LETTER It amuses me to note the rapacious back and forth regarding the Kursus Kenegaraan organised by the Biro Tatanegara. However, I notice that remarks defending the program have so far been based on perspectives of certain Government officials, who may or may not have been subjected to the charms of the program. As a serving Government professional of non-Bumiputera descent, I feel it is pertinent that I share my experience of this program, so that some objectivity may be achieved in understanding the isssue at hand.
It is compulsory for all Government servants to attend this course once during service. I attended the program in 2006, in a group of 80-odd Malays and 9 non-Malays. We were a mix of doctors, dentists, pharmacists and teachers. On the first day, we had to listen to a series of 4 lectures, all delivered by lecturers from the local MARA University campus. I vividly remember the 1st lecture on Kerakyatan, for it was delivered with such fervour by an obviously inspired lecturer. At times he seemed to go off his script and made several references to ‘other’ races being ‘pendatangs’ and forgetting their ‘place’ in society, and not being grateful for the citizenship ‘awarded’ to them, and other remarks of a similar vein.
However what shocked me was when this lecturer, in a frenzied fit of rage, asked the audience whether they knew that ALL Indians who migrated here were from the PARIAH caste, and similarly all Chinese who came here were also from the lower classes in their country of origin. I was livid with rage that this supposed university lecturer had the unabashed temerity to tar all Indians and Chinese with the same brush, and make such an unsubstantiated sweeping statement that may have been lapped up by the ill-informed as the gospel truth. From that moment I was mentally tuned off from listening to further garbage being spewed by this obvious racist. After ranting and raving for a good forty minutes more, he mercifully concluded and invited questions from the floor.
I immediately got up and proceeded to enquire on what basis the lecturer made his sweeping statements, and if he was aware that aside from indentured labourers, the British had brought educated Indians and Ceylonese Tamils to serve in the civil service in pre-independence Malaya. I then informed him that I was a 3rd generation civil servant, and the last time I checked, I wasn’t a PARIAH. By this time the lecturer was squirming in discomfort, especially as the crowd assembled there started to cheer me on. I sternly told the lecturer to check his facts before he confuses others with blatant untruths.
The Chinese dentist that stood up after me was in no conciliatory mood however. She blasted the lecturer outright by saying ‘Saya berasa amat tersinggung dengan apa yang dikatakan oleh penceramah tadi (I am offended by the remarks made by the lecturer); ianya sangat tidak adil dan amat mengelirukan para hadirin di sini (it is an unfair statement and can confuse the others assembled here).’ Probably stung by the truth of those comments, the lecturer tried to weasel out of the messy situation by defending his statement which was made in a particular context. But none of us were fooled, and we realised that this course was an attempt to stereotype and racially profile the citizenry for the benefit of a certain group to assert its ‘ketuanan’ on others.
Suffice to say, i was least interested in the ensuing activities, especially the drill parade where we were forced to pray with arms outstretched to maintain ‘conformity’, despite my usual method being the traditional hands clasped in supplication.
Ultimately, the course made me despise the way the non-bumis were treated, and served to reinforce the belief shared by many that it is a brainwashing and indoctrination exercise to target the ill-informed and the gullible. I am sure my Malay friends would (mostly) have cringed in shame at the way their fellow citizens were humiliated and made a mockery of.
Bottom line is, stay away from this course. It does no good and can serve to divide the population.