Live. And life will follow.

Live. And life will follow.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

When a bye is a hello

It has been sometime since I last made an entry.

It is not that I have forgotten this blog. More like I am trying to forget the past that I can no longer take with me.

I dont know if the adoption episode or the fact that I will turn 48 in a couple of days that is making me more sentimental and emotionally acute.

Just exactly how is one supposed to feel when it is rather conclusive the origin and 'where-I-came-from' will remain unknown infinitely.

I have done a deed poll to change my name. Drastic as it may sound, it gives me the peace I am looking for after a distress. For that I make no apology for not getting anyone's permission. I carry the weight of my heart alone. Others merely see the heaviness.

Somehow with all the bruises and wounds, I think I emerge stronger and wiser. My life is what I will make of it. Not wanting to leave it to Mr Chance or Sir Fate, I will chart a new course by taking with me only the useful, and leaving behind baggages that only serve to remind me of the sorrows.

Though this short search journey, I have learnt so many that life has to share.

I have become more aware of love and friendship. Their value and importance.

I am also more able to be alone than ever before.

Looking at it positively, I now have the chance to grow my own family tree beginning with me and the loving memory of my father and mother who in every imaginable way are better than my biological parents.

Thank you for reading.

I am now Rayan Adam Daniyal Rais.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

I was lost and found a new me

And so it rains on a late Tuesday morning...

I stared at the rain as it reminds me of how lost I was the last one week.

I am coming to terms with the diminishing chances of finding my biological siblings. Moving forward, I will balance my life as who I have been and who I could have been with who I should be.

People say our future is what we make it to be. I have no intention to remake my past (I couldn't anyway even if I wanted to but that is not the point). I will then take each step cherishing my given world and what is left of it with more love.

This adoption discovery came at the lowest point of my life. As if the seabed wasn't ground deep enough, this experience brought me on a slippery slope into the dark abyss. My wife and 4 children are the only people keeping me together. Not omitting my caring grandmother without which my entire life would have been a continuous lie.

Despite it all, I will not give in and give up. I wasn't build for recall.

My brothers and sisters out there, I will find you even if it takes me a lifetime.

My name is Fahmi Rais and I will shoulder on. Will add my Chinese surname if ever I come to know what it is.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

What Am I Now?

Both my birth certificate and NRIC indicated a Malay/Muslim name. There is even a Jawi version accompanying my name.

My NRIC indicated my race as Malay.

I have filled countless forms, applications, declarations and all putting myself as a Malay.

I was raised by my late Malay adoptive parents whom I love very much and sorely missed.

Except for my primary school second language which my parent chose to be Chinese, my further education and mother tongue is in Malay.

I live as a Malay among the Malay community without doubt.

I have been in positions as a Malay community leader, Malay representative and as a champion of the Malay cause and concerns.

And now at age 48 I discovered that I am a Chinese by birth.

So I ask you, what does that supposed to mean to me now?

Do I continue the rest of my life status quo?

Or do I recognize the new fact and attempt to understand my roots and embrace the socio-cultural characteristics?

My answer aside, the next question that follows is which among the 2 races will see me as one of theirs now?

A very real question for every mature adult of transracial adoption case.

"I used to be one of you, and now you are just them." - Fahmi Rais on who that 'them' should be.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

To tell or not to tell, that shouldn't be a question.

After one week, I have begun to accept the fact that most if not all of my uncles and aunties, cousins included, knew about me being an adopted child. Some knew all along. Some knew in recent times.

And I also now know that I am not the only one adopted. On my paternal side, there were no less than 5 cases of my cousins being adopted. But there are 2 key differences. Firstly, they were informed of their adoption and secondly, they grew up with their non-natural siblings.

I on the other hand, had neither of the 2 privileges.

And while I was surprised that I am adopted after 48 years, they were all surprised that I just came to know about it. They have all assumed that I am in the know.

Don't get me wrong. I am not on a witch hunt now. Just simply trying to rationalise how so many people in the name of love, deny you of the very information that is rightly yours to know.

That is past now.

Moving forward, I have received a number of messages from parents who sought my opinion on whether they should disclose the adoption information to their child.

