Home 2013: 9 An open letter of apology (and hope) to East Malaysians

An open letter of apology (and hope) to East Malaysians

Long Singu, Sarawak © Lizzie Bardwell courtesy of Molong Post

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Douglas Teoh says sorry to Sabahans and Sarawakians for the fissure in relating to one another as human beings who are equal in the true sense of the word.

Long Singu, Sarawak © Lizzie Bardwell courtesy of Molong Post
Long Singu, Sarawak © Lizzie Bardwell courtesy of Molong Post

I am Douglas Teoh, a West Malaysian. I don’t profess to be the voice of our leaders nor the majority in Malaysia.

But I write this as a letter of apology from someone who is residing in the West, peninsular-Malaysians – just to say we’re (I am) sorry for the plight and the gross injustice that permeate the daily lives of Sabahans and Sarawakians.

There is little doubt that in many ways, there is disparity between East and West Malaysia (ironically, not unlike the East-West dichotomy globally) in almost all sectors. You are understandably dissatisfied, after all, over the share of revenue and resources, East Malaysia contributes a major portion to the development of the nation, but relatively little is seen of the gains which are supposed to go into your states’s development.

I apologise also, for the crony politicians, many of whom are content with having the stream of wealth flow into Putrajaya – which hoards the resources and enriches select families without much regard to the average East Malaysian, who lives in conditions far less comfortable than they deserve. Worse are the lies spun to magically weave a fabric of illusion to drape over the eyes of the expectant poor.

But most importantly, I apologise for our inability to reconcile differences amongst ourselves. The gap between East and West is more than one of geographical distance; this is a fissure in relating to one another as human beings who are equal in the true sense of the word. The constant edging of race, religion, class of West Malaysia presses unfairly against the tradition and spirit (or even soul) of Sabah and Sarawak.

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Indeed, under such circumstances, many amongst you might feel it makes more sense to have an autonomous space away from the petty politics played solely for the benefit of the West.

I have no excuses to offer; those who do merely wish to play the blame game, deceiving the other side only as a pretext for their own gains. “If it’s not my fault, it’s most definitely yours.” But this is a game of politics; and ordinary citizens need not engross themselves in these discourses.

What I’d like to offer, however, is an ideal – an olive branch for the future which I carry.

My hope for the future of Malaysia is to see a land where all have equal access to facilities and resources.

A land where politicians have to heed the concerns of the people and are held accountable by them.

A land where tradition is cultivated and passed on without the interference of self-serving organisations.

A land where there is no division between you and me.

And most importantly, a land which allows us to truly appreciate one another as fellow Malaysians.
What we have to vanquish is the evil of selfish desires and of greed and corruption.

But we have to do this together.

If we hold the same hopes, the way forward is unity, not separation.

Certainly, we can turn inwards and evoke our self-preserving mechanisms and protect what is important by isolating ourselves, but development and progress can only be possible if we look outwards and truly engage with one another.

There will be opportunities to learn from one another in terms of values, traditions and spirit.

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There is also room for disagreement – so very vital for the advancement of our thoughts and feelings.

Finally – together, there is safety in numbers, a much louder voice for reform, and a far more enormous possibility for positive change.

Thus, what we need is just a fundamental piece: a solid, united front – which rejects all forms of deceptions, all forms of extremism, and all forms of injustice.

As long as we have that, the East and West will be many, and at the same time, 1.

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