Chandra Marsono: Malaysian Government’s Culture Confusion

This is a topic I’ve long avoided, but it just keeps coming up.To my friends in Malaysia, please do understand that this is not me being angry at you, not me insulting or giving negative sentiments about you or other Malaysians.This is directed to…


This is a topic I’ve long avoided, but it just keeps coming up.
To my friends in Malaysia, please do understand that this is not me being angry at you, not me insulting or giving negative sentiments about you or other Malaysians.
This is directed to the stupid people in your government and tourism board.

Since 2004, before Malaysia launched “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, the country intended to boost its tourism revenue. It couldn’t compete with Singapore as a mega-polis, even with the world’s tallest building in their backyard, so they invested in their diversity, taking advantage of its commonwealth status. Displaying all traditions from around Asia in their country, the country went with the slogan “Malaysia, Truly Asia” that a certain advertising agency came up with.

[…] on a business trip back in 2004, I asked my taxi driver to take me to an authentic Malaysian restaurant, and he took me to this restaurant which main course and specialty was white Tom Yam. If you know me and my epicurious sense, you’d know that I would always ask the servant or anyone working at the restaurant about the food, and they said it was Malay Tom Yam. “Its different!” they said. But it was the same to me.

Malaysia’s culture? Believe me, they had plenty. But now most of it has gone. Only some survived, most came from Borneo which the colonials didn’t touch because of the dense jungles and the fierce warriors (BBC Education’s : Elizabeth’s Kingdom). Yes, this was startling revelation indeed. If the Malaysians continued their Truly Asia campaign without showing that their culture was a majority of the cultures present in their country, they are afraid that people will leave and think less.

What ever the outcome, over the years this has been a big cause of the degradation of Indonesia-Malaysia relations. Most people here have negative sentiments about Malaysia, and its growing. Malaysians living in Canada with their Anti-Indonesia websites are helping fuel the fire. I just hope the Malaysian people are aware of their governments actions and take a stand to stop it. I really hope the relations between our countries will get better soon.

via Bilingual Minds (Chandra Marsono)

I’d just like to add that one reason many cultures don’t propagate that well within our Indonesian borders are issues of intra-tribal (intra-provincial?) cultural “imperialism.”

As an example, many elementary schools in Ontario and Perth teach Gamelan to children; now try it at Medan, and watch the fireworks fly…

But of course if the local Medan elementary schools would teach the Mandailing flute in their curriculum… but then what about multi-generational Javanese immigrants living in Medan, brought over there during colonial times to work the Sawit Palm plantations?

Still lots of room for more intelligent thoughts in this discussion. And of course, room for more action.


I’d also like to add that I don’t have a negative opinion of Malaysians. I think they are a wonderful nation that have developed amazingly in the past two and three decades. I remember that Malaysian computer science students used to go to Bina Nusantara in Indonesia to study, and nowadays the situation is mostly reversed. Malaysia as a nation has progressed greatly despite their political turmoils.

And I do not think Malaysia’s economic progress beyond Indonesia are merely an after-effect of their being colonized by the British instead of the Dutch. I do believe Malaysians have, at the very least, tenacity and perseverance. No nation is perfect though, and as such we can be so much more if we all would work together.

Author: Ferdi Zebua

For more info visit my blog, my Google+, or my Ello.

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