I am no expert in adoption though this experience has taught me a lot. I am no expert in adoption though I am now living on both spectrums of the adoption. As an adopted child and having an adopted child.

But I can say this for sure. Do not make a secret of someone else's life. Simply because we wouldn't want that to happen to us. Love is a free force. It is not based on bloodlines.

I love my late father that I build my public reputation using his family name. I named my 2 sons using his name. I am probably the only person in 3 generations of Rais family that carry the name through new borns. And I am technically now an outsider.

I love my late mom, that I named my first daughter after her. The only other child of mine not bearing my maternal or paternal parents' name is my adopted daughter. If I can have my way, I would renamed her as well. I even have a ready name for my next son if there will be one. Another Rais.

I do not see many others doing what I did.

So whoever you are, if you have an adopted child and the child is of understanding age, please disclose the information, unless you have a very sure way of keeping the secret eternally.

Let your child love you for who you are. Love your child for who he or she is. The 'make-believe' cannot and should not form the basis of the relationship.

Do not fear your child running away or distancing. That will happen when you mistreat them. But if the upbringing is clothed with care and love, your adopted child will love you more than his or her biological parents. That I can put my life as a bet.

Adoption is not secret. If not knowing who you are or where you came from is a lawful thing, then the basic right of living and having an identity have been violated.

Adoption is love. Marriage is also love. They are both common in the sense that you love someone who is not yours in blood. You can't marry someone that you secretly do not know. So why should adoption be any different?

Save your child from the pain that I feel now. My father may have planned to tell me. He died out of heart failure. My mother may have planned to tell me, she died out of heart failure 7 years later. My grandfather may have planned to tell me, he died out of heart failure 7 months later.

My grandmother did the right thing by coming clean when I asked her last week.

I can't imagine if she did not have the opportunity to do so.

I may risk having the rest of my life as a one big 'lie'.

She has discharged her duty to share the truth with me when no one else in the circle would. While it was painful, I have only her to thank now for allowing me to live hereon in world of truth.
The Malaysian Insider
Astro Awani
The Star Online

3 Malaysian media have contacted me with the first having done a full interview.

Lianhe Wanbao
Lianhe Zaobao
The Straits Times

3 Singapore key newspapers have contacted me and interviewed me.

However, The Local and TNP ran my story online without informing or interviewing me. The content were extracted from my blog entry or FB Roots Seeker page.

I know the media holds the best chance of me finding my biological family and I understand that I have no influence over the editorial choice of headings. Nonetheless, as long as the reporting helps to further my reach for a possible closure, I am thankful.

I hope that more media (radio and TV) included will take an interest too so that with the experience I get, the Adoption Support Group that I will facilitate to help more people like myself will gain from it.

By the way, thank you for all who have visited this blog and taking time to read. I appreciate the comments and am taking them positively.

This blog has grown from 145 page views 4 days ago to more than 10,000 last night.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The pain walks with me.

It has been 5 days since and if there is one thing I've learnt to do well lately in the morning is to cry in the shower.

No leads whatsover even though this blog page and the Facebook page have reached more people rather significantly over the last 72 hours.

I felt like going to the cemetery today. Just to have a conversation with my late mom and dad. Not to question them but to assure them that my love for them is no less than ever before. That my search does not alter my feelings and thoughts about them. By all counts they are my parents in this world and hereafter. They cannot be replaced and I asked all of you to love your parents well.

My search is for my siblings.

In the process, I have found many long lost friends. I take some consolation in that. The media is next. Prayer is always.

I received many encouragement and well wishes. Mostly if not all, from friends and strangers. Most of my extended family and relatives have gone mute.

I could not have been more adopted.

The pain wont go away. It will walk with me and accompany me in this journey. My wife and kids are the reason I can still keep my sanity.

Do not offer me any advise that I have not already done or thought so.

Do not offer me any comfort of you understanding how I feel or knowing what I am going through. You have no idea and at best, can only imagine. Like a badly wounded man on the street, you can never know the agony until the lorry hits you too.

I, however, accept any offer to help spread the word.

Good morning pain and good morning hope. My eyes are so tired. I have never wanted to believe so much that the world is small until now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

I am now a roots seeker.

I choose to write in here instead of FB because I want this to be more of a conversation with myself than with others.

