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Love thy neighbor

  • In every Umno assembly we would see delegates hitting out at SJKCs. This is a natural development from our chronic lack of understanding and accommodativeness. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

Chinese ambassador Huang Huikang talked about his feelings spending the last four Chinese New Year in Malaysia: "Of all the world Malaysia has the strongest festive atmosphere for CNY celebrations. It's wonderful spending my New Year here!"

Among the Chinese envoys here, Huang is perhaps the most outspoken and unpretentious. Among his controversial moves was a goodwill visit to the city's Chinatown with halal mooncakes in September 2015 that subsequently sparked controversies over alleged intervention at a time racist undertone was high in the county, culminating in the Red Shirts storming Petaling Street.

Last year, he visited Johor during CNY to pledge donations for eight local Chinese primary schools, much to the ire of his critics. That nevertheless did not stop His Excellency from repeating the act this year, at double the quantum.

At a dinner hosted by Sin Chew's boss Tiong Hiew King on the eve of Chap Goh Meh, Huang revealed that he had to change a new set of plates and cutlery before hosting a dinner in honor of DPM Ahmad Zahid and other Malay ministers so that his Muslim guests could dine in peace.

Minor as it is, it was nevertheless a true manifestation of respect.

He said, treat others the way you want them to treat you. That probably sums up his wisdom in dealing with people that allows him to have his way in promoting the Sino-Malaysian relationship.

Two Muslim neighbors and their entire families came over to my house for dinner during CNY. One of the satisfied neighbors later posted on his Facebook: Love your neighbors, and they will love you too!

During Hari Raya, these neighbors would also cook for us. We thanked one another for the goodwill, and would look forward to the next dinner gathering in another year.

In dealing with people and things, if we can also spare a little thought for other people and learn to respect them, misunderstandings and conflicts will naturally be brought to minimum. The recent reckless raids on hardware stores selling pig bristle paint brushes during CNY was anything but necessary.

The incident shows that people from different ethnic communities in this country are still unable to try to understand and accommodate others such that a trivial thing could be cooked up into a major issue. When we lack tolerance, looking at things only from our own angle, social harmony will be at stake.

The domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism ministry officials should understand that the traders are not knowingly cheating their Muslim customers as they themselves are not aware that the paint brushes have been made with pig bristles.

If someone must be held accountable, it must be the relevant departments which have failed to institute a comprehensive import inspection mechanism.

Such brushes have been on sale in this country for decades, and the unannounced raids have put the traders in a very difficult situation. Fortunately minister Hamzah Zainudin timely applied the brakes and instructed the enforcement officers to return the confiscated brushes.

As for the last mile in the tortuous journey of seeking government recognition of UEC, it has been said that the report is already on Najib's desk awaiting his nod.

To be honest, having been independent for almost 60 years, few in this country would spare some thought for people from a different ethnic background. Politicians should by right take the lead but unfortunately they are more than eager to fan the flame and create more inter-community hatred and suspicions, all for their own gains.

The very simple and straightforward Islamic teachings, for instance, have been made so complicated that many are left feeling uneasy. Chinese language education, which should have been a sacred mission for the good of our young, has been demonized as the root cause of disunity.

Many Umno ministers know very little about Chinese education, and are engrossed with their stereotyped prejudices without showing the slightest willingness to communicate and understand.

During Umno information chief Annuar Musa's visit to Sin Chew Daily, he asked me how to win the support of the Chinese community in Malaysia. I told him Umno ministers must make an effort to visit the Chinese schools and understand how they have groomed the future leaders of this country.

Annuar later visited KL's Chong Hwa Independent High School and paid a personal visit to Dong Zong to get to know the UEC better.

He recently told Chinese newspaper editors, "I have to admit that I had biased views on the development of Chinese schools, especially independent high schools, before I visited Dong Zong. After exchanging ideas with the Dong Zong leadership, I discovered that they were not like how I used to imagine.

"As a matter of fact, Chinese schools had been in existence even before Independence.

"A main difference between independent high schools and government schools is that they put more emphasis on the Chinese language, which is not wrong. After understanding the actual situation, I come to realize that the misunderstandings of Malays towards independent Chinese high schools have been a consequence of lack of communication.

"I believe the recognition of UEC will not weaken the national education policy in any way, nor will it affect the position of Bahasa Malaysia. Dong Zong president Lau Lee Ming has said his association is willing to adjust the BM and history curriculum in order to get the government to recognize UEC.

"I think this is a step in the right direction. I can serve as the bridge to bring Umno and Dong Zong leaders together, including also officials from education and higher education ministries, for a cordial dialogue over the curriculum."

Not all Umno leaders will agree with Annuar Musa, and SJKCs have all this while been perceived as the culprit that undermines national unity.

In every Umno assembly we would see delegates hitting out at SJKCs. This is a natural development from our chronic lack of understanding and accommodativeness

There is a Malay proverb that goes like this: Tak kenal maka tak cinta. Indeed, how are we going to love someone if we don't even try to know him or her?


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