508 : I was there I was there ― Andre Sequerah

May 10, 2013

MAY 10 ― When I was younger and had just started working life in the late 90s, my friends and I used to get together at the open air stalls to drink teh tarik and Milo Ais. We talked about everything that concerned us as young working adults, from the crash of 1997 (yes, we are that old) and how it affected us, to our lives as singles.

We had a gamut of professions among us ― doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants with a racial mix that was equally as complex ― Indian, Chinese, Malay, Malay mixed, Eurasian, Ceylonese. In short, we were a microcosm of Malaysia, then and now.

Fast forward to 2013 and the group of us school mates have moved on, with some physically setting up home and hearth in places from Dubai, the States, Australia to Singapore. Luckily, though, a substantial number of us decided to stay in Malaysia, for many different reasons.

Pre-GE13 was hopeful but the talk of a “Chinese Tsunami” post elections left many of us who have stayed back wondering if we had made the right decision. What country denigrates its own citizens?

As technology has enabled, my friends and I communicate with each other on a simple application known as Whatsapp, which has enabled us to re-live our teh tarik sessions from those early days in great gusto.

What it has really done for us though, is to allow us to keep in touch between work and family responsibilities as well as the long distances which keep us apart. But, if I were scathingly self-critical, I would say that it was just a bunch of middle aged men (yes, we have to admit) re-living our younger, wilder days, and I shall leave it at that.

The night before May 8 in Kelana Jaya, the topics turned to racism and how that has affected our group per se. Someone opined that to stop racism, we needed to start with ourselves. I disagree because as far as I know, even through the silly name calling we have in our groups, we all know that it is all done in jest, with no ill-intentions behind it.

I imagine this is played out in most, if not all other multi-racial groups of friends who have stood through the test of time. Through the discussion, a few of us related our own experiences of racism, which surprisingly cut across all the races in our group ― the Malay, the Chinese and me, and how there was elements of corruption intertwined with it. In one instance, we realised that we knew people in common who were racist…

On the day of May 8th, there was talk of trouble. Illegality and SMSes and information about how the authorities would create trouble. There was a lot of talk-down and tactics to scare people away from Kelana Jaya Stadium. But I decided to go.

And with two other friends, we arrived at the Stadium by 8 o’clock only to be (pleasantly) surprised at the number of people who braved the rain to show up. It was an amazing sight. A sea of umbrellas, the sound of blaring horns, the multi-racial mix of the crowd and Negaraku being sung with such gusto that it made you proud to be Malaysian.

More than 60,000 people on May 8 stood up to be Malaysian that night and it was a proud sight. And why did I go? I went because I realise and believe that for every racist out there, three other good people need to stand up in- stead to be heard.

And if we do not, then it is our fault for letting this country be over-ruled by racism. I went to prove that I will not be cowed and misled into being fearful for standing up for what is right.

I went to be counted as one against racism and in so going, I ended up being counted as a Malaysian. What else can I ask for? My friends, I hope you join me to stand up and be counted.

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