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Sustaining the Malaysian Dream

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — Cousins Khalid Samad and Datuk Zaini Ismail are both the same age as Malaysia and share the same Malaysian dream; but their methods to seeing it come true could not be more different.

“We want a nation that is developing at a sustainable rate and everyone gets a fair share and we all live in peace and harmony,” says Khalid, a PAS politician and MP for Shah Alam whose birthday falls in the Merdeka month.

Zaini, older by two months, nods slowly in agreement.

“Sustainability. Sustainable development. That’s what we should have,” says the 53-year-old businessman whose construction firm is linked to the government.

“Malaysia’s progressed. The issue is could we have progressed better with the resources we have?” he adds.

A pause follows Zaini’s words. It feels weighted down with what they leave out as they share their dreams and memories of what it was like growing up in and alongside the nation called Malaysia.

Both children of senior-ranking civil servants, Khalid and Zaini remember growing up in an open, urban environment where skin colour, religion and income levels did not come into play.

“I had a rich childhood… at that age, I was into sports and games. Hockey, cricket, football, you name it,” laughs Khalid, born in Kota Baru but raised mostly in Petaling Jaya.

Zaini prefers a more organic change. - Picture by Jack OoiZaini grins at his cousin and ribs Khalid about being way too carefree for his own good. But the KL-born and bred too recalls a relatively carefree childhood hanging about with friends of different ethnicities, blemished only by an incident in his primary school when racism reared its head in the lead-up to the May 10, 1969 general elections.

“The only time I personally felt affected was when I was in primary school and a teacher was putting down the Malays. The teacher told my class, ‘Malays are only good to be MB’,” the bespectacled Zaini recounts.

“At that time, I was aspiring to be a pilot. I felt insulted, because anyone can be a mentri besar, but not everyone can be a pilot,” he huffs, still incensed by the memory.

“But I took it as a challenge to prove him wrong.”

But in the end, Zaini didn’t achieve that dream. Asked why, he tapped the side of his spectacles. “Bad eyesight.”

The current uproar over the racist remarks reportedly spewed by two school heads disturbs them.

They sigh, lamenting how inter-racial relations have deteriorated in just two generations, and how it would affect Malaysia’s progress in future nation-building.

Khalid pins the doings on his political opposition, the ruling Barisan Nasional.

“Back then when the country was born, people were united and moving consistently together. Now, people have become selfish… they’re more interested in amassing self- and family fortune… than serving the nation,” says Khalid.

Khalid remarks that the change began in the late 1980s, “after [then Prime Minister Tun] Dr Mahathir Mohamad had consolidated his position” within Umno and the ruling coalition and set Malaysia on a course of rapid industrialisation with his mega-projects.

“Mahathir corrupted the whole system for political expediency. He started taking out the good people, the judges, Tun Salleh Abas certainly.

“Although in theory his Malaysia Incorporated saw people getting filthy rich, becoming billionaires not just millionaires, it had a very destructive effect on the younger generation,” claims Khalid.

“We need a change in paradigms. We need to drop race politics. We need leaders who are more committed, who put the nation before themselves in practice and not words.

“We have to go through this process to get our bearings right to go in the right direction,” stresses Khalid, whose consciousness was shaped by world events, especially the Iranian revolution, while studying fuel and energy engineering in the UK in the 1970s.

His cousin who also studied in the UK however, has a wholly different approach.

Khalid, the revolutionist. - Picture by Jack Ooi“I blame it all on the politicians from both sides of the divide that have made it an issue. If we take all the politicians and put them somewhere else, I’m sure the next generation will be able to do a much better job,” says Zaini, who declares himself apolitical.

But he agrees with Khalid that the values Malaysians hold dear today are warped.

“They’re spoilt brats,” Zaini cuts in, not mincing his words.

“Their passion for survival is not there. We were No.1 in FDI. When we had money coming in, we were splashing it around and flaunting it.

“It’s very difficult to manage success. It’s easier to manage failure because we learn through failure. When you fail, you question why,” he explains.

Zaini notes that the US is a prime example to compare and contrast against Malaysia’s race-based politics and economy, pointing out it took the then New World hundreds of years to become a united multicultural superpower.

“America is a good example. It’s a hodge-podge of all races. The only difference is that in the US, everyone is an immigrant, not like here where the Constitution provides for the definition of a race,” he observes.

“To be a developed nation takes time,” Zaini stresses.

“If you want to affect change in society, it’s very difficult. It’s either through evolution or revolution. He wants to revolutionise things,” he says, jerking his head indicating Khalid.

“I want to evolutionise things. I prefer a natural progression. More organic.”

Zaini appears content to wait for his Malaysian dream to unfurl “organically”, as he puts it, even though it may not happen in his lifetime.

Courtesy of The Malaysian Insider, Selamat Hari Merdeka!
-Pejabat YB Khalid Samad-


Zaini said…
Why do you only ask us to drop race politics?

Why not also drop religious politics, which is also dangerous?

Malaysia will never be free and harmonious until we stop differentiating and prioritising by race AND religion.
Anonymous said…
Come to think of it ZAINI has got a good point here. Our country has been dragged down too often by race race race issues, and now a new weapon is unleashed-religion.How to compete with those mat sallehs who use only economics (not race/religion) to conquer the world?We cant spend another 50 years fighting over race and religion issues in our country by which time other countries are already building UFO to travel the galaxy.
iqra said…
Salam...I would say that race politic is ok in the first part of independent, but it seems not going well contemporarily as some racial policies are just as arrogance as the race itself, the majority always undermined the minority despite the presence of certain laws and regulations.

I would say, religion also make not much difference if race sentiments still deep inside ones heart. Because religion always potrayed by how a person understand their religion and not what their religion is about to the person.

Islam will be potrayed as terrorism if a person is a terrorist, and Islam will be seen as superstitious if a person is a black magic, and so on so forth.

So, if that is the case, neither race nor religion can play the harmonious role in human life, as both struggles always being abused by human with personal or group interest.

But, between race and religion, perhaps religion is more reliable when come to problem solving of global world and as a way of life. Again, the question of pure and sincere heart is needed for the task, otherwise its just ended of us took religion in our own hands, as we can see today, killing each others without mercy.

IN CONCLUSION, we need to look back to what is religion all about to human being, where is it from, how much knowledge do we learn about the religion, and what capacity or ability do we have in bringing the task of the religion, as religion is dealing with the truth and indeed the task is for the person of truth. Only then religion will bring peace and harmony to human life.

Hafiz said…
Is PAS a religious-based political party?

Is Islam a religion, the way we understand Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism as religions?
Anonymous said…

yes, Islam is Pas's base

Islam is a COMPLETE WAY OF LIFE. not just religion that used only on certain rituals. no seperation between politic and religion for certain command in the quran need political power to be establish for example hudud. we can only argue, may be in the aspect of implimentation but never to question whether it can or cannot be done. it is a must! true muslims will submit themselves to the will of Allah including what Allah dictates concerning Hudud.:)
Petrus Hansen said…
I just came across this exclusive video interview with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by Meet The Boss TV and wanted to share it with you guys!

Watch the HD Video Interview at -

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