The last 3 days have been a very emotional and turbulent period of my life. I thought the death of my father was my lowest point. But it was not. It was the death of my mother. However that record was surpassed when my grandfather passed away.

Now a new and worst grief took over. 14 November 2015 gave a new meaning to my life. A life that is now without a beginning.

After 48 years, I now discovered that the father and mother who loved me as their only child and whom I dearly loved and sorely missed are not of my own flesh and blood.

After 48 years of living as a Malay and championing the community cause, in one single night, I am now a Chinese.

After 48 years, I now need to find who I really am.

I was adopted. And 2 versions were disclosed to me upon probing. Version 1 tells me of a poor Chinese couple from Segamat, Johor who sold me to my parents who then brought me back to Singapore. Version 2 tells me of a Chinese lady who was pregnant and made a deal with my parents to have her child raised by them. And after birth, I was given to my parents who paid for the necessary expenses. Version 2a tells me that my late father had wanted to also adopt my younger sister after some time later but my late mom decided to give her 100% love to me instead.

I have no clue and inclination. My birth certificate shows my adoptive parents as Father and Mother. I was given the name Mohamad Fahmi Bin Ahmad Rais. In Islamic law, when a child is adopted the father's biological name must be stated and if unknown to use Abdullah instead or if still the preference is to put the adopting father's name then the 'Bin' must be omitted. As such, as I have no reason to suspect anything amiss when looking at my birth certificate. I am my parents 'true and legitimate' son.

My NRIC indicated my name and reflected my race as Malay. So I grew up as a Chinese looking Malay and I comforted myself by believing that I look differently from my parents because I was a 'freak generation'. The result was obvious, every other day, every other week and every other month for each year of my life, I have people coming to me asking if I am Chinese. Some took the shorter route and just assumed I am one and started conversing with me in Chinese. And at times, when I corrected them by saying that I am a Malay, not every person can take it well. Some said that I am not aware of my upline generation who may be Chinese or that I am adopted.

Having people say that I am Chinese and that I am adopted became as common as strangers asking me for the time or direction. I didn't give any weight to such questions. I even made a convenient storyline out of it by saying that I am a politically correct Singapore citizen because I am a Malay who look like a Chinese and married to an Indian.

So the final truth came to light on Saturday night that fateful day when I visited my only living grandmother and in a casual conversation asked her if indeed I am adopted. I was more than half expecting her to dismiss it when her face changed and she took a couple of seconds in silence. The truth finally hit me before she could use any words to affirm it. The rest of the conversation had been nothing but a shock. It shook the very foundation of who I really am.

I left the house in tears. I didn't sleep that night. I cried and I cried. I still cry to this very moment. My emotions were a mix of every feeling except joy and happiness.

I was severely disappointed. The next 48 hours was devastating.

No, it does not change my love for my parents who raised me well. So please stop giving me the lecture on the morality of love by saying "they love you like their own son'. That is not the issue here. My love for them has not changed. To the contrary I love them more because they have raised me like their very own when I am not. They passed away thinking that I will not know the truth and would remain in peace with that hope.

My sadness was that I love them so much that I wanted and had believed all this while that I was the result of their love and marriage. And I love my extended family on both sides. My uncles and aunties, cousins as well. I grew up knowing them as my family.

And now none of them is of the same blood. Spare me the "all bloods are red" punchline. From my younger than me cousins to the oldest living relative, our DNAs are not related.

I was so proud of my dad's family name that I am the only one in the 3 living generations going all over town and village claiming that I am a 'Rais', that I named my 2 sons, 'Rais' and that when I first opened a company, it also has the name 'Rais' in it. And the truth now is I am not a Rais, in the bloodline sense of the word.

In short, I am lost. The last 3 days I stared at myself a little longer when I looked into the mirror. That is because I see a stranger in it.

I have people who obviously are not in my shoes trying to offer comfort using textbook techniques eg "we all love you the same", "it doesn't matter now" etc

Well it does matter. It doesn't matter to you because you are not me. It doesn't matter to you because you are not the one adopted or that if you are but you knew about it all along. It doesn't matter to you because life has not changed. You are still who you are.

But I am no longer who I am. I cannot go on pretending all is well. I cannot live another day with a pack of lies and pretending that I am who I am not.

