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New dawn for racial ties in Malaysia?

 | November 5, 2016

Perhaps strengthened Putrajaya-Beijing ties will inspire Malay extremists to stop hating fellow Malaysians who happen to be of Chinese origin.

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The optimistic among us may be hoping that race relations in Malaysia will improve following Prime Najib Razak’s week-long visit to the People’s Republic of China.

China is the world’s second largest economy after the United States. It’s middle classes are expanding. More and more Chinese citizens are travelling abroad, injecting tourist dollars into the countries they visit. Increasing numbers of Chinese students are sent overseas. Landlords prefer to rent their houses to them because they are happy to pay six-month deposits, unlike the hard-up local students and other foreigners.

The Chinese uber rich purchase expensive apartments in the cities and countrysides of the world, driving away the locals, who cannot afford the inflated prices. Residents of major Malaysian towns like Johor Baru, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, George Town and Ipoh have complained about rising house prices, which are bumped up by foreigners, including those from China, of course.

Malaysia has certainly not escaped the purchasing power of the Chinese. Putrajaya has announced the historic signing of 14 agreements with Chinese companies. This set of agreements, worth around RM144 billion, is touted to be the richest on record. Let’s hope that it will not be wasted like the largest ever Sarawak laksa dish, which was thrown away after the record had been set.

While some industries will benefit from all this, what about the 6th or 7th generation Malaysians who are of Chinese origin? They are ostracised by the Umno extremists and other nationalist Malays. They are called “pendatang” and their children are denied educational opportunities and scholarships even if they are top students.

A similar thing happens in business. For instance, it has been proposed that Malay and bumiputera companies be allowed to escape the stringent requirements for halal certification.

Does the increased trade with China mean that Najib will persuade PAS to cool down and stop harassing the DAP? Will ministers like Ismail Sabri stop making racist comments and accusing Chinese traders of increasing prices to undermine the Malays? Will the Pahang Mufti stop calling for the killing of infidels? Will Beijing tell Najib to rein in the Red Shirts?

Will there be an end to the talk about banning Chinese vernacular schools? Will Mandarin be made compulsory in schools?

Perhaps cordial relations with China will also make the rakyat warm up to the likes Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. Will Tee be upset that he is no longer special?

The MCA ladies who used to complain about China dolls taking up their husbands’ time may now have to complain to Umno-Baru or PAS. Be prepared lest some China dolls be used as honey traps in political intrigues.

Will Najib now allow Chin Peng’s ashes to be interred in his family crypt in Sitiawan? Or will someone say that one must be more wary of living communists than dead ones?

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

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