September 16, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan
I HONESTLY don’t know how to react anymore after reading the moans and groans from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad about the plight of the Malays but to be sure, he has been repeating the same issues many times over to the extent that it sounds like noises coming from an old record.
Just like any other race and nationality, the Malays are not without their faults but inherently lazy, a race that avoids tough and dirty work, a people who remain poor, have no ability and who rely on the goodwill of others (as outlined in point 11 of the 12 points of Mahathir’s recent post at his blog) they are not.
We’ll go straight to Mahathir’s points (translated and in italics) and the rebuttal:
Point no. 3 – “The British opened the tin mines and rubber plantations. Strangely no Malays worked here; workers were Indians and Chinese…. the retail and other trades all Chinese”.
Strangely? Why strangely? Is Mahathir suggesting that the Malays should have worked at the mines and in the plantations to prove that they were hard working? Was working on the paddy fields and in the open seas not tough enough? Was working at the mines and in the plantations the way to a better life? The British brought in migrant labour because they decided that the kind of work would not suit the Malays, who were happier to toil the land as paddy farmers and go to sea as fishermen. Some did work in the rubber sector but as smallholders. The immigrants didn’t become millionaires from working as labourers in the two sectors. As for retail and other trades, people can see that the environment plays a significant part, which is why you see more Malays in Kelantan and Terengganu and to a lesser extent in Perlis involved here.
No. 4 –Where were the Malays? They worked on the paddy fields, some were fishermen, a small number were in the government as clerks; smaller still those in high positions – proud to be paid a fixed salary and given pensions.
Nothing essentially wrong in being paddy farmers and fishermen, under both of which weather conditions can be tough, but it’s the system that makes these jobs lowly paid despite the effort required and it is in this respect that the government has failed miserably to match what the farmers and fishermen put in. Malays as just clerks in the government? Best for Mahathir to check the records as to some of the senior jobs held by Malays even during the British colonial era.
Nos. 5,6 & 9 – What was non-existent was to see Malays in business or as menial workers/labourers. The Malays looked down on these work. Malays were happy/contented to see the tough, dirty and dangerous work being done by foreigners. They were not worried of the wealth and progress attained by the immigrants because of the belief that this country will remain theirs. Because of this attitude not many Malays lived in the towns. Even then most urban resident were Chinese. No Malay shops; there were some restaurants and shops selling chillies and spices that belonged to Indians.
Obviously Mahathir doesn’t know the hard work put in by a fisherman, apart from the risks to lives when the weather goes bad
One has to know what is required to be a paddy farmer or a fisherman. Obviously Mahathir doesn’t. Both sides of my family originated from Kuala Perlis, a fishing village. My relatives from many generations went to sea, at times risking life and limb. It was the only work they knew but lazy there were not. If they didn’t make money it was because they didn’t own the boats and were never the middlemen, the leeches who until today make the most money under a supply chain that has remained intact for decades – again with the government clueless as to how to overcome the problem. It’s been 62 plus years since independence and Mahathir has been at the helm for about a third of it.
Nos. 9 & 10 – When I was a young man during British rule there too was a desire to see Malays in business. There was a Pekan Rabu in Alor Star, a day market, where the rural people could sell little, little produce, fruits. Business was not big; they did it part-time, with never an ambition to grow and lived from hand to mouth. But their attitude was wrong. Because they were not prepared to work hard and were not serious they continued to be poor. The gap between them and others who worked harder grew wider. (And sarcastically…..) This is fated; no need to do anything about it.
A desire to see Malays in business? One should ask the PM why he didn’t do it himself because the opportunity was always there. There were reports that said he did work for a while as a stall assistant at Pekan Rabu but he didn’t stay on. If the traders there know about what Mahathir has said about them one can imagine how they would react the next time Mahathir goes there.
No. 11 — The Malays should have realised what was happening to them but unfortunately until now they do not. They still refuse to work. They leave everything to the foreigners who come flooding into this country to work. There are seven million of them here now. There are those who claim the Malays are masters. What masters? The poor, people without ability, people who rely on the goodwill of others!!! Masters??
Where the migrant workers are concerned, the jobs they have taken over have not just been ignored or abandoned by the Malays. Chinese and Indian business, especially the family-owned types, now employ foreign hands — from waiting tables, to washing and cooking — because the latter generations from their families are not interested in operating a restaurant or a sundry shop. And at the rate the foreigners are taking over entire restaurants and small businesses, it won’t be long before these sectors are controlled by the Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Nepalis, which means the Malaysian retain sector as a whole. In this respect, very little can be blamed on the Malays. During a recent walkabout in Pudu, an area dominated by the Chinese, one section within an 800-metre radius had two Bangladeshi sundry shops and two restaurants. With many Bangladeshis also working at the many small Chinese-owned printing companies in shoplots there, these look to be the next to go to the foreigners.
One main reason why Malaysians a whole shun jobs now taken over by immigrants is the low wages and poor working conditions and lack of internationally accepted benefits. Wages are daily paid, which means no pay if you are absent. Most employers only give one off day every two weeks and most shifts last at least 12 hours. There is no such thing as overtime, medical benefits, insurance coverage, Socso or EPF contributions and annual leave. Having anything from RM1,200 to RM1,500 at the end of the month before house rent is decent and big money to most immigrants but that same amount is pittance to a Malaysian in the major towns. With this situation Mahathir honestly expects Malaysians, not just Malays, to bother?