It is either the world has looked different to me or I am now a different person in the same world. But things cannot be the same.

An alternative parental love is not what I seek. I am seeking lost ties. I am not as excited as meeting my biological parents as much as meeting my siblings. They are not a party to the decision that my biological parents made when they decided to give or sell me away.

What if the person standing next to me while waiting for the traffic light to go green is my own sister? What if a Facebook friend that I have in my list is my own brother?

If my biological family refused to accept me upon a possible reunion, I would have considered the matter having come to a proper closure nonetheless. If they are also in turn wondering where I am all these years, tears will roll when we hug each other for the first time.

I have lived my life as the only child and the prospect that I could share a meal with a brother or sister, I will go to the end of the world for that one chance.

Other than my wife who have been very supportive and tirelessly comforting me, as well as my 4 kids, my biological family is what I have in addition now. And finding them has become more than just a purpose.

I love my current extended family. I love my grandmother and all others. It is not discounting love for them with this roots seeking effort. I just need to make this journey to the beginning and have a million questions answered.

Technically, I have moved from being the only child to an unknown child. No one in the world would want to be in that transformation process.

My father, (and I love you dad) passed away in 1987 out of heart attack. We didn't get to have a final conversation. My mother (and I love you mom) passed away in 1994 out of heart attack too. And again, there were no final exchanges of words between us.

And the next 21 years that follow, everyone with information of who I really am did not share with me that information. It was probably the best kept family secret. Everyone knows about it and the one person who should have known about it live a life in the dark. I presuppose that in a situation like this, it is either I was told as early as possible or that I die without knowing.

A month shy of turning 48 was a tough time to know the truth. 21 years is an ample time to make a disclosure. Knowing it when I was a single 27 year old man then is surely an easier time than now. Even during the solemnization of my marriage such critical need-to-know basis was not shared.

I would do no such thing to someone that I love or care for. My second daughter is adopted. I love her like my own. And though I have taken the liberty to change her birthcert for convenience purposes, I did not hide the truth about who her real parents are. I want her to grow up loving me as her father, like her own real father. I do not want the love to be based on a lie.

My parents have their reasons and that I respect. But for the others who knew and kept it that way and claiming to do so out of love, that I cannot understand. I bear no grudges, just disappointment.

I need to regain my identity. I need to stop crying and wondering for the rest of my life. I cannot care for the feeling of others in my search for who I am.

Still there will be people who will discourage me and will not understand. Its ok. It is not you that I am seeking.

I am seeking for my biological family who may still be out there to just say "hello" to them and take things from there.

Please have feelings for me. You don't need to feel what I feel. Just help me.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Bangun Melayu, Bangun ! Bah 21 (Selebriti edisi Apr 2010)

Ini komentar bersiri saya di bawah tajuk Bangun Melayu, Bangun ! yang disiarkan dalam majalah Selebriti edisi April 2010. Rasanya masih juga relevan kandungan dan maksudnya.

Melayu mudah lupa
Melayu mudah lupa
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya dipijak
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya retak
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya teriak
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya haprak
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya kelas dua
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya hina
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya sengketa
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya derita
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya kerdil
Melayu mudah lupa
Dulu bangsanya terpencil
Melayu mudah lupa
Tiada daulat
Tiada maruah
Tiada bebas
Melayu mudah lupa
Melayu mudah lupa
Melayu mudah lupa
Sejarah bangsanya yang lena
Tanah lahirnya yang merekah berdarah
Wahai bangsaku
Jangan mudah lupa lagi
Kerana perjuanganmu belum selesai

Sajak di atas ditulis dan dibaca oleh Dr Mahathir Mohamad pada persidangan UMNO tahun 2001. Hampir 10 tahun kemudian, masih banyak kebenarannya. Dia tidak memperkatakan Melayu di Malaysia. Tiada disebutkan nama mana-mana negara dalam sajak beliau. Bererti ia ditujukan kepada orang Melayu di mana sahaja mereka berada, dari Perth hingga ke Capetown.

Kalau hendak dianalisa dan dikupas memang ruang ini tidak mencukupi. Tapi sekadar bahan renungan, kita semua memang pelupa. Terutama pada perkara-perkara yang kita dipertanggungjawabkan seperti, janji, tugas, hutang, jasa dan sebagainya.

