Vong has. I don’t know what circles he mixes in, but it certainly is not true that it is foolish to be friends with Malays or Indians (admittedly the races are not as close as they could be, but there is no perception of foolishness) and I certainly do not think the Chinese do not trust each other (as far as anyone would practically trust anyone of any race).

    There are many points like this which I dispute, although overall I take the point.

    What is unfortunate is these people who don’t really understand the culture, who have never contributed or experienced Malaysian life (apart from the ‘real tragedy’ of not getting into the top secondary school of his choice), who choose to criticize from afar and exhort action without doing anything themselves.

    One night of sudden consciousness results in a spirited open letter. But what happens tomorrow when Vong continues his life in sleepy St Albans? Is he going to do anything further? Or is he just going to criticize the country to anyone who will listen from afar, asking people to do something while doing nothing himself?

    I have lived over half my life overseas, and the rest in Malaysia. I see its faults and I agree that we all need to do something. But here and overseas I have seen far too many people who only know how to talk the talk rather than walk the walk. People who criticize everything about Malaysia whether fairly or unfairly. They claim this is so that Malaysia can improve, but in reality it merely gives the world an extremely unfair and skewed perspective. How can an outsider possibly understand the nuances when these Malaysians say nothing but negative things about the country, often to an unfair extreme.

    If I was an outsider reading such an article (and given the source where this article has been published, I expect the majority of readers to be non-Malaysians), I would have nothing other than an overwhelmingly unfair impression of what Malaysian life is (there are many truths in the article, but given without context that a non-local cannot appreciate).

    The grand result of such articles is then a negative impression left in the minds of the general public, little response from Malaysians (since they dont read it and are obviously taking action in any case) and the author simply goes on with his life overseas having ‘satisfied’ his patriotic duty.

    1. dahi ketiak

      Where are u coming from Adrian LIM? A Cina kooi who has benefitted from all the trappings of a MCA or BN membership? Obviously your experience in Malaysia has been a more positive one, but I’m sure millions will disagree with you and that Vong is making a mountain out of a molehill. Vong’s experience is a relatively mild one compared with others from less priviledged families among all the races in Malaysia. I don’t believe he is exaggerating anything, maybe got a thing or two wrong, that is all. He represents the yearning of Malaysians at home and abroad for a better future for everyone where there is less racism, corruption, incompetence and more equality, justice and fair play for everyone. Is that too difficult to understand?

  30. Tear Gassed Demonstrator

    Nice piece, Vong.

    To Vong and other Malaysians living abroad, you are all living abroad, many thousand miles away from the injustices and discrimination,

    1. What is your next follow up action?
    2. What are you willing to do for the country you love?
    3. Is your love for the country strong enough that you will return to cast your vote?
    4. If you are no longer a citizen of Malaysia, what are you going to do about it?

    Actions speak louder than words.

    Malaysia needs all the help it can and everyone’s little effort counts.

  31. Mary Chia

    What had been said, seems to be old stories, yes I agreed it had happened or might be still happening (due to those little napoleons?) , but why should we be given the same ‘golden spoon’, just look around what is the results?, we are much better off as we have to work extra harder. Only those who are not ‘fighter’, were complained. I am sure there are many of us who are happy here as Malaysia is better than many countries…

  32. Adi

    I agree with Tear Gassed Demonstrator.

    Heck, if you have been in Melbourne for 10 years, you & I can safely say that Melbourne or St Alban is almost a home to you. Truth be told, in Melbourne there is not a piece of Malaysian spices you cannot find along the alleys of Chinatown or any Asian groceries. With the Mamak stalls around QVB, i don’t think Malaysian foods are being missed.

    The article is moving but like our fellow commentors said, what is your next action? Are you willing to leave Australia and come back home to work & live among us? Are you willing to pay Malaysian tax and still suffer from the very governments’ good & bad decisions?

    Most people who left the country talk a lot but until you actually come home to pay taxes & vote in this country, the above articles remains a nicely written piece with an open question which most will fear to take action for themselves.

    Whoever is reading this article and the comments here, i sincerely hope you guys come back, work here & vote. Then. Just then, miracle might happen in order to save this nation esp if we can work together…

    I studied in Melbourne for 4 years. I worked there for another 2.5 years. I love Malaysia like you all say you do. But i now live, work & pay Malaysian taxes. I vote too.

