Malaysia and Singapore have always had a love-hate relationship but the young generation of writers are trying to change that
SUDHIR Vadaketh, Singaporean author of - Floating on a Malaysian breeze, and Sunil Nair, Malaysian writer and author of the novel, All the lights are stripped away, while participating in the discussion, Malaysia Boleh?, shared their vision for the future of the two neighbouring countries.
“I have a Malaysian heritage and also experienced the country first-hand while researching for my book. Of course, we have a chequered history dating back to our separation, and the state-controlled media has also helped in perpetuating negative stereotypes on both sides. Moreover, a lack of open honest dialogue between the two countries has not helped either,” said Vadaketh. “Even the popular narrative in Singapore that we face security threats from Malaysia and Indonesia doesn't hold true any longer.”
Sunil Nair was even more frank in discussion the situation in Malaysia. “The policy of Bumiputeras, which is in place in Malaysia is nothing but 'constitutionally-sanctioned apartheid', which is worse than pre-1990s South Africa. How are we going to solve the question of race and move towards building a racially harmonious society is a big question for every Malaysian,” he said.
Throwing light on the situation of women in Malaysia, Barbara Ismail, writer of the murder mystery, Shadow Play - which is based in Kelantan, Malaysia, said, “Malaysia was very different 3-4 decades ago, especially in the Kelantan region, where women controlled majority of businesses, were proud, confident and enjoyed economic freedom.”
Both Nair and Vadaketh, who are of Indian descent, concluded by sharing the plight of Malaysian Indians in Malaysia. “Malaysian Indians face discrimination to the same extent as Chinese Malaysians. Its just that their number is so small that they are not able to exert themselves electorally,” said Nair.
[Newzzit has published a detailed story on Malaysia's policy of Bumiputeras in our earlier issue]