Apakah anda tidak pernah menemui seseorang yang mengatakan ikhlas tetapi kemudian dibangkitkan keihklasannya atas nama ingin menjernihkan sesuatu?

Apakah anda tidak pernah menemui seseorang yang banyak menerima daripada anda tetapi kemudiannya mempersoalkan apakah sumbangan anda?

Apakah anda tidak pernah mempercayai seseorang dengan segala rahsia anda atau harapan anda dan kemudiannya dia pecah di mulut walaupun sudah berjanji untuk pecah di perut?

Apakah anda tidak pernah mangajar seseorang atas dasar ilmu itu harus dikongsi dan kemudiannya ilmu itu digunakan untuk menjatuhkan anda?

Apakah anda tidak pernah memberi kesempatan atau peluang kedua kepada seseorang hanya untuk orang itu kemudiannya mengecewakan anda?

Adakah anda tidak pernah memberi wang atau membenarkan hutang dan kemudiannya si pemiutang seperti tidak mengenal anda dan melayan anda seperti anda pula yang berhutang dengannya?

Apakah anda sudah lupa itu semua atau anda sudah banyak pengalaman dengan Melayu yang mudah lupa.

Tapi di mana kita harus mencari Melayu yang mudah lupa agar kita dapat lebih berwaspada? Adakah mereka bertempat seperti di jawatan tinggi, yang kaya, yang berkuasa atau mereka boleh di dapati juga di lapisan yang berkerat tulang, miskin dan lemah?

Sajak ‘Melayu Mudah Lupa’ saya akhiri dengan berikut:

Bangun Melayu, Bangun!
Sudah lama kita termenung
Dibadai kelemasan turun-tumurun
Bangun Melayu, Bangun!
Pekerti kita menipis, semangat kita menurun
Apakah ini Melayu bertamadun?
Bangun Melayu, Bangun!
Ingat siapa kita di mata dunia
Darah  perwira, budaya permata
Jangan Melayu lupa, maruah kita di mana.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Why sometimes help doesn't help.

People say giving a fish doesn't help to really help. We must teach a person in need how to fish. Only then can the person be independent. 

But I believe teaching a person how to fish is insufficient. One must give the person the tools of fishing. 

Having so many hungry persons with fishing knowledge but none with the fishing kit will not make anyone have a full stomach.

Anyone can be an expert in teaching. It is in providing the tools that many teachers fail.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

My chapter contribution for the book A Nation Awakes: Frontline Reflections (Published in 2011)

Let’s Run the Race Together
by Fahmi Rais

I do not speak for the Malay community but 23 years of involvement and leadership in various self-help and grassroot organisations provide me with a good understanding of the pulse of the near 15% Malay/Muslim community in Singapore .

"The Sultan is always right"
Traditionally the Malays see themselves as loyalists, following the sacred concept of ‘kesetiaan pada Raja dan Negara’ (unquestionable loyalty to king and country) inherited from the good old ‘Sultan is always right’ days. That being the case, it is not rocket science to understand why the Malays easily accept authority without question, and even blindly at times.

The mainstream Malays have, since independence, threw their lot with the ruling party. This is despite the fact that certain government policies have been contentious and unfavourable to the community. But the absence of an alternative leadership compels the community to accept its fate. The Malay MPs have all along been giving the assurances to the community that the government is doing their best to ensure that no community is left behind. But the grim reality is the community is behind all others in almost every sphere – economic, business, leadership in the public sector and administrative service, education, etc. It is one thing not to be at the forefront of progress, it is another to take the lion’s share of some of the social ills that perennially afflict the nation, such as drug addiction, divorce rates and lower income woes. Without a doubt the Malays have come some way since separation from Malaysia, and there have been notable achievements in tested and new areas. But it seems that for every step taken forward, the other races have made two quicker steps in the same direction.

Today we have over two dozen community organisations trying hard to resolve these issues, but the headway made is like what you get when fighting wildfires or the haze. The problems keep coming back and, sometimes, more profoundly each time. Much of the community has now realised that only strong political will can bring its position to be on par with the rest. This was somewhat manifested in the last general election (GE), and I was glad that I played a part in the change that has gained momentum, albeit in a small role at it.