    Being in Australia makes me fonder of my country as i hold many great visions for what Malaysia can & should be.

    So, again, what you gonna do now Vong and all other Malaysian expats overseas? Talk is cheap guys. Time to call home the real Malaysians. Those who stay home & fight for the country’s better future.

    Decision is all yours to make now. I challenge you guys. I’ve done my part to spit fire in your heart. Hope it burns & knock some senses… To come home….


    1. left behind

      Yes. I agree with just about EVERYTHING you have said.

      I being one of those who were “left behind” or unfortunate enough not to be able to carry out my tertiary studies overseas due to lack of funds despite studying my ass off, have heard and read just about enough articles of people talking about saving Malaysia from people who simply packed their things up and left.

      It’s easy to talk about changing Malaysia when you are a continent away. It’s easy to just ‘escape’ this country as it plunders downhill but words are just words. Come back home, vote, live in fear with the rest of us and BE the change you claim you want to see.

  33. Denwong

    Why not starts forming a donation fund to Bersih. To usher clean and fair election.
    Similarly may voice the rakyat grievances to our government either BN OR PR…?????? Lets The Bar council do the just commend…

  34. Ali Karim

    Dont worry Vong, as a Malay Indian mix myself, my grandparents told me that the Chinese are the worse scumbags on earth. The only thing straight with a Chinaman is his hair or that he will gamble his mother if it involves money or Chinese house have no windows, but theirs is the loudest.

  35. allen

    It is simplistic to view that is is our silence that perpetuated the political and economic backwater that we are in. The truth is much more entrenched and deeper than that.
    The truth is we are more selfish than we think. This mentality cannot be eradicated at the polls. This is a reprogramming from the individual to the family unit to the schools and to the society.
    We may need a political revolution but cannot improve Malaysia without a cultural revolution.

    1. ping

      Thanks for bringing that up Allen, I wish more Malaysian’s realised that… let’s continue to not remain silent about the need for reprogramming!

  36. Rosita Khan

    Well, have to modify the English proverb then-

    Silence is golden,
    Ignorance is bliss,
    the former leads to poverty,
    the latter to wishful thinking..

    …Malaysian edition….it still rhymes 😉

  37. Joseph Cheok

    Wow…who would have known, that deep beneath your silence, runs a raging river so deep, that has finally found its way out. And all who are thirsty for truth, justice and equality have come to drink of it. Today, there were thousands who resonated with your truth. And if those thousands have been bounded by silence finally spoke up, the way you did today. Then there would be thousands more who may come and listen to each one of them. A thousand thousand is a nation.
    Keep talking, keep writing, keep proclaiming the truth. It will set people free today, and the nation tomorrow.

  38. Peter Pan

    The Malaysian Rakyat is tired of hearing nice words waxing lyrical about the niceties and the history, especially if these words are from over the ocean by people who have no contribution nor will be impacted by the changes being wrought forth. We are not looking for bards and we have too many barbarians from BN bullying us.

    If you want to do something, be a voter and return to Malaysia to vote for change, otherwise go and enjoy your latte, Vietnamese noodles, kebabs and pizza in St Albans and get on with your new life as an Australian citizen. Don’t tell the Rakyat what to do, be part of the change.

  39. Erika C

    How this article has been characterised as a “thought provoking” and “wise” is quite beyond me. In fact I’m actually appalled that an article like this is allowed to be published on a student website.

    Dear Vong –
    First, your open letter to Malaysians hardly address us for who we are. We know of the underlying issues plaguing our country – the inner workings of the government, the “invisible” layer of racism and inequality.. These are things all Malaysians know and grow up with.

    You start off with telling us your experience of growing up in Malaysia, hoping our stories are kinder. But seriously, Vong. What is so unkind about your story? Was it when your relatives warned you and were negative about the other races? Or was it when “tragedy struck” because you couldn’t get into the high school of your choice?

    Your article then kicks off with things you’ve learnt in Malaysia. Things, as Adrian Lim commented above, cannot be appreciated by those who are not Malaysians, or have not or do not live in Malaysia. What picture exactly, Vong are you trying to paint of us? And what gives you the right to make these sweeping statements on such a forum?

