By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
I stumbled on this Facebook posting rather by accident while reading my Whatsapp messages early this month. It was a text to me by a friend from my army chat group based in Kuala Lumpur. He too had come upon it by chance after his almost-ritualistic updating of messages in his Facebook account.
A lady doctor named Shalini from Pokok Asam, Taiping had recounted an incident which left her shocked and dishevelled. The unfortunate event took place one afternoon on Tuesday, December 29, 2015. By the way, Pokok Asam is located about 5km south of this scenic town once the administrative centre of Perak. Wikipedia has this to say about Pokok Asam:
“Pokok Assam is the second biggest satellite town in Taiping, after Kamunting, with its famous road-side fried chicken and mee rebus stalls.
It has a very active morning and night market that operates daily. The action around this small community centres on the market area.
Pokok Assam is a “White Village” created during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s.”
Let me elaborate a little on the “white village” bit. White area and white village were names given to sectors and settlements that were free from Communist insurgency activities. The formation of new villages, under the Briggs Plan, was the brainchild of Lt-General Sir Harold Briggs who was the Director of Operations in 1950 of a tumultuous Malaya under threats from the outlawed Malayan Communist Party. It was during the early stages of the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960).
And Pokok Asam, being close to Ipoh, is all the more reason why I need to allude to this unfortunate incident. Shalini’s Facebook posting goes like this:
She was driving home from work on Tuesday, December 29 when she stopped at a traffic light. An elderly Malay man, on a motorcycle, was attempting to do an illegal “u” turn at the traffic junction. He skidded and fell down. His machine fell on him and pinned him down. Shalini, instinctively, pulled over and went over to the guy’s aid. By then passers-by had moved the man away from the accident site. His leg was crooked. An open wound with his bone exposed indicated that it was a serious fracture requiring immediate medical attention. But what happened next was totally unexpected.
The lady doctor tried to talk to the injured pak cik. Before she could introduce herself the man rudely told her off saying, “aku tak nak Keling datang dekat aku ke, tolong aku ke, banyak orang boleh tolong..” (I don’t want Indians near me or help me. There are others who can).
Shalini was undeterred. She stood by and called an ambulance instead. When the ambulance arrived she introduced herself to the medical assistant and told him what took place. Upon realising his mistake the pak cik became apologetic and sheepishly said, “saya tak tau awak doctor!” (I didn’t know you’re a doctor).
This ugly incident says plenty about the sad state of our skewed racial relationship – a relationship borne out of desperation by a ruling party so fearful of losing power to the Opposition. Six decades of being continuously at the helm has clouded the way the party thinks and acts. Its insistence on remaining in power comes with a price – a fractured relationship between Malaysians that has impacted the way the rakyat see and treat one another. Race has been used as a convenient tool to keep Malays, Chinese and Indians apart.
It will take many generations to overcome this problem of identity. If and unless it is being addressed in a holistic manner a solution will never be in sight – not now, not ever. In the meantime, more of this racially-insensitive episode will unfold to further disrupt and, perhaps, wreck the fragile dichotomy between races in this bountiful country.
Notwithstanding that, Shalini’s actions were commendable. She never took things to heart despite being called Keling, a derogatory remark by any reckoning. Malaysians had rallied behind Shalini expressing their admiration for her professionalism. There are still many Malaysians who can think and act rationally. I am delighted.
By Fathol Zaman Bukhari