A weary and tired community
Sensing that the Malay community has grown weary and frustrated, I took the decision to revisit the political scene, this time by being on the other side of the fence. It was not an easy decision as it takes double the courage to be in the opposition. It was also about coming to terms with my past. Twenty-one years ago, I joined the People’s Action Party (PAP) and was appointed chairman for Young PAP Kebun Baru Branch by Mr George Yeo who was the wing’s leader then. I was also made a legislative assistant, an experience I found to be invaluable. Together with other youth leadership appointments entrusted to me, I took the opportunity to engage the government through numerous forums and channels, frequently raising the issue of the need to seriously help the community by first placing trust in the community. I left the party after four years – with the conclusion that truly effective voices can only be made, firstly, by those who are in parliament and, secondly, by parliamentarians who dare.

A month before the last GE, I started to make my intentions known to several opposition parties. I was not volunteering to be a candidate. I was offering my time to help with campaigning and to create greater awareness that Malays who are confident of their capability to bring about political change must step forward. Personally, I find it rather frustrating that no one from the elite Malay leadership circle has taken the decision to do what they can do better through the political channel. It is as if the community is void of heavyweights that other communities are generously bestowed with. In short, there was not enough firepower that could make waves and headlines. The critical challenges were all mounted by brave Singaporeans of other races. Considering that the Malays have a pool of community leaders and professionals enough to fill a thousand-strong ballroom dinner function, the absence of star-material candidates as opposition party members speaks volumes of the community’s deafening silence.

Making a stand
My beliefs and stance struck a chord with the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and a new chapter begun for me. I was immediately persuaded to be a candidate even though I had categorically indicated my stand to merely help as a campaign volunteer. I eventually agreed to change my status from party helper to party candidate after I was introduced to my potential Group Representation Constituency (GRC) teammates. I counted that I have less risks to bear, more of my good years to give and, most importantly, my country was in need of more able people to come forward to strengthen the number of alternative voices and choices. I simply could not turn my back. I just needed the reassurance that the compatibility between me, the party and the constituents was there.

Regrettably, I had to withdraw my candidacy on the day I was to be introduced to the media. There was a shift in the party’s nomination strategy. Understandably so. However, I remained committed to the party throughout the campaign period and resigned from the party after the election.

Through that brief chapter in my new history, I made new friends, among them Tan Jee Say, who boosted my confidence to stand for what I believe in. In fact, he was the factor that almost made me decide to be a running candidate. His resolve to change Singapore for the better made me question my own perspective of what being a responsible citizen is all about. This is a man who can enjoy a quiet life with all that he has achieved, yet he risked everything to champion the cause of the people. Looking at what he and the rest of my new friends were prepared to do, I knew that I could not be a bystander when my community has much at stake in the process of change.

As it turned out, the last GE was a turning point with the first GRC loss for the PAP and the largest number of opposition members voted into parliament. Although the results still came up short of what I expected, it was nonetheless a battle won for Singaporeans who want to see greater accountability and more compassion from the ruling party. The ground has spoken, cautiously but surely.

In the process, I felt Jee Say has awakened many sleeping giants. The kind of quality candidates that voters have always hoped for are no longer far and few in between. They are coming out, on their own, in droves. The show of able men and women is unprecedented. It was like a new beginning and those who were part of the last GE, standing on opposition tickets against a waning but still formidable PAP, have earned the right to stand proud and tall.

The Hang Tuah-Hang Jebat Divide
The GE 2011 climate was different for the Malays. Reeling from emotional injuries sustained from hurtful comments made by the ruling party leadership, the community was forced to review its Hang Tuah* stand in favour of, perhaps, the more relevant Hang Jebat** stance. Many of the problems that beset the community remain. Old issues about trust and loyalty were still on the back burner as unfinished business. Other religion-related issues were brought to a standstill. The faith in the ability of Malay PAP MPs to become effective agents of change became a hot-button issue on the ground, met with skepticism. There were calls for the government to engage the Malay community directly without using the Malay MPs as a go-between, for fear that they would only hear and convey to party leaders the ‘good stuff’. Government-linked institutions like Mendaki and MUIS regularly came under fire from the online community who felt that both had been rendered ineffective by being too quick to support any government policy and too slow to respond to the growing frustration from the ground.