    If this article was published on your own blog, then it becomes a personal piece. People may rate it, flame it — but at the end of the day it is purely your own view. But to publish it here? It gives the impression that meld magazine endorses your views and that you are speaking on behalf of the student community. Have at least some disclaimers to indicate that not all of us think like you.

    Your article then ends with you asking if “Malaysians” could change. What on earth does that even mean? You ask for change but on what basis? You, who have lost all hope for your country, seek for change? What is the purpose or the rationale for your question?

    In my opinion, this article just seems to be a personal rant, or as some have said in the comments above, a way for Vong to go “Yep, I’ve done my part. I’ve let Malaysians know what I think of them and their country and I’m encouraging them to change.”

    Newsflash? It takes a lot more than just writing an article to affect change. Your non-committal stance of making Malaysia a better place doesn’t exactly make you the best representative to encourage others not to think or act like you.

  40. Mary Chia

    Honestly speaking, is Malaysia that bad that there are so many ‘hate’ comments? Or are these propaganda comments????!!!!

  41. Be Kind, Rewind #21: Links Of The Week « myHarapan

    […] CW Vong encourages the silent majority to take action – We have seen this all before, personal essays sparked by the maelstrom of emotions as a result of witnessing or participating in the Bersih rallies. The only difference here is the lack of timeliness, given the last demonstration took place nearly 2 months ago. Barring this, yet another Malaysian overseas pleads with his fellow countrymen to speak up and take action against the injustices prevalent in this place we call home, but is unable to devise solutions or pledge to return and make things right. It seems as if this is all we are capable of, ranting online. […]

  42. KX

    It’s all about perspectives and which point of view you are viewing it from. Try think of yourself as the prime minister of Malaysia, do you think it is easy to fulfill everyone’s desire? There is always sacrifice when making a decision. Sometimes change alone is not sufficient, understanding the reason behind every action is the key. Love everyone as you love yourself. Malaysia boleh!

    Rukun Negara is what we Malaysians should follow
    Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan
    Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara
    Keluhuran Perlembagaan
    Kedaulatan Undang-Undang
    Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan

    There is not much that I urge Malaysians to do, if you could at least follow the first statement of Rukun Negara, 1 Malaysia is within reach. If each Malaysian follow all 5 statements, Malaysia is the best place to be. Please take a minute to think through the meaning of each statement. Rukun Negara exists for a reason.

    Kelantan has been ‘membangun bersama Islam’ and the influence of religion behind government policy has brought us peace and harmony at the least.

    I LOVE MALAYSIA yesterday, today and tomorrow….accepting it’s good and it’s bad….

  43. TheSillyAshy

    This article really resonates with my sentiment. Many a times I wonder if democracy truly exist in Malaysia. Like you, I have never voted in my life and I moved out of the country at the first chance I’ve got. I have been toying with the idea of returning because deep down I know the country needs us to continue to grow and to make its economy competitive again, but who am I kidding? I am just a small fry that had been abandoned by the education system in favour of those with strings of Ds and they made it to university comfortably. In university, our results are doctored too. Classmates that did not contribute equally to a project will emerge with an A at the end of the semester, and you, the hardworker may end up having a B.

    Education aside, crime, corruptions are two vocabularies that have been used to describe Malaysia. Is this how foreigners view us? It saddens me that Malaysia always end up in the headlines for the wrong reasons. In as much as I would like to protect my country and its reputation, I guess it is beyond me to educate the people around. I tried to assure the people around me that Malaysia is indeed a safe place to visit, really? Did I just read some rampant kidnappings in KL recently?

    Perhaps, I should just give up on this country altogether and give my citizenship and move on to be a citizen of my current place of residence. But, could I really sever the ties ?

    Deep down, I love Malaysia a lot! But does she deserve my love?

  44. DK

    Nothing is permanent is this world. Change is a constant throughout history, some are quicker to happen, others much longer. Malaya changed when the Tunku became PM. Malaysia changed when Razak and Matahir took over. Now it is time for more change, this time it is the ordinary people, not BNputras, who are the champions. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you work alone for change, but do not forget the Power of One. Change starts with the single person, and the momentum builds up when they all link up to push forward their cause jointly. See what happened in Philippines, Indonesia, and recently in Libya, Egypt, etc. Do not lose heart, Malaysia has been a great place, and it must change!!!

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