Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kee Thuan Chye

This story was published in thesun newspaper on April 4, 2012. I think this story is enough tell you there are many Malaysians who cares about this country . Here is the article 
 Headline : Writing for a better Malaysia

In his book, No More BullShit, Please, We’re All Malaysians (which is a compilation of previously-published articles), journalist-cum-columnist Kee Thuan Chye expresses his personal views about the country he lives in. He does not hold back his punches and speaks without fear or favour. The book offers readers the voice of a concerned Malaysian who cares enough about his country to speak up and gives his candid views on topics close to his heart – a united Malaysia where every citizen is treated equally, irrespective of his race or religion. Here Kee shares his thoughts on his book.

Your book gives the impression that you are very critical of the country. Any comments? 

The impression my book gives is that I don’t agree with some of the things that the government is doing and the direction the country is taking, one example being dividing the citizens along the lines of race and religion.My articles express my desire for a better Malaysia.As Malaysians, we have been conditioned into believing that the government is the country. But it’s not. Governments come and go. We must learn to make a distinction between the country and the government. That’s the reason I’ve added a quote by Howard Zinn (an American author and activist) who said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. If you are patriotic, you would want to protect your country from the people who are ruining it, especially if they are the ones running the country. What I would really like to see is the elimination of race-based politics and the politicisation of race and religion. And I would also like to have a government that’s corruption-free.

Because of what you wrote about the NEP (New Economic Policy) in your book, those who don’t understand your true intentions might say you are anti-Malay. How would you respond to that?

I’ve a lot of respect for the Malays and their culture. In fact, I think the Chinese in this country are different from the Chinese in other countries because Malaysian Chinese are gentler in their ways, thanks to being influenced by the ‘halus’ (gentle) aspects of the Malay culture. I really admire the gentleness in the Malay culture. I often use Malay cultural elements such as pantun, dikir barat and wayang kulit in the plays I write. I’ve given truly Malaysian names to my children. (He has named his daughter Soraya Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin and his son, Jebat Arjuna Kee Jia Liang.) I call my children by their Malay names.If people insist I’m anti-Malay, well then, I’m a crazy anti-Malay!

Can you elaborate on your stand that the NEP should be replaced with one that gives every race in Malaysia an equal chance.

 I think the NEP should be replaced by a policy that truly helps the poor, regardless of race. I think it divides the people if you have a group known as Bumiputras and another known as Non-Bumiputras. It creates two Malaysias. If you institutionalise privileges for a particular race, you will not be helping that race in the long term. They will not be motivated to compete. They will find it hard to survive on their own. You will actually be bringing more harm to that race. Even the late deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman acknowledged that the NEP shouldn’t go on for too long, or it would make the Malay race worse off. He was a visionary, he could see that happening. And, indeed, it’s happening now. But on the other hand, there are also many successful and brilliant Malays who have achieved success on their own. So if they can do it, other Malays can too. The government needs to give the Malays as a whole – not just the well-connected ones – the confidence to achieve on their own. They should be provided with better education, and rigorous work ethics should be instilled into them, rather than keep them beholden and dependent.

As a writer, are you resentful that recognition is only given to works written in the national language and not in other languages?

I wouldn’t say I’m ‘resentful’, but I would say I feel sad that this is so. I’ve always said we must give due importance to the national language. It’s the language that is supposed to unite us. But we also need to respect and accommodate other languages. I’ve been criticising those who came out with the policy that only works written in the Malay language is considered as national literature. Why should that be the case? By doing that, they are actually dividing us, instead of bringing us together.I feel that as long as you are a Malaysian, any literature you write should be considered Malaysian literature. Language should not matter. For instance, if a piece of Malaysian literature is celebrated throughout the world and it’s written in Tamil, Iban or Kadazan, are we going to say that it’s not Malaysian literature?

You were a full-time journalist for 30 years. You must have missed a lot of opportunities for speaking your mind boldly. Looking back at your life, do you have any regrets?

None at all. I did what I believed was right. I did my job as I believed it should be done. After I retired, I was offered a public relations writing job. If I had accepted the offer, I could have got myself a cushy set-up. But I turned it down. In all my years in journalism, I never did any spin writing or write anything for the sake of pleasing anyone.But if you want to push the envelope, you must be prepared to take the bullet. If you want to fight for what you believe in, you must be prepared to take what comes, and I’ve taken quite a bit. But I’ve no regrets. I can sleep easy. I can hold my head up high.