In May 2011, the community was offered the best choices in the history of the Singapore elections. The Hang Tuah-Hang Jebat divide became more pronounced as areas with greater Malay representation gave their vote for change. More members of the community openly declared their support for the opposition since the problems they faced have remained largely status quo.

Now, for the first time, there is a Malay opposition MP from the pool of Malay candidates standing in GE 2011. Whether the MP from the Workers’ Party can represent the country while shouldering the added responsibility as the community’s beacon of hope is yet to be seen. But expectations are high. I suspect that GE 2016 will see even more credible Malays joining the opposition. The extent, of course, will depend on the showing of the opposition parties both in parliament and those who are still working the ground.

It will take more time before any real progress can be seen. What is good is that the community has come to terms with the fact they cannot continue to be on the receiving end in the political realm. The problems and inequalities they face can only be materially reduced if there is enough political muscle to ensure that the desired effects are swift and strong. If the PAP Malay MPs could do it, the problems would have been long resolved or substantially contained. If the pressure can only be mounted by opposition Malay MPs, then certainly, one is not enough.

But that will be in four to five years’ time and until then, who knows what new problems will arise while the old ones persist? So the necessary changes will have to wait. The other alternative is a shift in position by the ruling party from hearing the community to actually listening to them.

Presidential Divide
The sentiments shown during the GE were subsequently reinforced during the Presidential Elections in which Tan Jee Say ran as the lesser-known candidate to the Malays compared to the more familiar Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Tony Tan.

The Malays were further divided. The dilemma became more apparent. To support Dr Tony Tan was to accept the continuity of their fate, unless changes really did take place. To bank on Dr Tan Cheng Bock, they would need a higher level of surety that he was truly no longer part of the system he was associated with for decades. The Malays had limited interaction with Tan Kin Lian and came to recognise Jee Say only through the GE several months before. Given the qualifying criteria for the presidency, the Malays were resigned to the fact that their first, Yusof Ishak, was also their last. The critical issue was voting for the presidential candidate they could place their hopes on.

The Hang Jebat Spirit
So when Dr Wong Wee Nam asked me if I could speak in Malay at Jee Say’s rally at Toa Payoh Stadium, I said yes without hesitation. It wasn’t just a matter of who the Malay guest speaker was, it was also about convincing the Malays who they should put their trust in. So before a near 30,000 crowd, I spoke on why the second opportunity for change should not be missed and why I believed Jee Say was the best Tan among the four. Based on the positive feedback after the speech, I was pleased that I had played a part in the first hotly-contested PE. Naturally I was disappointed with the results. I personally think that the Malays need not wait for the next election to have their issues highlighted. Jee Say, with all his energy and determination to break through a seemingly unjust system, reminds me of the Hang Jebat spirit that the community is direly in need of.

If Jee Say had made it as Singapore’s seventh President, would things be better for the country as a whole and, specifically, would the Malays benefit from his win? One thing is for sure – we need to accelerate the rate of change. From the competition at the onset and the close fight between the two Dr Tans at the final hour, I can only surmise that the divide among the Malays got wider. There was not any major consensus among the Malays as to which candidate would be the president to help bring them out of the quagmire. Even the pro-establishment Malay supporters were divided.

The ‘want to change’ sentiments must be backed by action based on ‘the need to do what is necessary for that change to happen’. It cannot be a prayer, a dream or a hope. It must consist of real actions, not just words, will and not just intention, perseverance and not just willingness, and lastly courage and not just simply standing up to be counted.

Catching the New Dawn Alongside Other Communities
I am sure 2011 marked the beginning of a new era. Jee Say played a pivotal role with many other heroes. I simply want my community to be catching the new dawn alongside our fellow countrymen and women, and not be two steps behind, either unable to cross the finishing line or only making it when others have already won completed the race.

* Hang Tuah is a legendary warrior who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. The issue of his total devotion to the sultan even in questionable times became a debate for centuries.
** Hang Jebat, another great warrior was Hang Tuah’s closest companion. He went against the Sultan for what he believed was a wrongful order to have Hang Tuah executed.