*featured in The Star's Putik Lada on 14th April 2011
TO over 20 million people, Malaysia is home. In this home, we have beautiful beaches, exotic islands and gorgeous landscape.
Our country is blessed with natural beauty.
If we wish to have a beautiful holiday on a beautiful island, we have Langkawi, Pangkor, Tioman and Sipadan, among others.
If we wish to scale the highlands of the country, Mount Kinabalu is waiting for us to conquer.
Taman Negara awaits the adventurous ones to come hike and camp.
We have our own casinos like those at Vegas. We have beautiful towers as well as the tallest twin towers, in Kuala Lumpur.
From Penang to Johor Baru; from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching, we find beautiful colonial and old buildings built by our forefathers.
Food is special in Malaysia.
The mix of all the races in the country makes our own “rojak” when it comes to food.
And yes, we all love our Malaysian food. When we go abroad, we will always miss our food.
If a foreign friend asks for an honest description of our country, the above will probably be what you will tell the friend.
However, since the friend requested an “honest description” of our country, we cannot stop at just culture, food and nature.
We ought to inform the friend of our system and people, too.
This is where our discussions may vary and change.
We ought to inform our foreign friend that in Malaysia, politics and the system of administration are big issues.
Almost every day, news on these topics will be reported.
To the foreigner reading such news, it would appear that while we are united in our love for our food and our natural beauty, we are, however, not united on many issues in this country.
This is of course normal, as no country in the world has a population entirely united in all views.
A real concern of Malaysians today is not just the difference in views, but rather, the attempts by certain groups in Malaysia to divide the people and instigate a clash.
We see people who constantly attack and bully others.
Talk-down or fiery comments are made without responsibility and care for the feelings of the other person.
It is fine if people cannot agree, but it is another thing to speak in confrontational and intimidating tones.
While people may be free to speak, as they have freedom of speech, this freedom comes with responsibility and accountability.
It is odd that while our Prime Minister strives for a united country via his 1Malaysia concept, there are people who choose to divide the country with their divisive views.
Back to this “honest description” to the foreign friend.
A description of our country would also not be complete without detailing our love for sports.
Thousands will watch a local football match, and our world-class badminton and squash champions.
When we meet, other than politics, sports is certainly one subject Malaysians love to discuss.
We have our own Formula 1 team.
It hasn’t won a race yet, and it does spend quite a large chunk of money (some from taxpayers), but the fact is we have our own Formula 1 team. We ought to inform our foreign friend of the many sports facilities we have in Malaysia.
Some are not well maintained, but the fact is, we have those facilities. Perhaps in time we will improve on the maintenance aspect.
Our great infrastructure must also be mentioned – the highways, the airports and the trains that traverse all over peninsular Malaysia.
Of course our roads have many potholes, our luggage sometimes get lost at our airports and our trains sometimes break down, especially the LRT in Kuala Lumpur; but the fact remains, we have these facilities.
The foreign friend would also be happy to know that Malaysia does not have volcanic mountains; our country is not sitting on nearby tectonic plates which may cause earthquakes or tsunamis. In this sense we are truly a blessed country.
Any advice or comment to the foreign friend is also incomplete without the story of the people.
Malaysians are patient and forgiving people.
We will hear illogical comments from people claiming authority, or even Members of Parliament making silly comments.
But time has shown that Malaysians will always forgive these comments and sometimes re-elect the very same Members of Parliament who made those silly comments.
Malaysians are also calm people. When facing racist and absolutely bewildering comments, we remain calm and steady.
We do have some protests and demonstrations but these are regularly extinguished by our police force.
But Malaysians, above all else, will always be Malaysian.
We can take a Malaysian out of Malaysia, but we can never take Malaysia out of a Malaysian.
We will always love our food, we will always enjoy our country’s beauty and we will always hope our sportsmen/women will win the next world championship.
The above will probably be an honest description of our country to any foreign friend who wishes to visit us or to migrate here.
> The writer is chairman of the National Young Lawyers Committee of the Bar Council. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, please visitwww.malaysianbar.org.my